For budget, travel info, culture, see Itinerary Part 1.
For Seoul Itinerary Days 1-3, and Days 12-14, see Parts 2 & 8 respectively.
For Andong Itinerary Day 4, see Part 3.
For Gyeongju Itinerary Day 5, see Part 4.
For Busan itinerary Days 6-8, see Part 5.
For Jeju Island Days 9-10, see Part 6.
For Haeinsa at Gayasan National Park Day 11, see Part 7.
South Korea Itinerary Day 11: Haeinsa at Gayasan National Park
“Gaya” means “cow”, so Gayasan is “Cow Mountain” because it is shaped like a cow’s head. You can walk up the mountain via Haeinsa, the UNESCO temple, founded in 802 AD. “Haein” comes from the Buddhist expression “haeinsammae,” which means “truly enlightened world of Buddha and our naturally undefiled mind.” The temple houses 6791 volumes of Tripitaka Koreana, equivalent to the Bible or Koran.
If you stay at Haeinsa till the evening at about 6pm, two monks will play at a kickass drum, thrice the size of lion dance drums. It was AWESOME! It was almost like a graceful dance. My camera and phone were in my temple room so I didn’t take any photos. What a waste.
I did a temple stay and it was one of the best experiences I had in South Korea. The temple was less touristy than elsewhere and I wanted to become a monk after this! Except for me, the others were domestic tourists. There was a deep serenity in the temple. Because I participated in the freestyle program, I didn’t have to wake up at 3am to do the prayers. Heng.
The temple vegetarian food was the worst food I had in recent years, but quite an experience. It was so bad I couldn’t bother to wake up at 6am for breakfast. The bare room had flies buzzing the entire night so I couldn’t sleep–quite fun. I loved and will treasure this wonderful and calming experience. I felt at peace with myself.
How to Get to Haeinsa
If you’re following my itinerary closely, take a night flight (8pm) from Jeju to Busan and stay around Sarang area. I recommend Hotel 9. Then next morning, take a bus from Sarang Bus Terminal (just across Hotel 9) to Seo Daegu Bus Terminal. At Seo Daegu, take an hour-long bus to Haeinsa. From Busan, it takes about 5 hours to reach Haeinsa.
If you’re coming from Seoul, either take bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal or take KTX train from Seoul Station to Daegu. At Daegu, take the subway line 1 to Seongdangmot Station. When you exit the subway, it leads to Seo Daegu Bus Terminal. At Seo Daegu, take an hour-long bus to Haeinsa.
TIP: Pack what you need for the day and leave your luggage at the locker at Seo Daegu Terminal. The lockers are only for cabin-sized luggage.
10 Chiin-li, Gaya-myeon, Hapcheon-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
To be continued…
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.