The Big Boys Birthday’s Approaching

On Saturday Seoul was in the midst of preparing for the big boys birthday and the Buddhist parade in Jongno later that evening. En route to Jongno I visited the Bongeunsa Temple, once known as Gyeonseongsa Temple, in Gangnam-gu. Bongeunsa Temple is located to the north of the COEX complex, and was constructed in the 10th year of Shilla King Weongseong’s reign in 794. The temple was transferred to its current location during Joseon King Myeongjong’s reign. 3,479 Buddhist scriptures of 13 types, including the works of Kim Jeong-hee, are stored here. The Buddhist ceremony called Jeongdaebulsa, is held every September 9th of the lunar calendar, where monks march carrying the scriptures on their heads and recite the Beopseongge (Buddhist rites). Only 30 or so years ago the temple sat on it’s hill surrounded by rice paddies and now it’s the concrete and steel of the World Trade Centre.

To be honest I find the commercialised frontal areas of the temple uninspiring but climb the steps at the back and the visitor is rewarded with some smaller personalised shrines with beautiful paintwork and murals. Further back and upwards beyond the giant white Buddha its possible to find quiet solitude among the pine trees with the view of COEX over the temple rooftops.

On leaving the temple I crossed over to the cavernous atrium of the COEX centre where a convention for plastic surgeons was taking place. So if your face is too round, your lips too thin, that nose not quite right your boat will be floated here. Many Koreans have a surgery wish list, bigger lips, higher cheeks, and a more delicate chin. Unhappiness with appearance is de rigueur for many teenagers, and this is increasingly being addressed with a scalpel. from my observations, particularly when strolling through Gangnam, nose jobs and double eyelid surgery are the most popular canibalisations of the human form. Surprisingly the majority of the exhibitors appeared to be slightly overweight men in their 30s and 40s who were salesmen rather than knife wielding charlatans. The COEX mall, which I’ve never liked because of the claustrophobic low ceilings, is being re-modelled. From what I saw this involves an extremely glow-white paint job, new floors and nothing much else but I’ll save judgment until its completed.

I swung my way round once again to the DDP to finally catch the Zaha Hadid Full Circle Exhibit, needless to say she and it did not disappoint. The whole complex was buzzing with folk of all ages so it looks like the Seoulites are proud of and appreciate the significance of this world-class design. I again tried to catalogue some images before settling in at my residence in the alleys of Donui-dong.

That evening I met up with Angel D and Emma for a Korean barbecue. We once again met the 70s throwback pop singer and another rather inebriated local character who suggested AD and I were in fact an item. While doing this he bruised my back on several occasions, squeezed my thigh at least 4 times and habitually caressed my knee. He received a number of “loudness” warnings from the proprietor before staggering along the alley into the sunset!

From here we made our way to Jongno 3-ga to watch the stunning annual lantern procession! We were entertained not just by the dazzling display but also by a precocious American kid who is likely destined for the catwalk. We then absconded to a few of our favourite watering holes before retiring around Cinders hour.

On Sunday it was raining so I headed south of the river to Times Square. Before entering this temple to capitalism and a shrine to retail therapy I visited the local park which had a legion of homeless characters using all manner of sleeping arrangements, one atop a picnic mound. Times Square itself was not too busy and after snapping away for an hour I headed back to the bosom of Dullju.


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