Tag Archives: culture

Photo: buying pork products in a majority Muslim country

In many parts of Malaysia, pork and other goods deemed as haram (forbidden) by Islam can be hard to come by, as many places outside of the cities are majority Muslim regions.

In deference to those that are Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, or agnostic/atheist though, stores in these parts of the country often have a dusty shelf towards the back where devilishly delicious pork products and other forbidden goodies can be bought.

Another random fact: these stores have to have at least one person on staff at all times who is not a Muslim to handle these purchases when they are brought to the checkout, as the ones that are are not permitted to even handle these products, much less consume them. Malaysia is a very interesting country to say the least!

Making A Pilgrimage To The Baebang Buddhist Temple

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While Christianity has a significant presence in Korea, Buddhism also has a large following as well.  On a typical weekend off from teaching in Baebang, I decided to seek out out local temple.  After hiking into the hills above my town through rice and kimchi farms, I finally reached its hallowed grounds. When you are faced with a view like the one displayed above, how could you not build a shrine to your deity of choice?

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Despite arriving at its doorstep on a weekend afternoon, all was quiet. Perfect for a spot of exploration and a rare moment of serenity in a nation as crowded as South Korea…

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Unlike more elaborate inner sanctums that one would find in halls of worship in places like Seoul, Beijing or Bangkok, Baebang has kept things simple, with a small idol of the lord Buddha accompanied by offerings of abundance and sublime style elements.

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One thing I wasn’t able to figure out during my time in this country was the purpose behind altars built in the honor of seemingly prominent Koreans. Not sure who this guy was, but I’m sure he was integral to the building up of this nation, or at least this community.

Ever visit a non-descript temple, church, or mosque that captured your heart?  Let us know below!

Gagwonsa Temple: A Chief Cultural Attraction In Cheonan, South Korea

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With South Korea having the rich past that it does, its not long after a foreigner arrives here before they go searching for relics of its heritage.  As such, I also went looking for the most vaunted cultural attraction in Cheonan, Gagwonsa Temple, within the first few months of being settled in South Korea (little did I know that it would be close to the end of my stay there, but c’est la vie).

Located up on the slopes of Taejosan above the rapidly growing industrial, high-tech and research city of Cheonan, this place is one of serenity and peace from the hustle and bustle present in the streets below.

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After taking a bus from the entertainment district of Cheonan, I arrived in the relaxing mountain village that lies just below the temple complex itself.  After a bit of a walk in the sweltering 32 degree heat (not counting the heat index), I finally made it to the most famous sight of Gagwonsa – The Bronze Buddha…

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Noted as one of the largest sitting Buddhas in Asia, it was a worthwhile sight to see on this day … but there was still more exploring to be done.

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To those not familiar with Asian religious history, the symbol of the swastika on these venerated temple structures may come as a bit of a shock.  They were used as Hindu and Buddhist symbols for thousands of years before the Nazis co-opted this icon for their own nefarious purposes.

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Heading down into the courtyard, I simply couldn’t come here without taking a look inside…

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Shoes off before going in!

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I wasn’t sure if cameras were frowned within the inner sanctum, so I snapped a pic before stepping inside.  Anyone in the know about this, please inform me on the proper protocol!

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I was going to go on a mountain hike on this day, but with the heat so overwhelming on this day, I thought better of it on this day and turned back at this point. Summer is a terrible time to go peak bagging in Korea, spring or fall is your best bet!

Do you have a favorite local temple in Korea where you live?  Have you visited one on holiday here?  Tell all in the comments below!