On Saturday afternoon my mum messages me because she hadn’t heard from me all day.
‘Hey Bua, what’s the plan today?’
She was probably expecting that I went to a café with my friends or I went to the beach or something touristy and fun like I do most weekends.
‘I’m at a Buddhist Temple, what are you guys doing?’
I don’t think that’s the answer she was expecting. I also wasn’t really envisioning my weekend to be spent at a Buddhist temple. However, I told myself that while here in Korea I’m going to see as much of the Korean culture as possible. As someone who enjoys architecture, I thought this would be a really great opportunity to go and see one of the traditional structures up close.
We took the subway from the dorms to Seomyeon hoping to catch a bus to the festival. However, when we got to the bus stop there were a lot of people waiting for the same bus, so we decided it would be easier to just catch a cab. Arriving at the festival I was not expecting to see so many people. I think I got used to public spaces being empty because of the virus; however, as Korea is slowly opening up and this weekend was a big weekend on the Buddhist calendar there were many people around. Everyone was still careful, as entry was not allowed unless you were wearing a mask and before entering the main area you had to get your temperature checked. We also had to fill in contact information in the case of someone developing corona symptoms.
On the way up to the festival, we could see paper lanterns hanging from street lights and it was really pretty. However, when we arrived at the festival there were lanterns everywhere and they were all different colours creating different symbols. It was really beautiful, I just sat and tried to absorb all the vibrant colours and the ambience. It reminded me of Diwali in Fiji and how there are lots of different lights and colours.
After about 10 minutes of standing around, we must’ve attracted a bit of attention because every few minutes someone would be telling us to get in line and go and get food. So eventually, we got in line to see if there actually was food. Apparently, on days like this lantern festival and Buddha’s Birthday, the temple gives out free food. Today we got fish, rice, and some side dishes consisting of more fish and kimchi. It was a good meal and it meant I didn’t have to think about lunch so I was happy.
After lunch, my friends and I hung around waiting for sunset because once it was dark all the lanterns would light up and we couldn’t miss that. While we waited we walked around to look at all the different traditional buildings and took lots of photos. It would’ve been really cool to go inside and take a look around but we decided that it wouldn’t be very appropriate to sightsee while people were paying their respects.
Once the sun was set, we decided to return to the main area where all the lanterns were. We had to sit through many speeches that we didn’t understand but eventually, they turned on the lights and the long wait was definitely worth it because it was marvellous. This place was beautiful during the day but stunning at night so we walked around again admiring the lit up lanterns.
Once we had finished taking photos and my step count had reached 200% we decided it was time to make our way back to the city centre for some shaved ice and McDonalds. I really enjoyed this trip to the festival because I got to see something different but an important part of Korean culture. I was also glad I went because we were told this week that our culture classes have been cancelled for the semester because of the coronavirus. So going to see this with my friends made me feel a bit more culturally aware of the country that I’m living in.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on fun places around Busan that I need to visit during my one year of language study. I’ve made a list of cool places to go and visit which include cafes, lookout spots and tourist attractions. Stay tuned to any updates by subscribing to my blog so you don’t miss out on any new posts! forget to like and subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on any new posts.