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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Most Beautiful Covered Bridge-Lucerne, Switzerland

Undoubtedly, the most beautiful covered bridge in the world is located in Lucerne, Switzerland. The Chapel Bridge, is also the oldest covered bridge in Europe as well as the oldest surviving truss bridge in the entire world. Named after nearby St. Peter’s Chapel, the bridge crosses the Reuss River in the heart of old Lucerne and its a landmark that cannot be missed.

The bridge was first constructed in 1333 as a form of protection for the city against enemy attack. In the 17th century, Catholic painter Hans Wagmann, began painting scenes which depicted the city’s history and the Catholic Churches influence on it in the interior triangular frames of the bridge. These works of art have been revered by the inhabitants of the city for centuries, so, in 1993 when a major fire occurred on the bridge and many of these paintings were lost, the city was devastated. Lucerne spent millions of dollars reconstructing parts of the bridge but the missing paintings are obvious and seem to haunt the bridge like a ghost in the night.

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Ultimately, the Chapel Bridge is the most beloved symbol of this beautiful old city. Flower boxes line the entire bridge and bustling swans float nearby waiting for hand-outs by the thousands of people who cross it daily.  In addition, there are a few small shops located on the bridge itself selling primarily Swiss products like the world famous Swiss army knives.

When we were planning our trip to Europe, Chapel Bridge was one of our “must-sees” and it was definitely worth the trip. An ancient and beautiful city with a beautifully preserved covered bridge…it doesn’t get much better than this!

Hint: This is a free site. Be sure to take advantage of it by crossing both in daylight and during the night. A nighttime crossing gives Lucerne an entirely different look and vibe with the reflection of the lights off the water. 

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The Best Graveyard-Stirling, Scotland

If you are like me and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE genealogy than you will understand this post. Otherwise, you just might not.

Sometimes the perfect place to visit is the cemetery. Some people talk to loved ones and some take along picnic lunches. I love to look at the stones. Especially the ancient ones. Usually they are a piece of artwork and often the artists behind them have their own story to tell. I take pictures of these headstones and put the pictures of them up on http://www.findagrave.com so people can connect to the relatives in their past. To date, I have contributed over 5,000.

My favorite graveyards happen to be in Scotland. I am going to introduce you to the one in Stirling known as Old Town Cemetery. It’s a great place to go. Sitting atop a hill between the huge Stirling Castle and the Church of the Holy Rude it is the only cemetery in the UK that was laid out to celebrate the establishment of Presbyterianism. It is a vast place containing graves from the 1600’s up until the present. Because it encompasses so many eras you can really see how headstones change with the times.

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There are many Key Stones contained within the cemetery including Martyr’s Monument which recognizes those who suffered martyrdom in pursuit of religious and civic freedom in Scotland. The Reformer Statues stand in honor of those ministers who fought King Charles who was attempting to establish Episcopal teachings throughout the country. Here you will also find the ornate monuments of local businessmen who carved enormous headstones to honor their families.

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But my favorite monuments are the small unique ancient ones. Often devoid of names it is the unusual carvings that capture my fancy. Skulls, ancient symbols…they are all there.

So next time you are visiting a city take a trip to the local cemetery. It usually has a great view and you just might “meet” some interesting people too!

Best Place To Go Near The Airport-Narita, Japan

If you have ever been stuck in an airport you know the importance of being stuck in the right airport meaning an airport near a great tourist destination. The town of Narita outside Tokyo Japan is just such a place.

We took a bus from the airport into Narita proper. Here you will find crooked winding streets that lead you to the showpiece of the city…Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. On your way to the temple stop to explore the wooden shops along Naritasan Omote Sando. Here you will find some of the most beautiful silk kimonos that you will ever see, traditional Japanese cooking utensils and lacquered bento boxes, and bins of souvenirs to suit the fancy of just about every tourist.  While in the area you must eat at the restaurants which feature the fake plastic food in their windows for easy ordering of traditional Japanese cuisine.

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We have been to Narita several times. On one trip we were walking down to the temple when we came upon a festival with large group of older women performing several traditional Japanese dances. Their slow graceful movements were mesmerizing as they moved in unison together like a swarm of butterflies.

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On another trip school children swarmed around us while handing us a card asking if they might practice their English with us. We spent a fun 10 minutes answering their questions until we moved on and stumbled upon the Narita Tourist Pavilion where we were snatched off the street by some very insistent older ladies. They lead us upstairs where we were treated to calligraphy lessons, traditional painting instruction and were dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. All this was followed by a tea ceremony. We had a fantastic time and it was one of the highlights of our trip.

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The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited.The temple was founded in 940 and has classic traditional buildings dotting its grounds. Incense fills the air as you enter through the gate. Intricate carvings adorn the buildings forcing you to slow down and take in all hidden artwork. With gardens that look like they are manicured by tweezers and beautiful statues it is a niche of tranquility in an otherwise bustling city. We have watched as hundreds of babies were blessed by the monks and have been in awe as people pay their respects to the dead. This is a special place in a city that has had its share of growth pangs thanks to the arrival of the Narita Airport in the late 1970’s.

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Narita also has an easy to navigate train station. We took the train into Tokyo to see a performance at the Kabuki Theater and arrived back in Narita worn-out but satisfied with our adventure.

Narita is the perfect place to spend some time outside of the airport and if you have a long layover I would urge you to check out this friendly city.

HINT: Narita is great place for a stopover. Check and see if United Airlines still offers a free stopover when traveling to various points in Asia.