Monday, February 12, 2007

Lost and Found

Update: Remember when I said yesterday that the only thing this city lacks is serenity? I said it one day shy of finding out that in fact, Seoul does have an incredibly serene location and has had it for about, oh, 1300 years.

I was wandering around COEX, a giant underground mall and aquarium complex when I came up onto street level, wondering about Bongeunsa, the oldest temple in Seoul. A lady this morning on the bus suggested that I go there when I mentioned that I was heading to COEX - she knew it was right across the street. But I couldn't see a temple anywhere. I was lost in among garage parking ramps and glass skyscrapers and thought, "Where could there be a temple around here?" And then I turned my head. And there it was.

Inside the grounds, it's so hush, the only sound is a trio of moaning cats and, when I got close enough, a lone woman chanting at a giant smiling Buddha in the sky.

When I went inside the main temple, it was so gorgeous that I wanted to take a photo but I didn't feel right. I was the only tourist there and I kind of felt, uh, plucky even going inside. The walls and ceilings were covered in paintings of Buddha in different scenarios as well as the most ornate pattern and flower paintings. Six giant thick-necked dragons baring their teeth with forked tongues were suspended up high on the walls. Three smiling golden Buddhas were at the front. Giant lotus lamps hung from the ceiling. It was amazing!

A bit more meandering and I decided to head back across the street to COEX. I crossed the street and went down the steps to where they were pumping Rihanna and teens with cool haircuts were yelping and ice skating while they talked on their cell phones. One, lone shaven monk in grey slowly ascended the steps, going back to Bongeunsa.


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