Experience of a lifetime: Korean Buddhist Temple Stay at Beomeosa Temple

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From the first time I read about temple stay programs in Japan and South Korea, I was hooked on the idea of spending the night at a Buddhist temple. I wanted to learn more about Buddhism and what, exactly, Buddhist monks did on a daily basis. The stays I saw in Japan (“shukubo”) sounded more like simple lodging in a monastery; interesting, but not as much as I was looking for. When I found South Korea’s Templestay program, it seemed I’d found what I was looking for: a real cultural experience aimed at sharing and preserving an ancient way of life. read more

What to do when it rains in Busan, South Korea

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Outside of the Jalgachi Fish Market

Unfortunately, we woke to driving rain our first full day in Busan. Hmm. When you travel, bad weather happens, so good to have a Plan B. In Busan, Plan B was the hop-on/hop-off bus. We were pretty sure that we weren’t going to do much hopping off unless we saw shelter nearby, but what the heck? At least we’d see some of the city and we were kind of ready for a slow day anyway. Busan offers several hop-on/hop-off buses and, happily, they all pick up by Busan Station very near our hotel.

After viewing a couple of brochures and comparing routes, we chose the BUTI Bus. Although it claimed to offer free onboard wi-fi, our bus had none. Strike one. The app I’d downloaded didn’t work either. Strike two. The tour was mostly in Korean. Probably should be Strike Three, but we were in for the long haul, so we stayed on. Given our experience, I’d try the other hop-on/hop-off called the Busan City Bus Tour. [This is really confusing as both the BUTI Bus and this other bus use the phrase “Busan City Bus Tour. There may be a third bus also using the same name. The price is the same for all of these buses, 15,000 Korean won (approximately $15).) We got off at the last stop which was the underground shopping area near Gwangbok (Exit 6).] We were only idly curious about the shopping, but we hoped to be able to use the sheltered areas to reach the Jagalchi Fish Market. read more

Taking the JR Beetle ferry from Japan to South Korea

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Months prior to our trip, I’d bought our ferry tickets from Fukuoka/Hakata*, Japan, to Busan, South Korea, online at http://www.aferry.com/jr-kyushu-beetle-ferry.htm. This site makes buying international tickets easy for English-speakers and I found the fares to be actually cheaper than on the Japanese and Korean sites. Both Japan and Korea offer daily ferry routes between Hakata and Busan. The Korean fare is slightly cheaper, but the Japanese “JR Beetle” runs twice daily and offered a more convenient time for us, so I went with that. read more

Two-and-a-half months in Asia!

So we leave tomorrow on the trip that inspired me to start this blog: a 77-night ramble through Asia. This trip runs the gamut of lodging, transportation methods, and weather. It’s been a challenge to plan (and a challenge to pack for). We’re excited!

In a (large) nutshell, this trip includes:

  • Our first trans-Pacific cruise [the Aleutians, northern Japan, Yokohama/Tokyo]
  • 2 weeks in Japan [Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima island (where we’ll stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn), Fukuoka]
  • a ferry to South Korea [Busan, a Buddhist temple stay, Seoul, the DMZ]
  • a cruise from Shanghai to Singapore [Okinawa, Hong Kong, Chan May/Hoi An and Phu My/Ho Chin Mihn City, Vietnam]
  • Singapore and Kuala Lumpur
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia, to see Angkor Wat
  • Luang Prabang, Laos
  • a 2-day open-boat trip up the Mekong with a stop at some to-be-determined-when-we-get-there guesthouse in tiny Pakbeng, Laos
  • 2.5 weeks in Thailand: Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai (a day with elephants and a Thai cooking school), Krabi (scuba diving the Phi Phi islands), the Bridge on the River Kwai at Kanchanaburi, Bangkok
  • a 1st class mega-flight on Korean Air from Bangkok to Seoul to Dallas (courtesy of airline miles and credit card points, a favorite game of ours)

I’ve tried to anticipate the trickier bits and done an incredible amount of research, but I know there will be things I overlooked or had no way of knowing. There are liable to be things that don’t pan out as we’d hoped (or maybe don’t even pan out at all). It’s the nature of travel, and also part of what makes it exciting and interesting. And besides, I don’t want to plan every moment anyway. I intend to focus on experiencing the trip rather than documenting it, but I’ll blog about it when I can. Hopefully, there will be fun as well as useful info to share…and, no doubt, our portion of clueless-fools-in-a-strange-land moments. Wish us luck! read more