The Astonishing Seokbulsa Temple

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The subway quietly buzzed along as we stood among silent Koreans. I held onto the warm metal door rail, shifting from foot to foot, wondering where the AC was as I wiped sweat from my brow. We both knew we were in for a long ride so we stared wide-eyed at all the occupied seats.

The doors slid open and new people elbowed their way on trying to find any open space to stand. I would again, look at the map above my head counting how many more stops until the next major transfer line in hope of getting someone’s seat.

I was receiving endless taunts of how I devastated James by choosing the “Sour Cream donut” over the “Krispy Kreme Original Glaze” and was ready to dive into my book for a good “I’m NOT listening to you” gesture. I was just happy we had actually ran into a Krispy Kreme, so yes, I was going to eat the donut of MY choosing.

Anyway…  We finally arrived at the all too familiar cable car at Geumgang Park the base of Mt. Geumjeong. We boarded and I was surprised to see it was only 10:30, plenty of time to find this mysterious hidden temple.

We followed the directions generously provided by another blogger, this time determined to find it and see what the “hidden gem”, “must see” claims were all about.

The breeze was cooling as we stood in the cable car waiting for it to load up and take off. Half way up, I realized how terrifying it would be if the cable snapped and we plummeted towards pines and rocks, reminding me of my fear of heights.

The Korean man’s “Ooohhs”, “Wooww” and a “Oh my god” next to me brought a smile to my face and I wondered if he was trying to impress us with some English or if he really was just that amazed from the view of the city. Either way it was a good distraction from looking down.

We began our trek and for awhile we both felt like we were actually hiking — like not “Korean hiking”, meaning there weren’t nearby buildings, random exercise equipment, and we were walking on dirt and rocks surrounded by trees!

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 Aww nature, how I’ve missed it!

Soon enough, the peace was broken. Loud cheers were coming through the trees and I knew we were close to Nammam Village. We followed the path pausing to admire the South Gate.

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Following the noise we stumbled upon a few games of jokgu, a combination of volleyball and soccer. Only the use of head, shins, and feet are allowed. One bounce per touch and it looked like players could only touch it once. These men were pulling off some definite high kicks.

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There were plenty of empty tables in the village and a fresh smell of barbecue lingered in the air causing our stomachs to grumble. A nice emo (endearing term for women that serve food, but translates as “aunt”) greeted us and I realized I had no idea how to say we want food. She interpreted my puzzled expression and asked, “Lunchy?”

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Soon enough we had a table full of fermented vegetable sides and barbecued duck.

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Our bellies were full so we continued on leaving the village. It wasn’t long until we found the random exercise equipment and the steep road leading to the temple. Urban hiking.

We were approached by a Korean man, asking us where we were from and taking on a faster pace once we responded with “America”, Koreans seem not to know it as United States causing us to always answer twice. He slowed again, to ask us why we were here. It truly didn’t seem like a friendly conversation or that he was pleased we were partaking in some of the beauties of Busan. It felt like an interrogation. Should I be apologizing for something? Or am I wrongly interpreting this whole conversation? 

Near the end of the steep hike Cherry Blossoms lined the road like a red carpet, indicating a grand entrance, enticing me to run the rest of the way.

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I didn’t run but rounded the corner and saw this, finally believing maybe we had found one of Korea’s hidden gems.

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It was in our first couple of months when we saw this symbol, so similar to that representing the Nazi party. I remember it caused my stomach to drop and I became instantly confused. Why would Korea display this symbol on something sacred like their oldest temples?

It was our co-teacher who enlightened us and explained this symbol is not the swastika, it’s actually facing a different direction, and this symbol, the Manja has a completely different meaning, obviously.

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The top of the hill displayed a fabulous view of the city, we could even see my favorite bridge and the tip of Busan tower!

We climbed a few old stone steps and were greeted with massive carvings in the rock. I literally paused on the steps and hollered, James look! Although he was in front of me and had already saw the incredible scene I needed to make sure he was witnessing what I had spotted. I have never seen anything like this!

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It was a small area, but both sides of the rock walls were covered with detailed carvings. A small stair case sat squeezed in between the hovering carvings with a large platform for those wanting to remove their shoes and pray. Seokbulsa (20)

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There were about six different hidden coves filled with more Buddha statues, a small scared place for people to bow on their knees to show respect and pray.

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Groups came and went all admiring the carvings and paying their respects. We lingered. We sat in silence, staring. Our thoughts drifted. Wondering of the people that took time to carve something so magnificent. Why? How? And when?

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After seeing something so unique and raw I truly feel grateful! I am so lucky to have the opportunity to see new places and have these experiences that help me grow and realize how truly big this world is. It really helps me to not “sweat the small stuff” and appreciate the meaningful things in my life. Not to mention the joy of having someone at my side to take it all in with me!

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So like… which donut would you order at Krispy Kreme? We kinda need a second opinion, or at least someone to tell James there’s more than one donut at Krispy Kreme!

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3 Replies to “The Astonishing Seokbulsa Temple”

  1. They have been making those original glazed donuts since 1937!

  2. virginia pettit says: Reply

    Again I marvel at your experiences and your beautiful way of writing about them. Love you guys and look forward to whenever you decide to come home.

    1. Thank you for the sweet compliment and for always taking the time to read! We miss everyone so much!

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