Bongeunsa, Seoul, South Korea

Nestled behind the massive COEX Mall in Gangnam is a Buddhist temple founded in 794 by Yeonhoei, head of the Seon (Zen) Buddhist sect. The temple’s history, like many in South Korea, is blighted by the Joseon Dynasty’s attempts to eradicate Buddhism altogether. Originally named Gyeonseongsa, it was renamed and moved during King Myeongjong’s reign,…

Lotte Department Store, Busan, South Korea

Am I really posting about a Department Store? You bet your butt I am. You see, the branch of Lotte in Gwangbok, Busan, has one of Busan’s best sights: The four-storey hourly water-fountain display. This photo of Lotte Department Store Gwangbok Branch is courtesy of TripAdvisor The show lasts approximately ten minutes, and there is…

Beomeosa, Busan, South Korea

Sunshine, peace, and dazzling mountain views. Add to that one of Jogye Buddhism’s Head Temples and you have a wonderful side-trip from Busan. The temple feels remote, despite being only a half hour’s hike from Beomeosa subway station (or a far shorter bus ride). Hop off at the bus stop and you have more uphill…

Survival Korean

Do you need a handful of simple words and phrases to get you through South Korea for a few days? Perfect! Keep reading! I’ll start with a pronunciation guide, which will need a little explanation of how Korean itself is written. Don’t panic; it’s very simple. Korean is written in syllables. Each block you see…

Survival French

Unlike Japanese, French pronunciation is anything but easy to explain in a couple of paragraphs with a mere handful of examples. Luckily there are two kinds of French people when it comes to us wacky foreigners trying out their language: The wonderful, friendly, rural French who will do their damnedest to understand you no matter…

Survival Japanese

This is intended as a very simple primer for those without the time to gain a fuller vocabulary. I won’t be scaring you with the intricacies of Japanese writing: that’s beyond the scope of this article. Similarly the purpose is not to teach you beginner’s Japanese in any way; purely to give you a handful…

Haedong Yonggungsa, Busan, South Korea

South Korea’s southernmost temple spreads across rocky outcrops in the Sea of Japan like a spider delicately perched on strands of its web. Built in 1376 it has survived suppression by Confucianism and outright destruction by the Japanese, and remains an important centre of Korean Buddhism to this day. The approach is lined with statues,…