Donghwasa Temple, The Return

Trip Start Dec 02, 2011
Trip End Dec 02, 2012

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Daegu,
Saturday, March 30, 2013

The main point of my trip to Daegu this time, other than getting away for the long weekend, was to revisit Donghwasa (동화사) Temple. I came here last year, but chose the wrong path at the base of the mountain and missed seeing the main temple, although we did enjoy a very pleasant hike through the snow and ice.

This time, I knew exactly where to go, or rather exactly where not to go. Even after turning right at the end of the parking lot, there were still plenty of opportunities to wander down the wrong path. We stopped at a couple of the smaller buildings, noticed from a distance what I believe was a Buddhist funeral, then kept turning right and finally made it to the Tongil (통일) Complex.

The area was quite impressive, and I'm glad I got a chance to return. It was built in the 1990s as a prayer for reunification, and the centerpiece was a enormous standing Buddha. The Buddha statue was surrounded in a square horseshoe by a stone building that had exhibits and information on Zen (or Seon, since we're in Korea) Buddhism. As usual, much of the information was in Korean, but it was still enjoyable.

The best of the exhibits by far (well, the random fake forest for meditation was pretty notable too) was a series of flat-screen TVs animating paintings of scenes from a Buddhist story. Not only were the animations much better done than the singularly disappointing Alive Gallery, they were animations of murals I had seen painted on one of the temple buildings and provided English explanations for those murals, so bonus points for educational material and increasing my understanding of what I'd seen painted on the temple buildings.

After visiting the temple proper, we still had plenty of time for a hike up the mountain. This time, even though it was a month earlier in the year, the trails were clear of ice and snow all of the way to the top. Actually, we didn't go to the top because the trail got too muddy once it went off road, but we did go to the top of one of the peaks. It was a nice hike, although I didn't get quite the sense of accomplishment without having to scale ice.

When we got back to Daegu, we just bounced around again. We started with drinks at the Daegu Hello Kitty Cafe, since my friends hadn't been to the one in Hongdae. It was a little smaller than the one in Hongdae, but the same amount of cute.

After Hello Kitty, we doubled-down on the girly activities by stopping in a random photo-booth center and getting pictures taken. The name was either "Beauty Audition" or "Booty Audition", the reading of the Korean was ambiguous, with the tagline: "Girl, Photo, & Fun..." It caught my eye because it sounded a bit scandalous, but then it turned out just to be building packed with photo booths. Our booth said "Glamorous girly? Romantic girly? Cute girly? Which girly are you?" on the side in English. Luckily my male friend didn't see that... It took us a while to figure out the pictures print out behind another curtain on the back of the booth, and our shirts matched the green-screen for some interesting effects, but it was silly so enjoyable.

After that, we had dinner at the worst "Indian" restaurant ever. It was a distinctly Korean interpretation of Indian food (the meal came with sweet pickles and what I think was mayonnaise, among other things), and was extremely disappointing. A second disappointment came when we attempted to go to a board game cafe marked on our map but found that it was no longer there. We managed to salvage the evening with a trip to a multi-bang and a round of Mario Party while one of my friends poked around the internet. I'm still not entirely sure how to play Mario Party (I think I lost?) but we had a good time.

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