Hey hey hey!
About a week ago, I went to a celebration for Buddha’s birthday!
It was a massive later festival and it lasted for roughly a week. Here is Korean Buddhism is a large part of Korean society. Although it is the second largest religion (behind Christianity), quite a few families still operate under Confucian and Buddhist teachings. Needless to say, the festival was amazing. It was massive, several thousand people coming to the temple, to bow and show respect.
Throughout the day, there were several performances, from children, to grandparents, professional choirs, and people just wanting to have a good time. There were some performances that made you want to cry, and others that had fire shooting off the stage as a 10 year old girl sings a rock song. It was mildly overwhelming.
The “ceiling” was made out of thousands of lanterns strategically put together to make a different patters and pictures. Every single one had a different prayer from someone on it, and at sunset, the lanterns lit up and bathed the entire space in this beautiful golden light. All of the lanterns had different designs, some being simple, and some extremely elaborate, massive lanterns.
When you go into the temple to bow, you have to take off your shoes, go into a specific space (usually it’s an open space but they divided it because so many people were there) and bow if you’d like to. I bowed next to a very old Korean woman and she looked extremely happy that I was making an effort, so if you visit don’t wear anything potentially revealing, bow three times (if you’re not sure just follow the people around you), and lose yourself to the energy in the room. It can knock you off your feet a little bit — the three giant Buddha statues make you feel like they’re looking at you, and although it’s usually looked down upon, if you asked, people would let you take one picture of the room.
I went to Jeju! Okay I have a few things to say about my trip. Yes I had a great time. Yes I would go back again. Yes I never want to get on a bus again.
Allow me to clarify:
Jeju is an extremely beautiful place. It’s much more temperate than Seoul is, so the weather stays within a 60-80 degree range. The flight to Jeju was extremely easy, it takes about 50 minutes to get there, and they have something called the Jeju tour bus that will take you to all of the cool places in the North.
The main issue is that Jeju doesn’t have the best transportation system, they have busses, but you end up sitting on there for about two hours in one direction and that can be extremely exhausting. I know it’s not recommended that people drive while abroad, and I agree because I would die here, it’s so different than the US, if you’re going to Jeju, having someone over 21 with an international drivers license will make your entire trip easier. I stayed in the South (I really recommend it) and my hostel was sooooooooo cool. Everyone was extremely nice, it was right by the ocean, the staff was friendly, they gave you breakfast, and they had an incredibly rooftop where you can hang out in hammocks, beanbag chairs, and couches. I picked a weekend that was supposed to be sunny, but it ended up raining for three of the four days I was there. The rainstorm was intense but also really fun — I enjoyed the fact that it was like a warm shower and was dancing in the rain like a crazy person.
While in Jeju, I went to an Art Museum, the Chocolate Museum (it’s the second largest in the world), a Teddy Bear Museum (they tell history through different bears), briefly visited an interactive Kpop Museum (I didn’t think it was worth it, just listen to the songs and feel good), went to a beach to swim and surf, and visited these waterfalls that were in the middle of a forest, that is known historically to be the place where the gods went to bathe.
So. Korea has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and it has been concerning for the Government that the population has gone down, and Jeju is also famous for the Loveland Museum, which students at Hongkik University (it’s pretty close in Hongdae) made, with permission from the Government, to encourage Korean couples to want to procreate if you catch my drift.
The entire park is hilarious, and shocking, and kind of freaked me out. I was torn between “wow what a beautiful piece of sculpted art!” to “WHY would anyone think of making that?” Everything was related to sex, and I was very confused because the country is so conservative and then you come to Loveland and there’s nothing that can prepare you for how explicit some of the statues are.
Also the people that went threw me off because it would be like a bus full of very old Korean people going there for entertainment and acting like little kids, and then younger couples casually strolling around, to parents and their children, and then foreigners looking around with humor and shock. I think it was fun? I still haven’t figured out how I feel about it yet. I think if you find yourself in Jeju you should check it out.
On a more PG note, Jeju is famous for its black pork dishes, and tangerines. I don’t eat pork so I didn’t try any, but I heard it was life changing, and the tangerines I can safely say were one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had in my entire life. Very much recommend both! There’s also a really cool pasta place in the South that I went to two nights in a row because it was so good. The man was very nice, he did everything himself, from cooking, to bussing, checking people out — I really wanted to support him because he was so kind and so busy, and the food was absolutely delicious.
Thanks for coming on this wild ride of my brain put on paper!