HAE DONG YONG GUNG TEMPLE

Serenity is elusive. We search for it but often come up empty-handed. Some climb mountains. Some listen to the birds. And some search the word over never understanding that they hold it in the palm of their own hand. BUT…let’s face it there are some places that just make it easier to feel that overall peace that we are so desperately looking for. One of those places where it is within reach is Hae Dong Yong Gung Temple in Busan which is also known as the Dragon Temple. After traveling with three children overseas for a week… peace… was what I was seeking.

This temple first came into existence in the mid 1300’s. You can read a little about it. It was destroyed during the Japanese occupation but was rebuilt in 1970. Yes, fairly new but still spectacular.

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Our trip started when we took the #9 bus from the subway station. We were dropped off about a 10 minute walk from the temple. This Hae Dong Yong Gong is known as the Zodiac temple and upon entering you see huge marble carvings of each of the astrological signs behind which stands a huge pagoda.

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Then comes the interesting trek down smoldering granite stairs where you pass several buddhas. The belief of those who trek here is that “at least one of your wishes will be answered here through your heartfelt prayers.”

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We crossed over the bridge where the sea rode waves to just below the cliff. It was amazing.  But frankly I don’t have time to write anymore as I head to Mokpo tomorrow. So instead I will leave you with pictures.

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Namdaemun Market-Seoul, South Korea

Lately, with globalization around every corner it is hard to go somewhere and not think to yourself that the whole world now looks alike.  Window shopping at Pottery Barn looks the same in Kansas City, Calgary and Sydney. That is the point, I suppose, but for a traveler it is just plain depressing. Where is the unique to the place items and where are the  local customs…Often you begin to wonder …where the hell are we?????… in this oh-so identical world.

That is what I love about Namdaemun Market. Opened in Seoul in 1964 it is the largest market in Korea but it really dates back to the reign of King Taejong where it operated as a government managed marketplace. This place is truly the SEOUL of the city.

While there are certainly an overabundance of crass commercially made products it is the pulse of the place that draws you into the market and into Korea herself. Some of the best street food can be found here including  noodle dishes, pungent kim chee, hottoek and comforting warm red bean cakes. Follow an alleyway to the place where you find the most Koreans sitting on shallow stools, chopsticks and bowl in hand. This is where you want to enjoy an authentic lunch.

Because the market was built so long ago it is predominately a walking market. While you will see motorcycles delivering goods and boxes being transported by wooden carriers strapped to the backs of men smaller than the load they are carrying; this is a place to explore at your leisure and just soak up the sounds.

Here  at Namdaemun you can shop for such things as rare ginseng, fresh fish, raincoats, shoes and even silkworms to be eaten for lunch. Traditional clothing (hanboks) can be found in a variety of bright colors and styles along with Korea’s world famous celadon pottery. Beautiful wrapping papers, paint pigments and calligraphy supplies are also easily found along with the paintings of various artists. But my favorite are the luxurious silks and tapestries that can be found within. The variety of what is sold here is enormous and there is always something you “need” to take home with you.

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Just outside the market lies Sungnyemun Gate. It is one of the eight gates that were located in the fortress wall that surrounded Seoul. It is a wooden pagoda style building that dates back to the 14th century and has stood there ever since until an arson fire burnt part of the gate in 2008. It was restored and was re-opened in 2013.

To get to the market take the green subway line (number 4) to Hoehyeon Station. It is a short escalator ride up the the market.