Keeping ancient traditions alive must be a tough job in the heart of modern Seoul, but Buddhist temples have been doing just that for thousands of years.
During the 2002 World Cup, some temples began opening up their inner doors to tourists, offering an alternative lodging for the matches. These days there’s a whole range of overnight stays designed for those not just looking for a bed for the night, but also looking to learn a little more about the monks’ way of life.
Temple stays can vary widely in location and program, but they generally offer a chance to learn about daily life in the temple, try Zen meditation, and the opportunity to chat with monks. You can head for the hills and stay somewhere like Daehyung Temple, in South Jeolla province; or stay closer to the city at Myogak Temple in downtown Seoul.
Take a look at Myogak here
Temples generally like to get tourists involved in outdoor activities, but the seasonal weather can also play a part in how different each experience is. Here’s Professor Oh with some more advice on what you can expect from a temple stay, including eating rituals.
An English-friendly company called Templestay has an information centre in Insadong, so if you’re in Korea and want to find out more, you can stop by without having to book anything.
There are plenty of vlogs on YouTube about temple stays, but here’s a visual-only of some of what you might see.