Temple Tour in May, Spring Season with Beautiful Lotus Lanterns
May, the queen of months, is the perfect month for outings and touring temples as it is also the time of Buddha’s Birthday. Gyeonggi-do Province has several famous Buddhist temples. Among them, it is worth visiting Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju where visitors can enjoy the scenic view of Namhangang River as well as Namyangju’s Bongseonsa Temple, which is famous for beautiful lotus flowers. With Buddha’s Birthday in the same month, surrounding temple areas attract many people as the streets are adorned with lotus lanterns.
Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju
Silleuksa Temple in Yeoju has a tourist complex in its vicinity, so its surrounding areas offer many sights and activities. Namhangang River flows leisurely alongside the tree-lined avenue that leads to Silleuksa, providing an open view. After a five-minute walk along the street, you can visit the nearby Yeoju Museum for a while.
If visitors walk along the street a little further, they will reach a pottery exhibition hall called Yeoju Dojasesang and other buildings that allow visitors to appreciate Yeoju’s traditional ceramics. The Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale is also open to the public, attracting visitors to various pottery exhibitions and events related to ceramics.
After passing Yeoju Dojasesang and walking further along the street, we saw various signposts directing to Silleuksa Temple, Moka Museum, and Hwangpodotbae (yellow sail boat). We decided to head to Moka Museum after touring Sillleuksa.
While most Buddhist temples are built in the mountains, Silleuksa Temple is built near the river, which is rare in Korea. According to a legend, an old man wearing a white robe appeared in a dream of Buddhist Monk Wonhyo and told the monk that the pond, which still exists, is sacred, before disappearing. Monk Wonhyo then tried to build a temple at the site after filling up the pond with soil, but he could not achieve this. On the 7th day of praying, nine dragons appeared from the pond and flew to the sky. The monk was then able to build Silleuksa Temple at the site.
The river flows parallel with the temple, and the scenery gives the impression that the god of water protects the temple. The stream also seems to cool the heat from the strong sunlight. When visitors enter Silleuksa Temple, Gangwolheon Pavilion stands on a boulder near the river from distance. The scenic view of Namhangang River, which is overlooked from the pavilion, seems to wash away all stress from our hectic lives. There are a three-story stone pagoda and a multi-story stone pagoda around the pavilion and the multi-story stone pagoda is known to be the only pagoda to exist from Goryeo Dynasty. From Gangwolheon, visitors can see Hwangpodotbae (yellow sail boat) that floats peacefully on Namhangang River.
There were beautiful lotus lanterns around the main hall of Silleuksa Temple. In front of the Geungnakbojeon Hall, the waves of multi-colored lanterns capture the visitors’ attention, putting them in a state of awe.
Address: 282, Cheonsong-dong, Yeoju-eup, Yeoju-si, Gyeonggi-do (Silleuksa-gil 73)
Directions: At Seoul Gangnam Express Bus Terminal, take a bus heading to Yeoju (Yeongdong Line) à At the bus stop in front of Yeoju Bus Terminal, take a bus bound for Silleuksa Temple (approximately 10 min.).
After touring Silleuksa Temple and its colorful lanterns for Buddha’s Birthday, we headed to the Moka Museum, which is located 10 minutes by bus from the temple. As we reached the museum late afternoon, there were only a few visitors, but it was filled with mystical Buddhist pagodas, statues, and sculptures. The museum reminded us of a painting of an exotic garden.
Address: Yimunan-gil 211, Gangcheon-myeon, Yeoju-si
Directions: At Silleuksa Pass (534 m from Silleuksa Temple), take Bus No. 99 à Get off at the bus stop in front of Moka Museum (Total 4.48 km)
After touring Moka Museum, we headed to have a set menu with steamed rice at the Icheon Food Alley located nearby Yeoju. While waiting for the meal at a restaurant called “Cheongmok,” we noticed a very unusual setting. Due to a wide variety of side dishes that come with the menu, the restaurant serves the side dishes all at once by setting them on a portable table, instead of serving them individually. The numerous side dishes that come with the freshly cooked rice from Icheon surprised us the second time. When you visit Yeoju or Icheon, we strongly recommend trying out the set menu.
Icheon Food Alley
Address: 626-1, Saeum-dong, Icheon-si
Contact: Cheongmok (+82-31-634-5414)
Directions: At the entrance of Moka Museum, take Bus No. 993 à At Yeoju Bus Terminal, take Bus No. 111 à At Gwango-dong, take Bus No.24-1 à Get off at Saeum 2-dong/ Dongil Naengjang (Total 39.62 km)
Bongseonsa Temple in Namyangju
Bongseonsa Temple in Gwangneung Forest is located nearby the Korea National Arboretum.
Famous for lotus flowers, the temple holds an annual lotus flower festival in July when the flowers blossom. Regretfully, when we visited the temple in mid-May, the lotus flowers were not in full bloom. Nonetheless, it was good to see a young lotus flower bulbs ready to blossom and their tender leaves floating on the pond.
The temple is surrounded by a lush forest and beautifully cultivated plant species that enhance its surroundings.
Owing to Buddha’s Birthday, Bongseonsa Temple was also decorated with lotus lanterns, which offered exotic fun. The temple is also famous for its hanging board with Hangeul (Korean Alphabet) written by monk Unheo, who became a Buddhist follower at the age of 30 while he was conducting Korea’s Independence Movement during the Japanese Occupation of Korea. This is the only temple signboard to be written in the Korean language.
Address: 32, Bongseonsa-gil, Jinjeop-eup, Namyangju-si, Gyeonggi-do
Directions: At Seokgye Station (Subway line No. 1), Exit No. 1, take bus No. 73, and get off at Janghyun Elementary School/ Daemyeong Apt. à Take bus No. 2 and get off at the bus stop in front of Bongseonsa Temple
As the temple is famous for lotus flowers, vendors were selling noodles made of lotus leaves or seeds. After purchasing a bundle of noodles, we headed to the Korea National Arboretum, which is located within a five-minute walk from the temple.
The size of the Korea National Arboretum was really enormous and offered many things to see. It consists of various themed gardens and forests, as well as a museum and zoo. Visitors would probably need several hours to experience the entire arboretum. We saw unfamiliar plants and flowers and had a great time learning about nature. With every step, we enjoyed the invigorating scent of nature and felt both our minds and body become healthy.
Korea National Arboretum
Address: 415, Gwangneungsumogwon-ro, Soheul-eup, Pocheon-si
Website: English http://english.forest.go.kr/newkfsweb/html/EngHtmlPage.do?pg=/esh/org_kna/UI_KFS_0106_030110.html&mn=ENG_06_03_01
Directions: At the entrance of Bongseonsa Temple, take Bus No. 21, and get off at the bus stop of the Korea National Arboretum (Total 2.32 km)
After immersing ourselves in phytoncides derived from the forest of the Korea National Arboretum, we continued on to the Gwangneung Royal Tomb nearby. Gwangneung is the tomb of King Sejo, who was the 7th king of Joseon Dynasty, and of his queen consort Jeonghui. The Gwangneung Forest had its name from the tomb. The forest has been protected for almost 500 years since the early years of the Joseon Dynasty. As a result, it is an important material for researchers. The way up to the tomb was energizing owing to the fresh energy of Gwangneung Forest.
Gwangneung Royal Tomb
Address: 354, Gwangneungsumogwon-ro, Jinjeop-eup, Namyangju-si
Directions: From the entrance of the Korea National Arboretum, walk about 600 meters towards Gwangneung.
After touring Gwangneung Royal Tomb, we felt a pang of hunger, so we decided to dine at the Gwangneung Hanokjip, a famous restaurant nearby notable for its bulgogi. Other famous menu items include charcoal grilled bulgogi served with buckwheat wraps, as well as buckwheat noodles. Wrapping grilled bulgogi with buckwheat wraps, and eating them with the nutty-flavored vegetable salad was really irresistible. Our tour of Bongseonsa Temple ended with this healthy meal.
Address: 602-1, Bupyeong-ri, Jinjeon-eup, Namyangju-si
Main Menu: Buckwheat Wrap with Bulgogi, Pyeongyang-style Buckwheat Noodles
Directions: At Gwangneung Royal Tomb, take Bus No. 21 bound for Bongseonsa Temple, and get off at Gwangcheon Village/Gwangneung Market Station.0