Monday, December 31, 2018

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spring in Korea 2015 (Part 5) ~ Exploring Haeinsa (Tripitaka Koreana)

Built 1,200 years ago, the Haeinsa Temple is regarded as one of the three most important temples in Korea, representing the Triple Jewels - Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha.  The other 2 temples are Tongdosa and Songgwangsa.

Located in Gaya-san, Hapcheon province, Haeinsa Temple is said to be home to the largest number of monks who cultivate themselves religiously in Korea.  The temple has a long history and is notable for housing the Tripitaka Koreana (Goryeo Daejanggyeong aka Great Collection of the Scriptures of Goryeo), the vast canon, proudly asserts that it is the utmost symbol of Goryeo Buddhism.  It has a great collection of scriptures in more than 80,000 woodblocks.  The scriptures are carved on both sides of these blocks and make a total of some 160,000 pages.  Each side has some 300 characters and as such, the entire Tripitaka has some 52 million characters.

The temple has since been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995.  It is the first temple dedicated to the Korean Avantamsaka School of Buddhism and it houses the most comprehensive woodblock edition of Buddhist scriptures ever made.  The first woodblock version was compiled in China during the Song Dynasty.  But all of the early Chinese editions were somehow destroyed.  It was first destroyed during the Mongol invasions in the early 13th century.  History textbooks explained that the Goryeo government undertook the project with the hope of expelling the Mongol invaders with the assistance of the Buddha.

The temple's layout is typical of a Korean mountain monastery.  Let's explore this historical temple.

The first entrance into the temple is the One Pillar Gate which symbolises an aspiration towards Buddhahood.  The gate itself represents the teaching of the Buddha that all things are illusionary, they aren't what they appear to be.  Translating from the Chinese words, it also means the Gate of Non-Duality and it means the one-ness of all things and phenomena.

(The main gate facing outside)

(The main gate facing inside)

Not too far from the first gate stands the Gosamok Tree, which is a zelkova planted 1,200 years ago to commemorate the establishment of the temple.  It is said that the king then planted this tree on his own in gratitude of the monks who helped to heal his queen of her disease.  The tree has since withered but it is still kept as a monument in the temple.

The next gate, which leads to the main temple compound, is the Haein-Chongrim which means the Haein Forest Monastery.  This is also the Cheongwang-mun which enshrines four fearful-looking guardians of the heavenly king who guard the Buddhist world and fight off the evil.

(Pheonix Gate)

The storage halls of the Tripitake Koreana are located on the highest level of the temple compound, and designed to facilitate natural ventilation, humidity and temperature control with no obvious device other than the open grill windows.

The compound consists of 4 buildings and each building is laid out in rectangular shape.  With careful planning, the buildings face the southwest so as not to get direct sunlight.  And to maintain the right humidity inside the buildings, salt, charcoal, powdered lime and sand are used in the inner floorings.

The Tripitaka Koreana consists of three collections - Buddhist Scriptures, Precepts and Discourses.  The Buddha was a great teacher born more than 2,500 years ago and taught the way for liberation for 45 years.  These collections captured the Buddha's words systematically.

The Tripitaka Koreana is also called the Goryeo Daejangkyung (高丽大藏经) because it was published in the period of Goryeo and it reflected the people's aspirations for overcoming the nation's crisis by relying on the Buddha's teachings against the invasion of the Kitan and the Mongols.

Each block measures about 68cm by 24.5cm, and weighs about 3.2kg.  Unfortunately, the halls are not open to the public and I could only view the wooden blocks through the gaps outside the halls.  Only 1 piece amongst the thousands of wooden blocks was on display, which has the Heart Sutra text engraved on it.

Haeinsa is the first temple in Korea dedicated to the Korean Avantamsaka School of Buddhism, and hence the master Buddha of the Avantamsaka Sutra, Vairocana Buddha, is enshrined in the main hall known as Daejeokgwagjeon, meaning the Hall of Great Silence and Light.

Stone Pagodas are found in most (if not all) temples.  Historically, pagodas were meant to house the remains of the Buddha.  In Korea, these pagodas house the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns in that monastery.  Therefore, it is not unusual to see people paying respects to such pagodas.

 For temples that are found in the forests, the compound is spacious and there is usually an open hall (Bumjong Gak) with 4 percussion-like instruments.  Known as Samul, they include the Dharma Bell, the Dharma Drum, the Wooden Fish and the Cloud Gong.

The Dharma Drum sends the message of the Dharma to lead all land animals to enlightenment.

The Dharma Bell is rung to redeem the souls of beings in hell, to gather people in the temple, and to announce the time.

The striking of the cloud bell, usually made of bronze or iron, is to lead all air-living creatures into the heavens.

The Wooden Fish is in the shape of a carp and the hitting on this instrument is meant to send message to beings living in the water so that they will realise the awakening too.

In case you are wondering if there is anything less religious, there is a cosy tea-house, Haein Café, in the temple's vicinity!  It is an ideal place to really rest, chill and relax.

The overall experience in Haeinsa has been an pleasant and peaceful experience.  The key to visiting temple is to allow yourself time to explore and immerse into the serenity.  The compound is big and is surrounded by a several other smaller temple.  Every turn is an experience!

Getting to Haeinsa
- From Dong Daegu KTX Station, walk to the Daegu Subway station (2 mins)
- Take Line 1 (Red Line) to Seongdangmot Station (9 stops, 15 mins)
- Exit the station by taking the lift to the street level (Exit 3) and walk to the West Daegu Intercity Bus Terminal (2 mins)
- Buy the bus ticket to Haeinsa.  Bus leaves every 40 mins.  The journey takes about 1.5 hours.

There is quite a distance to go even after you've passed the Haeinsa gate.  I alighted at the last stop where there were shops and hotel-alike building and took a taxi to Haeinsa temple.  The journey took about 5 mins.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

[Winter Korea] Tips for Inaugural Ski Experience

Tips before going on your first ski. It is not going to be feasible to buy the full set of ski equipment if you stay in a tropical country like me. Instead, everything that you need can be rented. That includes the skisuit, skiboots, skis, skipole, goggles and helmet.

What you need to buy is a pair of waterproof gloves suitable for this cold and wet sports.

Do note that ski suits are insulated and waterproof, which means you are protected from the icy snow even if you fall. Many people (that includes me) think that thick sweaters underneath the ski jacket will be needed. If you did that, you will regret big time. Thick jackets not only will cause obstructions to your movements, it will also cause you to perspire and get uncomfortable. In fact, a piece of lightweight comfy top should be sufficient. If you are really concerned about withstanding the cold, wear a set of heat-tech and that should be enough.

The ski boots is the most uncomfortable part of the suit. It is heavy and tight. Hence, it is best to avoid wearing socks that are thick and bulky eg. wool socks. If you are skiing in Yong Pyong, you can measure your foot size before asking for the shoe size at the boots rental counter. As a general guide, get a size that is 10mm (or 1cm) bigger. Getting a pair of shoes that fits snugly can greatly prevent aches and pains after your ski session. Good luck!


List of Ski Resort in Pyeongchang -

There are 2 ways to get the ski resorts in Pyeongchange:

1. By bus from Incheon Airport or from Seoul (

2. By KTX from Incheon Airport or from Seoul Station. Depending on the ski resort you are going to, you may alight at Pyeongchang station (for Phoenix Snow Park) or Jinbu station (for Alpensia Ski Resort, Yong Pyong Ski Resort or Jeongseon Ski Resort) .

Between the 2 options, KTX will be the faster option but the fare is higher compared to taking the public bus.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gangwon-do Delicacy - Makguksu

One of the good things about Singapore is that, we are really a foodie city.  And especially with the rise in interest in Korean culture, the number of Korean restaurants in Singapore have increased significantly.  I recently checked out Singapore's first Handmade Korean Noodles House - Guksu 1945, located at Suntec City and was treated to the variety of guksu options available.

But wait... what is Guksu?  It is essentially the collective term for Korean noodles or colloquially known as myeon eg. ramyeon (Korean instant noodles), naengmyeon (Cold noodles), jjajangmyeon (Korean-Chinese noodles with black bean sauce).

With Korean's long history, many guksu varieties have been created.  The commonly known ones will include gamja guksu (main ingredient for the noodles: potato starch), hobak guksu (main ingredient for the noodles: pumpkin and wheat floor), kong guksu (noodles in cold soybean soup), janchi guksu (noodles cooked in clear anchovy or beef broth).

(Guksu from Jeju - 국수회관, 신제주점)

I had a lasting impression of a bibim naengmyeong (spicy cold noodles) which I had at the Incheon Airport in 2015 and have been searching for a naengmeyon which resembles what I had.

Seeing that naengmyeong was on Guksu 1945's menu, I didn't hesitate to place that order.  But it turned out to be another variety of naengmyeon which comes with ice cubes in the soup and tasted entirely different.

When will we be able to try ALL the guksu varieties?  But one thing for sure, Makguksu (buckwheat noodles serve in cold kimchi broth), is one of the 2 Gangwon-do specialty dishes.  The other dish is Dakgalbi, which I have introduced earlier.  Click on this link if you missed the post.

Makguksu became a Gangwon-do delicacy because buckwheat is the staple crop that is widely cultivated in the province.  This delicacy has come a long way and it has been around since the Koryeo Dynasty.  And now, the go-to place for Makguksu is the Dakgalbi Alley where you can get enjoy both Gangwon-do delicacies at the same time!

Makguksu is similar to naengmyeon with the key difference being in the high concentration of wheat flour used in Makguksu and the greater use of vegetables in this dish.  In terms of taste, it is chilly, spicy, savoury and wheaty.  Doesn't this make the best combination to go with the warmly pan-fried spicy chicken during the cold seasons?!  Go for it!

(source: Korea Herald)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

[Gangwon-do, Korea] The Must-Go Place in Chuncheon

There are many scenic places in Gangwon-do (aka Gangwon Province) such as Nami Island, Seoraksan (Mount Seorak), ski resorts.  Besides the play and fun, there is a famous place in Gangwon to visit for it's specialty food - Chuncheon Dakgalbi!  Dakgalbi is pretty common in Korea but Chuncheon is THE place where the famous dakgalbi restaurants congregate.

Getting to Chuncheon Station (in Gangwon Province) from Seoul is easy with ITX connecting Yongsan / Cheongnyangni stations to the Gyeongchun Line.  Chuncheon station is the last station on the Gyeongchun line and it takes about an hour to travel by ITX.  Fret now that the journey is long and boring, you can enjoy the scenic scenery while travelling or if you prefer to get connected, Olleh wifi is available on the ITX.

The local specialty in the Chuncheon region is that Chuncheong Dakgalbi, a stir-fried marinated chicken dish in chilli pepper paste with vegetables (cabbage, sweet potato, onion, scallion etc) and rice cakes.  For years, the chuncheon region has been famous for its abundance in poultry produce.  This dish started off as a side dish to go with drinks in the early days in the 1960s, it gradually grown to become so popular, so much so that a street has been dedicated to this dish.   There is even an annual festival held in Chuncheon to commemorate this dish.  The festival is known as the Chuncheon Dakgalbi and Makguksu (spicy buckwheat noodles) Festival.  The 2017's festival is happening now from 26 August to 3 September and is held in front of the Chuncheon Station.

Exiting from the station entrance, the most convenient mode of transport would be to take a taxi to the Chuncheon Dakgalbi Street.  When I was there, loads of taxis were lining along the side of the road.  The exact location is Myeongdong.  So, you can simply inform the taxi drive to go to Myeongdong Dakgalbi Golmok (명동닭날비골목).  Golmok means alley or street.  The journey is should not take more than 5 mins.  Alternatively, you can walk to the Dakgalbi street if you have a map on hand and know the way.  It takes about 20 mins by foot.

The taxi should let you alight at this entrance signage.  Follow the directional sign and walk into the alley.  There are approximately 20 dakgalbi restaurants in the alley. 

The dakgalbi restaurants are all rather traditional and require guests to sit on the wooden floor.  Once seated and order has been placed, they would start cooking almost immediately, right on the dining table.  The round flat pan is filled with freshly cut vegetables, topped with richly marinated de-boned chicken chunks that were also cut into bit sizes.  No oil is added in the process.  The moisture from the vegetables and the fats from the meat is sufficient for the cooking.  Generally, this is a rather healthy dish since white meat is generally healthier than red meat.

The cooking takes about 10 to 15 minutes.  When done, the chicken is tender and juicy.  The portion is usually generous so my advice is not to eat any heavy meals before having a dakgalbi meal.  At some restaurants, they may even add rice to the remaining dakgalbi and turn it into dakgalbi fried rice!

Dakgalbi is a very flavourful dish that is sweet, salty and spicy at the same time.  That is also one reason why it is popular amongst the general population.  It was said that sweet potato and rice cakes were not part of the original recipe.  Sweet potato, not only added to the sweetness of the dish, it was used as a gauge as to whether the meat is cooked.  When the sweet potato turns soft and edible, it means that the meat is already cooked too.  How interesting!

Getting there: Point A refers to the position of Chuncheon Station and Point B is the Dakgalbi street. 

View Larger Map

Monday, July 31, 2017

Winter Sports at 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics

The PyeongChang Olympics will kick start the games in less than 200 days.  If you do not know yet, Soohorang and Bandabi are the mascots for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to be held I PyeongChang, Gangwon, South Korea.

Soohorang is a white tiger.  The tiger is an animal closely related to Korean mythology and is a symbol of trust, strength and protection.  Bandabi is an Asiatic black bear.  The bear is a symbol of strong will and courage. 

A total of 7 snow sports, 5 ice sports and 3 sliding sports will be held during the Olympic games.  Let trusty Soohorang introduce you to these games.

The Paralympic will feature 4 snow sports events and 2 ice sports events.  Courageous Bandabi will introduce you to these games.

For those who are familiar with Korean reality show, these was a special episode on the PyeongChang Olympic games.  Park Bo Gum was the guest celebrity who took part in programme and introduced several sports by attempting them together with the show hosts and national team athletes.  The sports which really got me interested in the Olympic games was Bobsleigh.

Bobsleigh began to be practiced as a sport in Switzerland in the late 19th century.  In bobsleigh, athletes ride a steerable sled down an ice track. And there are three events comprised of 4-man bobsleigh, 2-man bobsleigh, and women´s bobsleigh. 2-person bobsleigh includes a pilot and a brakeman. The pilot uses the inner steering rope to drive the sled. And the brakeman puts on the brake to bring the sled to a halt after it has passed the finish line. 4-man bobsleigh adds two pushmen.

For bobsleigh, the track length is 1,200 to 1,500m long with an average slope of 8% to 15% while the curve radius is minimum 20m. The pressure an athlete feels while going around a curve is nearly four times the gravity, and the bobsleigh reaches an average maximum speed of 135Km an hour. It is important to glide around 14 to 22 curves on straight, curved, and circular segments of the track increasing the speed.

Watch the clips to experience the excitement in riding a bobsleigh!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The city for the next Olympic Games - PyeongChang, Gangwon

What opens up a new horizon?
Passion. Connected.
Where everyone around the world is connected with their shared passion for winter sports.

In another 7 months, approximately 6.500 athletes will gather in South Korea for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.  The XXIII Olympic Games will be held for 17 days from 9 to 25 Feb 2018, 30 years since the last Olympic Games held in Seoul in 1988.

A total of 7 snow sports, 5 ice sports and 3 sliding sports will be held in Gangwon Province.  PyeongChang takes central stage as the opening and closing ceremonies as well as most snow sports will be held there.  Alpine speed events will take place in Jeongseon and all ice sports will be competed in the coastal city of Gangneung.

6 new events such as Snowboard Big Air (Men, Women), Speed Skating Mass Start (Men, Women), Curling Mixed Dubles, Alpine Skiing Team had been added to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  A total of 102 events will take place in the 15 sports disciplines.  This will be the first ever Olympic Winter Games with over 100 gold medals.

PyeongChang is 1-hour away from Seoul via the newly constructed KTX ling.  And all competition venues are located within 30 minutes' driving distance from the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium.

For those planning a winter trip to Korea in 2018, it will be timing to catch the Winter Games while travelling or visit the Olympic village to immerse in the festive atmosphere.  I am certain this experience will go a long way down your memory lane. 

On A Related Note

The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics will be held for 10 days from 9 to 18 March 2018. Approximately 1,500 athletes will participate in 4 snow sports events and 2 ice sports events.

Official Websites
Visit the following official websites for event and spectator information:

PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games (website)
PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games (website)

For ticketing information, please visit

Monday, January 30, 2017

[Korean food] SBCD Korean Tofu House 부창동 순두부

In the recent years, Korean restaurants/fastfood specializing in signature Korean food are getting more popular in Singapore.  Some of these specialties include bingsu, fried chicken, gimbap, bibimbap and the latest addition to the list is now soontofu (순두부).  In the 1970s, Korean soft tofu soup has been regarded as a daily comfort staple that provides a rich source of nourishment to Koreans and other nationalities residing in Korea.

SBCD Korean Tofu House, the latest Korean Restaurant in the Tanjong Pagar CBD district, specialises in a variety of Korean soft tofu soup, where the word "soon" actually means soft.

The restaurant uploads the kitchen philosophy of serving uplifting and complete meals.  Every soontofu dish is created using handmade silken tofu prepared fresh daily.  The broth comes in 4 different levels of spiciness - mild, medium, spicy and crazy hot.  After trying the various level of spiciness, level 3 seems to suit me best.  However, this may be a little too hot for some, who aren't into spicy food.

The modern and spacious restaurant has a total sitting capacity of 120 with 96 in the main dining area and 24 in the private dining area.

The private dining area can be further split into 3 smaller rooms with 8 seats each.  The private rooms are names after the restaurant's name, calling itself b-dong, c-dong and d-dong.  In the administrative division in South Korea, "Dong" means neighbourhood.

(entrance to one of the private rooms)

 (Private dining area)

The soft tofu is made with mature white soybeans, after they have been boiled, curdled and pressed.  The soybean is low in cholestorol and carbohydrates and is a good source of protein and calcium.  The chef comes in as early as 7am daily just to start preparing the fresh tofu for the diners.

(Chef making Prawn Tofu Pancake)

(Prawn Tofu Pancake)

Each soontofu soup is served with an egg and individually prepared in a rich, savoury broth.

Another unique practice in SBCD Korean Tofu House if the way the rice served with every meal.  Each bowl of rice is served in a hot stone bowl, and scooped out into a metal bowl at the dining table.  A thick crust of scorched rice (nuraungji) will remain in the hot stone bowl and corn tea is added into the hot stone bowl and covered to retain the heat to further cook the leftover rice.  Diners get to enjoy a bowl of rice porridge dish later, that is not only nutritious, but also aids in digestion.

(Hot Stone Bowl)

Each bowl of rice is cooked in individual hot stone bowl.  Each batch of rice are covered and pressure-cooked for a precise 15 min and 20 secs! 

The healthy soontofu soup is served with comforting taste of homemade side-dishes (ban chan), which include kimchi, seaweed, pickled green chillies, spicy squid strips and a whole fried croaker fish!  Serving a whole fried fish as a side dish is not common in Korean restaurants in Singapore.  Amongst the side dishes, what stood out for me was the seaweed and the kimchi.  They were totally delicious.  The price of set-meal ranges from $17.90 to $29.90.

There are a total of 4 appetiser dishes in the menu.  Besides the Prawn Tofu Pancake, there are also japchae, fried dumplings and seafood pancake.  Price ranges from $12.90 to $19.90.  The prawn tofu pancake is generous with the minced prawn fillings than the soft tofu itself.  Each portion of the appetiser is suitable for 2 to 3 to share.

(Prawn Tofu Pancake)

Besides the soontofu soup, the restaurant also serve popular Korean meat dishes such as L.A. Galbi, Spicy Grilled Chicken and Spicy Baby Octopus, with price ranging from $23.90 to $35.90.  Options are available to order these dishes as main dish or to include them in the combo meal along with a soontofu soup of choice.  My personal preference is the spicy grilled chicken, although I must say that the level of spiciness has been moderated, perhaps to suit the local taste.  The price for the meat dishes are comparable to BBQ dishes at other Korean restaurants.

(Tteok Galbi - Grilled Short Ribs Patties)

 (Spicy Grilled Chicken)

There is a good selection of 10 soontofu soups on the menu and fortunately for vegetarians, 1 of which excludes meat in the soup.  All soup base contain pork and vegetable, except for the Sesame Soontofu which does not use pork in the broth.  The ingredients used in this healthy option includes sesame, broccoli, mushroom and zucchini.  The taste is really light and suitable for diners who just want a light soup meal.  It is also the only dish that is non-spicy, making it suitable for junior diners.  

Overall, the restaurant serves quite a wide range of Korean popular dishes although the main highlight are the soontofu dishes.  The available of seats provides office workers in the vicinity, a good option for a healthy meal after work and with the enjoyment of continuous K-pop music.

The restaurant is located in Tanjong Pagar Centre, the newest tallest building in Singapore and is conveniently connected to the Tanjong Pagar MRT station.

SBCD Korean Tofu House
7 Wallich Street, Tanjong Pagar Centre, #B1-01/02 Singapore 078884
Tel: 6366 6441
Opens daily fom 11.30am to 10pm

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spring in Korea 2015 (Part 4) ~ Experience Templestay at Haeinsa (Tripitaka Koreana)

Gayasan Mountain (height: 1,430m), where Haeinsa Temple is located, is revered as one of the top eight scenic spots in the country.
Haeinsa Temple (海印寺, 해인사) was founded in 802 CE (more than 1,200 years ago) by Sun-Eung Sunim (Venerable Sun-Eung) and I-Jeong Sunim (Venerable I-Jeong) under the full support of the Silla royal family in the third year of King Aejang, the 40th king of the Silla Dynasty.  The goal for setting up Haeinsa was to elucidate the philosophy and thinking from the Avatamsaka School (Flower Garland School).  Haein (海印) comes from "Haein Samadhi" of the Flower Garland Sutra, which means that the reason for everything, is revealed through an undefiled mind, just like how we can see images clearly on a quiet and still sea.
Haein-sa, the First Dharma Jewel Monastery, is the foundation temple of Avatamsaka School of Korea and the temple that the Tripitaka Koreana is enshrined. The Tripitaka Koreana is integration of Korean people's faith. Haein-sa is the spiritual shelter of Koreans, the lantern of wisdom brightening this land, and a sacred place of Korean Buddhism.  With the extension historical collect, the temple was named as one of the world heritage sites.
Vegetarian food (which we are commonly familiar with in Singapore) is known as temple-food in Korea.  In Korea, many dishes contain meat and there aren't that many vegetarian restaurants in Korea.  Even for food such as vegetable dumplings, it is likely to contain some meat and many stew dishes uses meat/seafood in the stew stock.  So, if you're particular about food containing meat, probably the best option is to go for Bibimbap and request the chef not to add in the meat.
Only in temples, the pure non-meat vegetarian dishes can be found.  There are some interesting snacks which I came across while in Korea such as the one in the photo.... icing sugar coated sweet potatoes, crispy lotus roots etc.  These snacks were served at the templestay office when we finally reached and was going through a simple orientation given by the staff, conducted in English.

As part of orientation to the temple and buddhist etiquette, we were briefed on the "to-dos" and "not-to-dos".

The staff briefed us on the key schedules to note on a daily basis.  In particular, the timing for the morning service, evening services and meal times.  It is important to observe the timing for meal times (morning, noon and evening meals) because once the timing is missed, there would be no more food left.  Meal time is about 30 mins.  The staff advised us to be on standby outside the dining hall 10mins before the start of meals.

There are 2 types of templestay programme, Standard Templestay Programme and Relaxed Programme.  The standard programme which takes place on weekends (Saturday to Sunday) and has more activities such as conversation with monk over tea, 108 prostrations, seon meditation, communal work and a tour of the temple and hermitages.  As for the relaxed programme, it is simply free and easy with minimal fixed schedule. 

Since I was there on a weekday, my programme was really relaxing.  We were free to roam around the whole temple, except that I had to be on time for the Buddhist services and meals.  The meals are served on time and available for only 30 minutes.  Once the timing is missed, there is really nothing to eat!

For the free and easy programme, my schedule was as such:

3.00am  Wake up
3.20am  Pre-dawn Buddhist Service
6.10am  Breakfast
11.20am Lunch
5.10pm  Dinner
5.40pm  Evening Buddhist Service
9.00pm  Lights out

The rooms for the templestay programme is located in 1 building.  Each room takes up to 4 persons.

For hygiene reasons, shoes are not worn into the room, but placed at the door steps.

As like many traditional building, the floors are heated.  The mattress, blankets and pillows are kept in a built-in cabinet inside the room.  There is also 1 toilet (with shower facilities in each of the room).  Bring your own toiletries and washing detergent, if you need to do any clothes-washing.

It is basically an empty room which you can decide how the mattresses can be placed.  There are 4 sets of power-points in the room, sufficient for charging of personal electronic equipment.

There is a hanging rack for clothes-hanging as there isn't any separate closet for clothes.

The morning wake-up call time is 3am, to be in time for the morning service.  As such, the scheduled sleeping time is 9pm.  The room will be pitched-dark when the room light is turned off.  You can keep the balcony lights on instead.  The rooms can get a little stuffy when the doors are all shut (there are no windows in the room), so we kept the doors slight ajar at night for ventilation.

In the Korea tradition, the pre-dawn service starts with drumming on the Dharma Drum, followed by the striking of the bell, the wooden fish and finally the cloud gong. This is followed by the chanting session in the main hall. 

In the break of dawn, we pray that the whole universe will hear this sound and may all hellish environments be brightened.  May the hells, ghosts and animals be relieved of suffering, and may all problems disappear and may all living beings be awakened.

The drum, bell, wooden fish and gong calls out to different sections of the world of living beings.  The bell calls out to those in the ghost and hell realm.  The drum, made of animal skin, calls the animals, the cloud-shaped gong calls the beings in the air, the fish-shaped wooden block calls all the live in the water.

All are called to listen to the chanting of the words of liberation taught by the Buddha and to follow Buddha's wisdom.  Below is the main hall of Haeinsa (Daejeokgwang jeon, 大寂光殿, 대적광전).  There main statue in the hall is Vairocana Buddha.  The other statues include Manjusri Bodhisattva and Universally Worthy Bodhisattva.


The hall is usually closed and devotees enter the hall through the side doors.  I am not sure if this is just a practice (of closing doors) during the colder seasons, but it would have been very chilly if the doors were kept opened.  As part of the temple etiquette, shoes are to be removed and placed on the shoe racks next to the hall entrance.  The floor didn't seem to have heating system and hence it felt very cold especially in the morning.  Fortunately, we each have a huge prayer cushion.  It is alright to stand on the cushion and make prostrations.

We were not given the chanting books, but still, we diligently followed the procedures.  From my elementary understanding, the chanting verses include:

1.  Homage to the Three-Jewels (礼佛文)
2.  The Thousand Hands Sutra (千手经)
3.  The 4 Great Vows (四宏誓愿)
3.  Heart Sutra (心经)

After the chanting, it is optional to stay on for the 108 prostrations and meditation.  The prostration is accompanied by the chanting of The Great Dharani with Mystical and Marvelous Stanzas and Verses (神妙章句大陀罗尼) and several mantras.

Meals are served at the basement of this building.  There are 2 entrances, one for the monastics and one for lay persons (non-monastics).  The monastics would take their meals just slightly ahead of the lay persons.  But fret not, there will still be enough food left.

Meals in Haeinsa are simple and made of veggies.  There are slight variations for the items served during morning, noon and evening meals.  Rice is usually the main staple for all 3 meals.  There will also be 1 type of soup, but note that some Korean soup dishes are served cold, even in the cold mornings.

After meals, we would have to clear our own plates and crockeries, place them in the allocated section in the dining hall for washing.  Food trash had to be discarded into the assigned bins.
Life in the monastery is simple and fuss-free.  Less stress felt, experience a sense of freedom as you allow yourself to immerse into the environment, nature and the calming daily practices.  Reflect on our defilements and make aspirations to be a better person for yourself and all sentient beings.

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