25th May 2016:
Reached Gwangju at about 11.30am. After buying the bus tickets to Seonunsa, we had our lunch in the U-Square terminal.
There were only 4 buses daily from Gwangju to Seonunsa, and we took the 1pm one. After one hour, we reached Gochang bus terminal, where we alighted for a short break. Then we boarded the bus again to proceed to Seonunsa.
Reached the Seonunsa bus terminal at about 2.30pm. There is a tourist information centre behind the bus terminal, and so we went in to check out the accommodation in the Gochang Hanok Village. We were surprised that it was fully booked, which meant we might have to return to Seoul earlier cos’ we only booked 2 nights’ temple stay in Seonunsa.
After walking for about 15 mins from the bus terminal, passing by some stores selling food and drinks, we finally reached the Seonunsa (선운사) Temple Stay office. After the long bus ride and dragging our luggages under the hot sun, we really can’t wait to rest in our rooms. The temple stay manager briefed us on the schedule and regulations for the temple stay and handed us the uniforms to change.
Then, he showed us our room, which was a small walk away from the office. We quickly refreshed ourselves and changed into the uniforms. There were only 2 of us and one Korean guy joining the temple stay today.
After a while, we went for our temple tour. We were glad the temple stay manager speaks really fluent English, and he not brought us around the temple compound, but also explained to us the Korean Buddhist culture.
After the temple tour, we went back to our room for a short rest. Then, we gathered at the dining area at about 5.40pm for our dinner. We had to make sure we finished the last bit of food that we put on our plate. The temple food was so delicious that of course we had no problem doing that 🙂 We had to wash our own plates and cutlery too.
After dinner, we walked around the temple compound taking pictures, and visited a small shop that sells souvenirs. Then at 6.30pm, we witnessed the bell hitting, followed by the evening chanting ceremony, which lasted half an hour. After that, we went back to our room to rest for the night.
26th May 2016:
Woke up at 4am for the morning chanting ceremony. The sky was pitch dark and it was freezing cold. We hurried quickly to the main temple compound upon hearing the sound of bell hitting. The only time when i need to wake up so early is probably during the trips for mountain climbing since we need to catch the sun rise. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a pleasant experience, and in fact this was one of the highlights of a temple stay 🙂
After a short nap and breakfast, we went for a short hike along the stream in Seonunsan Provincial Park (선운산도립공원), where the starting point was right in front of Seonunsa.
After an hour of hike, we reached the Dosolam Hermitage site, where there was a magnificent 13m carving of Buddha on a cliff. We stayed for a while, before hiking the same track back. After lunch, we changed our temple uniform, cos’ we wanted to spend some time exploring Gochang since we were here.
We walked to Seonunsa bus terminal, and had some coffee while waiting for the next bus to Gochang bus terminal. The bus came punctually at 1.40pm.
After we reached Gochang bus terminal, we asked around to find our way to the Gochangeupseong Fortress (고창읍성). Since the time is short, and the weather is burning hot, we decided not to enter the Fortress. Instead, we walked over to the Gochang Hanok Village, which we intended to do a one-night stay after the temple stay.
The Hanok Village was so quiet that it didn’t look like it was fully booked. Anyway, we were glad we were not staying here after all, cos’ it seemed a bit commercialised.
We started exploring the area around Gochang bus terminal, and decided to have some tteokbokki as tea break 🙂
Had a quick look in and around the local market.
We made sure we were back to the temple in time for the dinner and evening chanting ceremony. On the way back, we bought some Bokbunja (복분자) juice, which seemed to be famous in Gochang.
27th May 2016:
After the morning chanting ceremony and breakfast, we were invited by the temple staff to pluck Sangchu (상추) with her. At first, we didn’t understand what she was trying to say, and so she tried to draw it, but we couldn’t make out her drawing as a lettuce. Finally, she found a monk who can speak chinese and helped us with the translation. We had a good laugh 🙂 After we were done with the plucking, the vegetation became a bit botak, we just hope we didn’t accidentally destroy the whole vegetation lol.
Then we took a break and had some tea and snacks with a venerable monk. Although communication was an issue due to the language barrier, we had much fun and laughter over the tea session. After that, we spent an hour creating our own Mandala art, before we went for our lunch. After lunch, we packed our luggage, and bid goodbye to the friendly temple facilitators and some locals who came here for temple stay too.
The 3D2N temple stay in Seonunsa was such a pleasant experience that i would like to encourage all my friends to experience it if they can. This was my 1st temple stay, but definitely not my last 🙂
Took the 1.40pm bus from Seonunsa bus terminal back to Gochang, then from there, took the 2.40pm express bus back to Seoul. By the time we reached Seoul, it was already 6.30pm. The peak hour traffic definitely didn’t help, as it was such a challenge to squeeze ourselves into the already super-packed subway with our luggages.
We checked into the K-pop hotel which was conveniently located right outside the Seoul Station. We were too too tired to go out and so we just made do with some cup noodles as dinner.