art, Buddha, Buddhist temple, bugs, chanting, Cheonan, colorful lanterns, drawing, E Mart Traders, Gagwonsa, Gakwonsa, humidity, Korea, KTX Station, monsoon, painting, paper lanterns, rain, sketching, temple, watercolor
Shesh, we’ve been here two weeks already! While that first week seemed to crawl because we were still so confused and trying to figure everything out, the second week seemed to fly. I have to admit, the scheduled routine is already beginning to get under my skin, but I’m adapting and trying to be ok with whatever gets thrown at us.
Our “weekend” starts Sunday night after the evening church service (I know right, multiple church services in one day?) and lasts until we have to go back to church on Wednesday morning. After such a long and stressful first week, I was really looking forward to some fun Korean adventures last Monday (July 8), but when we woke up the much-anticipated monsoon season had begun.
And we didn’t own umbrellas. Around noon though I was going crazy with being stuck in our apartment so we made a run for it to E Mart, the big grocery/department store near us. We arrived completely drenched, but set back out into the downpour with two new white umbrellas. We’d decided to walk towards the Cheonan KTX station to see the new developments. Since we’d last been in Korea that whole area was nothing but farmlands and a few small buildings. Now there’s a huge clothing department store with a new movie theater on the top floor, plus this huge (though mostly empty) mall, and “E Mart Traders” (which is basically like a Costco) and a bunch of other shops. But oddly, really dead. The landscape is still really barren where there aren’t huge dozens of stories high shiny stores. But then again, we were there on a rainy Monday afternoon. Despite us being super exhausted from the long walk and soaked, it was a fun day off.
(By the way, this is an obnoxiously over-the-top circular walking sky-bridge above an intersection. I wish I had a photo of the entire thing. There are giant spiral ramps at each corner, plus four elevators, and the entire thing is coated in that spongy material they put on running tracks. Funny thing is, it’s not even a super busy intersection.)
On Tuesday (July 9) Eric surprised me by suggesting we go to Gakwonsa Temple. (I say he surprised me because when I’d last come to Korea in 2010, he’d already visited a ton of temples and other tourist sites with his friends before I arrived, so he wasn’t interested in going with me. He reminds me that was a long time ago and he was a different person then, but it still surprises me.)
After a little searching on-line (because, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve forgotten a lot about getting around Cheonan in our past years away from Korea) I read somewhere that from Yawoori (the downtown bus station) you can take bus 24 to the temple. But some misinformation in a blog made me doubt my memory and we hopped on bus 24 directly in front of the Yawoori mall, heading in the opposite direction. We got off at the end of the line, in the middle of a whole ton of apartment buildings on the side of a mountain. Definitely not a Buddhist temple. It was almost unbearably sweaty-sticky-humid and I was ready to just give up on the whole plan, but Eric suggested that we wait for bus 24 to come back around, take it back to Yawoori and past Yawoori, and see if the opposite end of the line will get us to the temple. And it did. And I was so happy.
I was glad to begin recognizing landmarks almost immediately on the new bus rout, and became more and more excited as we approached the old familiar temple. So, for anyone like me searching the internet for how to get to the Gakwonsa Temple! At Yawoori take bus 24 across the street from the mall. Ride it to the last stop. Hop off and hike straight up the hill (a street past cute shops and stuff). You’ll get to more wooden and farmland areas and begin to circle a small lake to your right. A sweet Buddhist gift shop will be on your left and right next to that: this gorgeous and deathly steep stair will bring you right up to the temple.
The colourful lanterns are in honor of Buddha’s Birthday. Which was back in May. Not actually sure why they’re still up, but they sure are pretty!
One thing I knew I wanted to do as soon as we began to plan this trip back to Korea was to come and sketch at this temple. And I was so appreciative to Eric for being willing to leave me alone for an hour while I perched on a rock and pulled out my new watercolour set. The humidity (I was drenched in sweat the entire time) and the dozens of ants crawling up my legs and mosquitoes landing on my arms almost got the best of me, but I was able to pull off a decent sketch of Buddha. And really, it was so beautiful; with my back to a handful of temples where dozens of monks were chanting, a Buddhist service taking place in a small temple just past the statue, and every once in a while someone slowly circling the statue in prayer. It was serene. I wish I could’ve stayed longer and done far more drawings, but I will be back a few times before we head home in September.
While I was finishing up the sketch one older Korean woman got up the courage to step over and peer at my sketchbook. Immediately she began cooing and clicking her tongue, attracting dozens more Korean ladies to flock all around me. I seriously love these older Korean ladies so much!! There cannot be too much more in the world more adorable than them.
Eric took a few photos right before I finished up:
I was sad our weekend was over so soon. But I guess non-weekend days help you appreciate weekend days.
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