A Day at Tongdosa: pretty views and micro brews

On Saturday, I went to a ‘meet-up’ at Tongdosa Temple. The reason ‘meet-up’ is in quotations is because this was an event planned through the website meetup.com, which makes the meeting-up-ness a bit more official and requires the use of quotations, apparently. For those unfamiliar with the website, it’s essentially a social networking site where you join groups based on mutual interests and plan events for things to do in real life. As my friends’ and my adventures with our meet-up group had more or less made my summer, I was excited to go out and meet some more people on this side of the world.

The plan for the day was to hike around the temple, eat some Korean BBQ and then head to a mountainside micro-brewery. A micro-brewery!!! After three weeks in Korea drinking the national brews (Cass, Hite, and Black Beer Stout), which are universally agreed upon to be far from spectacular, a micro-brewery sounded quite wonderful.

And so tempted by hiking in scenic mountains, and the tasty brews that would follow, I headed out of the city with three fellow native teachers from my EPIK orientation. Tongdosa was only an hour bus ride south-west of Ulsan, reachable by inner-city bus (numbers 817 and 1713, in case anyone from Ulsan stumbles across this and is curious).

The walk to the temple from town is lined with colorful paper lanterns….

Walking to Tongdosa

At a cemetery, several tombs are mounted on the backs of giant turtles. I believe turtles symbolize long life, but what about turtles with dragon heads?
Turtles and dragon-turtle hybrids

Now entering Tongdosa…
Heading into Tongdosa

Tongdosa was full of people selling things in white tents for some sort of fall festival.

Paintings for sale at Tongdosa
(pictures ‘borrowed’ from my friend Vania’s facebook)
Paintings at Tongdosa

The temple is one of the biggest in the country, and we saw many monks wandering around. Which was quite a novelty for me, quite new to the world of Buddhism.

I don’t think Buddha is usually this fat, right?
One Fat Buddha

Here are those four temple guardians again:
Tongdosa's guardians

Tongdosa's other guardians


Tongdosa is a bit crowded

Stepping through the gate and into the temple feels like entering another world. Cement gives way to dirt pathways. Colorful paper lanterns are everywhere. The place is packed with tourists and monks alike. A small choir is singing (probably religious) songs accompanied by electric keyboard, creating an interesting contrast to the ancient architecture.



In the background, of course, are beautiful mountains…

Hanging out in the midst of some paper lanterns with my friend Paul


In Tongdosa


Paper Lanterns, Tongdosa

Paper Lanterns, Tongdosa

I was really excited to finally have an opportunity to discreetly snatch a photo of this phenomenon:
Matching couple at Tongdosa
Couples frequently dress in matching outfits around here. To me, this is kind of disgusting. But also kind of cute, I suppose.

How I'd like to redo my ceiling
Why can’t the ceiling in my apartment be like this?

After exploring the temple, we did a quick hike up a nearby hill. The view was rather magnificent…
Overlooking Tongdosa

Overlooking Tongodsa

On our way down, we came across this guy:
The coolest spider I have ever seen
The coolest spider I’ve ever seen. Decently sized (for a girl from the Michigan suburbs) – about the size of my palm with all its legs. Here’s to hoping I don’t come across any of these guys in my apartment…

Around Tongdosa
Leaving Tongdosa.

From the temple, we headed into town to get some Korean BBQ.

mmmmm! raw meat!
The scissors may make it look less fancy, but serve a very useful purpose.

Grill master

Newly reformed from 4.5 years of vegetarianism, I have to say this tastes kind of awesome.


Korean meals generally come with a vast array of side dishes. It’s all very exciting to me, as I’m still at the point where I’ve never seen or eaten most of the things that show up. But these guys were very unexpected…
a delectable side dish
…and I just couldn’t do it. Especially after seeing other people pull them out of the shells, and how soft and squishy their little bodies looked. Maybe next time…

Proof of an awesome dinner
This what I mean by ‘vast array of side dishes.’

Finally! It was on to the micro-brewery:
The evening concludes with a visit to a local microbrewery

The place had a very ski lodge-y feel about it, and felt just like home. We were the only people there, although it was pretty early for a Saturday.

They had one beer on tap – an IPA. It was poured out of these adorable little wooden kegs…
The bartender pours our drinks out of a small keg

…and it was wonderful.

A perfect ending to a perfect day.
The best beer I've had in weeks

Gum bae!


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