Tag Archives: buddha

Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Race

Spring in Korea is a really beautiful time of year! There are so many flowers that come out in bloom and the weather is usually starting to get nice and warm. Given that Ryan and I have both gotten even more interested in running since we moved here, we went ahead and signed up for the Cherry Blossom Marathon Race. Ryan did the half marathon, I did the 10k, and we recruited a couple of friends to come and do the 10k as well. The race was towards the end of the cherry blossom season, but we were still able to catch some glimpses of some remaining flowers.

Cherry Blossoms

What made the weekend even more fun was the area that it was in: Gyeonju – the old capital of the kingdom of Silla which ruled a majority of Korea for period of time. It also has several UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are also considered Korean National Treasures. We had heard from some of our Korean friends that this is their favorite part of Korea so we were excited to check it out. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive, so we started our road trip right after work on Friday night. When we finally made it there, the owner of the pension house (comparable to a bed and breakfast without the free breakfast) where we were staying came running out saying “Kendrick, Kendrick!” She was apparently very excited that we were finally here. She took us up to our room and then sat down with us to show us how to get to the race and what sights she recommended seeing while we were here. We headed straight to bed because we were absolutely exhausted – it was a typical Korean bed which feels like sleeping on the floor; however, we were both so tired that we slept like babies. The other aspects that made it very uniquely Korean were the brightly colored decorations and then the bathroom that has one drain in the middle of the room for all water to drain down; there is no separate shower or divider for that part of the bathroom…it basically means that your entire bathroom is wet all the time which is not what we’re used to but it works. The next morning, the owner came back into our room bright an early to bring us the breakfast of champions in preparation for running.

Gyeonju Pension House

After getting stuck in some traffic and delayed picking up our shirts/numbers, we were finally ready to start. The races are funny because they have a gun shot to announce the run and it is followed by fireworks and streamers and then everyone starts running. The weather was nice and sunny and we all had a great run! After the race, there were a lot of festivities (I wish I had taken pictures of this but my camera was in the car because I didn’t take it running with me) which included some free food and drinks and TONS of Korean people (and a few foreigners) around – they had tea boiled eggs, bananas, beer, and a big barrel of makgeolli (Korean rice wine). It’s a really fun experience and we’ve loved doing races in Korea – we’ll certainly do some more while we are here.

Cherry Blossom Marathon Group 2013

After the race, we all grabbed lunch together and the girls headed back to Geoje and Ryan and I took the afternoon to do a bit of sight seeing around the area. It’s nice to learn a little more about the country you are living and this was a wonderful place to do it. The first stop was the Bulguksa Temple which is a Buddhist temple on a pretty mountainside with a very long history – the temple starting being built int he early 500s and then the rest of it was built in the mid 700s. Sadly, it was burned down by the Japanese and they had to rebuild it – unfortunately, this is a common story in Korea and they make sure to point it out any time possible. That’s one thing about traveling around Asia that is so different from the US – many of the historical sites here are from hundreds of years earlier than anything in the US; definitely changes your perspective a bit.

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple 2

Bulguksa Temple Door Handle

Bulguksa Temple Plaque

Bulguksa Temple Erin & Ryan

Then, we went to the Seokguram Grotto which is a bit of a drive away from the main area of the Bulguksa Temple and then you have to hike up to the Grotto. They don’t let you take pictures of the actual Buddha inside, but it was a cool statue and the view from on top was great.

View from Grotto in Gyeonju

View from Seokguram Grotto

We really enjoyed our time in Gyeonju – it is certainly one of our favorite spots in Korea. There are some other things that we wanted to see but we weren’t able to see them this time so we’ll just have to go back so we can check it out!

 

Japan: Tokyo & Day Trips from Tokyo

The train ride was really nice because we were able to pass Mt. Fuji – it’s an elusive mountain because it is very easily covered in clouds and you can’t really see it. We were lucky enough to see the top of it while our train sped by.

View of Mt. Fuji from the train

When our train pulled into the Tokyo station, we made our way via the subway to our hotel. As usual, it was a very small hotel with a hard bed and a small bathroom, haha. I haven’t spoken too much about the hotels but they are very minimalist in Japan – at one of them, Ryan could touch both walls of the room if he stood in the middle and stretched out his arms. They also didn’t have wifi which surprised both of us – we always thought Japan was super wired, but we learned that Korea is actually much more connected than Japan.

Tokyo Train Station

Anyway…on with our fun adventures – it was really rainy that day, but we decided to go check out the local area to get a feel for the city and then head to Shibuya because we always seem to see that part of Tokyo in movies. We crossed the street and went up to the Starbucks to see the crossing full of people at rush hour. We grabbed a coffee and staked out a spot near the window (this was tough because all tourists head here during rush hour so it was a busy, busy Starbucks – luckily, Ryan and I are good at dividing and conquering…he went to get coffee and I pounced at the first vacant seats. It worked out well).

Shibuya Crossing – lots of umbrellas because it was a rainy day

After that, it was time to head back and then grab dinner. I know that many of you will be disappointed that our first meal in Japan’s capital was not Japanese food…nope, it was the classy establishment: Hooters. If you’ve ever been an expat, you’ll understand that simple reminders of home are incredibly exciting, so we stood in line for 35 minutes waiting for a table. We were not disappointed – the wings tasted just like they did in the US!

To make sure that we made the most of our Japan Rail Pass (and we because we loved train rides), one of Ryan’s friends who lives in Tokyo gave us some recommendations on day trips that we could do. We hopped on the train and got off at the Shin Yokohama station to visit the Ramen Museum. We had the same reaction – there is a ramen museum?! Yes and it’s the most bizarre museum I have ever visited because it has a small exhibit talking about ramen (all in Japanese so I can’t tell you what it was about) and then you go into the basement and it is set up as if it is late 1950′s gangster style Japan. There are several different mini-restaurants where you can get a bowl of their ramen. They were picked as being the best ramen restaurants all over Japan. We tried a couple different dishes and our favorite was one that was miso based with lots of garlic and ginger – simply to die for!

1958 Style Japan – Ramen Style

Ramen with a Miso Base and plenty of ginger – SO good!

 

Round 2 of our ramen tasting – this was really good as well!

 

Then, we got back on the train to go to a zen temple where it was said that one of Buddha’s teeth is stored. As we have told you before, the train is incredibly relaxing – unfortunately this meant that both Ryan and I fell asleep and completely missed our train stop. No worries, though – we got off and then quickly back on the train very well rested and headed back in the right direction. :) We got there and walked around the temple grounds which was an incredibly peaceful place. We saw the building where the tooth was stored, but of course, you’re not able to go in that building. Then we hiked up to the big bell and that wrapped up our visit to the temple.

Temple Grounds

Temple Cat

Monk walking around the Temple

Posing with the bell

Ryan killed this Asian wasp with his bare hands!

We headed right back on the train and went to see the Great Buddha in Kamakura. It’s about a 20 minute walk from the train station and you walk through the cutest neighborhood of Japanese houses. Finally, we got there and we walked up and we couldn’t believe how big it was! We had definitely seen this in our history books growing up and it was unbelievable to see it in person! It is a giant, broze, sitting Buddha statue that is over 13 meters high! It used to be inside a temple but a big tsunami washed away the building and so it’s been outside ever since. After taking enough pictures, we headed back on the train to Tokyo to get a good night sleep before our next day trip.

In the morning, we woke up early and got on the train to Matsumoto to visit the famous castle there. It was a longer train ride and it went through some beautiful mountainous areas – it was a really beautiful train ride. We got to Matsumotto and walked directly to the castle – it was gorgeous! We walked in and around the castle and really enjoyed it. We were blessed with an extremely beautiful day, too, so we were very lucky! We stopped and tried one of the speciality foods there – oyaki. It was essentially a roll filled with yummy ingredients – Ryan had red beans in his and I had pumpkin in mine…very tasty.

Samurai Suit

Then, we got back on the train again and headed to Nagano. You will recognize this name because the winter olympics were here in 1998…we only walked around the city but there are a lot of ski mountains a little ways out from the city – hopefully we will be able to visit these sometime in the future to go skiing. Beyond winter sports, the primary tourist attraction in Nagano is the Zenko-ji Temple. It was built in the 7th century and then Nagano City was built around it. It is also one of the last pilgrimage sites in Japan so there were many people around the temple.

They put the hats and caps on because it was starting to get cold…

Fire breathing statue – smoke came out of his mouth – pretty cool!

Something about this scene just made me think of Japan…

Lanterns out around the temple area

After a nice exploration of the temple, we grabbed some soba noodles (Nagano is said to have some of the best soba noodles in Japan) which were very tasty and then headed back on the train to Tokyo. It was our last night in the city and our friend had graciously promised to take us to the top of one of the buildings (Mori Tower at Roppongi Hills) to see the city view at night. Before we embarked on that journey, he took us to an unbelievable burger restaurant – it was small but it was easily one of the best hamburgers I have ever had…he said that they use some kobe beef in there which makes it extra delicious.

Soba Noodles, Tempura, and Rice – so Japan!

At the top of Mori Tower, there is a special exhibit going on for Disney’s 110th Anniversary. Basically, they turned their helicopter pad on top of the roof into a crazy Disney tribute – there are mirror covered Disney characters that spin around while bright colored lights shine on them and music plays – the first song is always “It’s a Small World” – it was an interesting scene up at the top dedicated to Disney, but the cooler part is that you get to be up on the roof, looking at the panoramic view outside without any windows in your way (the usual look out point is in the building and is indoors). The views were awesome!!

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo City View – we’re purple because of the Disney Lights

It’s hard to make out but these are the spinning mirror Disney characters with colorful lights flashing on them…one of the funniest things I’ve ever experienced…

 

Afterwards, we met up with one of our friends who has recently moved to Tokyo. He took us to show us the “real” Japan which consisted of walking through a lot of alleyways looking for small restaurants/bars where businessmen come at all hours to have some yakitori and some beer/saki after work. We found quite a few and had a lot of fun! It was a great night!

The menu was up on the wall in one of the spots we stopped at (those wood panels are all menu items)

On our last day, we headed to the airport on the Sky Train which was a very fitting last activity (seeing as we loved the Japanese train rides so much). A great end to a wonderful week in Japan! :)

Last picture of us in Japan while on the Sky Train :)

Stroll with Buddha and Confucius

We pulled out the map of Beijing to see the different sites around to visit and saw that there were two religious sites pretty close together – a Buddhist Temple and a Confucius Temple. We thought it would be great to check out two Eastern Religions while we were here in China so we headed that direction. Our hotel was great because it was very central to a lot of the different places that we wanted to see – we got on the subway for a short ride and go out at the Yonghe Temple (also called theLama Temple)- it’s a Tibetan Buddhist monastery that is said to be one of the most important monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism. We knew we were going the right direction because there were people selling incense on the street. They were quite large bundles of incense and we didn’t understand why until we got into the temple – it’s a huge place with tons of people! It was really interesting to walk through – I had never seen people making offerings to Buddha before – at each Buddha, they had to leave 3 sticks of incense as an offering and there were also several people who were lighting it and saying prayers in front of the various temples.

First building in the Temple

Buddha Statue

Buddhists with incense as an offering

Bright Blue statue – notice the crown of skulls

Another Buddha statue

Dad & I in front of the Temple

They also had the largest Buddha carved out of a single tree  (26m) – it was even in the Guinness Book of World Records! It was a great experience to see how important the Buddhists temples are to the people here in China.

26m Buddha carved from a single tree! It’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records!

Afterwards, we walked over to the Confucius temple across the road. This was much quieter than the Buddhist temple which made it very peaceful.

Ryan & I with Confucius :)

The Temple

Stone Scroll

We heard some music playing towards the back of the area and we poked our head in and realized that they were performing some dances. We watched the show that they had for a little while and they we walked through the stone tablets.

Dance Performance

There were some great statues there…this one was my particular favorite. I’m not quite sure how to describe his look here but you know he means business.

Confucius Scholar statues

The atmosphere of each of the temples was very different but we enjoyed seeing both – one being very busy and full of people and the second being much quieter and peaceful. I’ve always found it interesting to learn more about peoples’ religions around the world so this was a great stop during our time in Beijing.

Chasing a Parade!

Our friend called us on Wednesday night at 7:55 PM to tell us that they saw a parade for Buddha’s birthday being set up in the next town over and it started at 8:00 PM – he sent us a video of the parade, and when we saw it, we looked at each other and decided to head over there as quickly as we could! We jumped in the car and headed over to Gohyeon which is about 15 minutes away.

When we got there, we were driving around and didn’t see any signs of excitement and certainly no parade floats, so we continued to drive around for a little bit and spotted several police officers holding lighted batons to control traffic. We decided to park the car and go and ask the police officers if the parade would go by here. We asked one of the officers and he just smiled and nodded…we didn’t think he had any idea what we were talking about so we showed him the video on Ryan’s phone and he shook his head a bit more vigorously. As we stood there, several families came by as well, so we thought for sure this was a good spot. Sure enough…in about 20 minutes, we heard drums and singing as the parade came our way!! It was really fun!

Korean ladies drumming kicked off the parade!

Most of the floats were on the back of trucks depicting Buddha or flowers in very colorful lights

Buddhist monks carrying lanterns – one of them kept waving to us :)

Buddha riding the dragon!

More fire! This was one of our favorite floats!

Ryan enjoying all of the floats!

There were elephant sound effects with this float – it was awesome!

Buddha riding another fire breathing dragon!

Ryan acting like a fire breathing dragon :)

Not sure what these ladies were going for…it looks like they are trying to look like an ostrich?

We still aren’t sure why the parade was on Wednesday (May 23rd) when the holiday for his birthday is this coming Monday (May 28th) – hopefully we’ll see some more festivities over the weekend! This certainly was one of our favorite cultural moments so far!

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