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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Gyeongju, South Korea

Gyeongju, South Korea

My first visit to Gyeongju, South Korea was in September 2003 when I first came to South Korea. The Korean head teacher of my elementary and middle school academy took my co-worker David Miretti (who I still keep in contact with) and myself to the two most famous places in Gyeongju: Bulguksa (Bulguk Temple) and Seokguram.  Seokguram is a grotto that is a part of the Bulguksa complex, that holds a stone Buddha statue.

Bulguksa is located on the slopes of Mt. Toham in North Gyeongsang province in the city of Gyeongju. It's considered to be the masterpiece of Buddhist art in the Silla Kingdom. The history is a long one. In 528, King Beopheung built a small temple on this site. However, according to Samguk Yusa records, the current temple began to be built under King Gyeongdeok in 751. The prime minister at the time was led by Kim Daeseong in order to pacify his parents. The temple was completed in 774 after Kim's death and was later named Bulguksa (The Temple of the Buddha Land).

I loved the bridge leading to the temple. It's called Sokgyemun.

The temple went through renovations during two Dynasty periods (Goryeo and Joseon). During the Imjin Wars (1592-1598 Japanese invasions of Korea), the wooden buildings were burned to the ground. After 1604, reconstruction and expansion of Bulguksa started, followed by 40 renovations until 1805.

After World War II and the Korean War, a partial restoration was conducted in 1966. President Park Chung Hee ordered a major restoration of Bulguksa between 1969 and 1973 after an extensive archeological investigation.

Bulguksa and Seokguram were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995.

My second visit came this month as I went to Gyeongju to do a project for the Hotel Hyundai in Gyeongju to help promote their hotel on my blog as well as on Instagram. I also wrote a review for them on Trip Advisor. My wife's brother-in-law drove and thankfully he did. Gyeongju is not easy to get around without a car. You can get a bus to Bulguksa with no problem and you can take the bus to Seokguram but that task might be a bit more difficult. This will be mentioned later.

Bulguksa Temple

Comparing my first visit to Gyeongju in 2003, I didn't see any major differences except for a lot more cafes as we were driving along the way to our hotel. There were a few more restaurants but not a whole lot. I'm happy to see that Korea hasn't done anything to ruin Gyeongju's charm. Of course back then there wasn't an amusement park but overall Bulguksa and Seokguram look exactly the same as when I saw them in 2003 and that's a great thing!

The two towers that haven't changed at all are Dabotap and Seokatap. They are structures that were both created in the Silla Dynasty. Despite them having a different appearance from each other, they have relatively the same height and are both made of stylobate to create a proportional and balanced look of the temple. You can see them here.

We then drove to Seokguram, which was a bit of a challenge as I alluded to earlier. The road to Seokguram is winding and I couldn't imagine experiencing that on a crowded bus if I had to stand. Just beware of this if you make a trip to Seokguram. I had some motion sickness because of the crazy winding roads, so I made sure to get some fresh air and keep looking out the window! But once we got there, it was worth it. At least I thought so. My wife's brother-in-law expected much more, so don't set your expectations too high!

As you walk along this quiet path for about 10 minutes you might encounter at least three squirrels along the way as I did! It was nice to just enjoy the nature and the true feel of real Korea.

Then you arrive at the main complex of Seokguram. However, you need to climb up some stairs to get there now. I especially loved the lanterns during the season of Buddha's Birthday (May 3rd).

Here's my wife with her sister and brother-in-law as we start to make the climb up to the Seokguram Grotto..

My lovely wife with her sister and brother-in-law a few steps ahead of us

Once you get to the top, you find the grotto that holds the Bonjonbul figure of Buddha which is 3.3 meters in height and 2.7 meters in width. You can't take pictures of it once you're inside unfortunately but here is a pic that I found from a tourism site of Korea. It is an artificial stone Buddha made of granite. As mentioned earlier, the construction started by King Dae-Seong in 751 and finished in 774 by King Hye Gong.

Not only will you see the Bonjun Statue as you walk into the grotto, but you'll also see the Bodhi-sattva, and his disciples. The statue has a generous smile and is engraved with a lotus flower design. The ceiling is half-moon shaped and has a lotus flower designed cover on it.

Picture courtesy of (Visit Korea)
Enjoy your trip to Gyeongju and if you have any questions before you make your way there, please post a comment and I'll respond promptly!

Scott Worden (L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bird Cafe near Sungshin University in Seoul, South Korea

Seoul has various themed cafes. When cat and dog cafes came to Seoul, you thought it couldn't get any wilder than that. Now you can see over 12 different kinds of unique cafes with its own distinct style. I have personally been to a Peanuts cartoon cafe, a raccoon cafe (see a previous blog post), and most recently a bird cafe, which is the subject of today's blog post.

The only way I was able to hear about this cafe was through my friend Timothy Holm. Tim does his very best to find to dig through the city of Seoul and find all of the hidden treasure. His major was Asian studies, so he enjoys experiencing all of Asia to the max. He is also fascinated with Seoul which has inspired me to experience all of what that city has to offer as well. I was happy to join him on this journey as we went to a bird cafe in an area near Sungshin University.

To find this bird cafe, the only thing I can suggest you to do is type the name 우리집새새꾸 into Naver Maps on your phone and you'll be able to find it or you can go to their website here. Another way is to just click the link here ( bird cafe Naver map ) and a map of the bird cafe will pop up there. It is located in the basement of the building on the map. If you can't read Korean, then I would suggest you to go with a Korean friend and you won't have a hard time finding it. 

Here's the poster to help you out as well:

You'll love this place for various reasons. 1) It's very clean. If a bird does his duty, you can easily get wet tissues which are accessible at the counter. 2) The staff is very friendly and as long as you're not torturing the birds, they will let you take out birds from three different cages from one room. You can play with them, feed them, put them on your head, shoulder, etc. 3) You can stay here as long as you want. You just have to pay for coffee (W6,000). 4) You'll see exotic birds that you wouldn't even get to touch while at the zoo! Here's a pic of a couple of beautiful parrots.

Look at this parrot on my arm. My initial reaction is shock. Haha!

Tim even took video of me feeding him. But he seemed a bit hungry. You'll see what almost happens at the end! Here's the video

Here's Tim with a cute parakeet!

But is one really enough? How about two to make it more interesting??

We fed them on the table but we had to be careful. They tried to eat our coffee lids. ;)

Here's one on my head! Thankfully he didn't poop on it!

But the best part was playing with one of the storekeeper's pets: A skunk! Tim asked her in Korean why she would want a skunk as a pet. She said, "I just wanted a skunk." Alrighty then. That's a pretty simple explanation. I wouldn't expect you to believe that you could pet a skunk at this bird cafe so  here are a couple of pictures worth a thousand words each.

Myself with the skunk
Tim petting the skunk's furry back
My Instagram pictures of this place got four people from my church to visit this cafe. I think I should get some commission. Just kidding. I'm happy to help people find the coolest places in Seoul. This is definitely one of them! Enjoy!

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy

Twitter: laseoulguy

Saturday, May 6, 2017

"Choose the Good Portion" by Pastor Eddie Chung (May 21, 2017)

Luke 10:38-42

What was on your mind while you were on your way to church? What should have been on your mind? Hopefully God or preparing for worship. We should be thinking "What does God want to say to me today?" We're really distracted people. We are so easily swayed by lesser things.

In the Bible, Martha has the same problem that we all have. Martha was distracted or in the Greek "pulled away from what she should have been focused on." Martha was probably distracted because she invited 13 men (disciples) to provide a meal for. She was busy but she was also excited to have Jesus and probably wanted to provide the best meal for him. Martha's busyness wasn't the problem. Her distraction was the problem.

Jesus was very busy in his ministry but he wasn't distracted. See John 6:38. Jesus was focused on doing his Father's will.

How many of you consider yourselves "busy?" Many of you. But the question is "Are you busy for the Lord's will or your own will?"

Martha starts off with good intentions. She saw Mary sitting and listening to Jesus while Jesus kept teaching Mary. She says to Jesus, "Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?" She went from wanting to please Jesus to complaining to him and commanding him. Her busyness turned into a distraction. What was God's will for her? Possibly to worry about the food later. Jesus never told her to prepare the food quickly. She put that on herself.

What are some things that distract us from being with Jesus (Facebook, Instagram, sports, TV, etc.)? We are distracted by many things but Mary chose the good portion. Only one thing is important. Life is found in Jesus. When was the last time you sat down at Jesus's feet? When was the last time you spent uninterrupted time (shut your phone off) with him? Take the time to spend time with him or you will get further and further away from Jesus. You might get slammed with work, have grades to enter, have a sermon to prepare for, etc. When did you just STOP and spend time with Christ?

Don't put your identity in your performance. Your identity is in God's performance in you. It's not about a checklist. It's a lifestyle. Even though we know it mentally and logically, we still choose things to distract us. What could inspire us to spend more time with Jesus? Think about how much Jesus wants to spend time with us. He chose the worst portion. See Romans 5:6. Jesus chose willingly to lay down his perfect life to forgive our sins so we can be with him. If that doesn't motivate you, then I don't know what will. Everyday, preach the Gospel to yourself. Set reminders for yourself to remember how much God loves you.

Scott Worden

(The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy