When I asked my mum what she wanted to see in Korea, the very first thing she said was Haeinsa and the Tripitaka Koreana. You see, my mum is a tourism expert and culture geek, so for her, Haeinsa was an absolute must-visit place. When I told her there is the possibility to do templestay, she was overjoyed.
Haeinsa demands a lot of effort for revealing its beauty. First of all, no matter where you are coming from, you must take a bus to Haeinsa from Sobu Daegu bus terminal. Buses from Gyeongju go straight there, so you just need to go buy a new ticket and change the platform, but if you're coming from Seoul, you have to take the subway or city bus to get to the terminal. The buses to Haeinsa then go about every hour or hour and half. Make sure you tell the driver where you're going, because it is up in the countryside and noweher near as touristy as Bulguksa. When you get near, you will be required to pay some kind of toll fee to someone who gets on the bus, so don't be surprised.
Once the bus drops you off, you have to walk additional kilometer or two to reach the temple, which is doable, though hard, with luggage.
When we arrived, the templestay manager was away, so we had to wait for her to come back. She was really nice though and went out of her way to explain and show us everything we needed to know. The program was mostly free, we only had to attend dinner and night prayer and then morning prayer (3:20 AM!) and breakfast. We would have actually liked if we were able to have tea with a monk and lecture about buddhism, but it was nice anyways. Especially the temple food was very delicious. If you can't take spicy food, you should look for temple food restaurants in Korea, as the monks and nuns do not eat a lot of red pepepr, garlic and meat. Hence tmeple-style cooking is very light and mild.
The bells and drums are divided among the things that swim, things that fly, things that crawl and things that are in hell, if I understood correctly. I really liked when the monks were playing the drum, the rhythm was fascinating. At the end they rang the three bells and then proceeded to do the prostations inside the main hall, and we followed.
The highlight of out tri, Tripitaka Koreana.
The printing woodblocks contain the oldest version of Buddhist canon is Chinese characters and it has no mistakes at all, because if a character was carved improperly, it was dug out and replaced with such care, that it is very hard to find the crrected parts and distinguish them from those that were done right on the first try. The woodblocks were made according to sheets of writing prepared by scholars that practiced writing them for ages, until the style was very uniform and looked like it was already printed. The reason why they were preserved so well was great knowledge of architecture, chemistry and biology the monks and scholars had, as the woddblocks have been stored in well-designed building with proper ventilation and impregnation to keep pests and decay away.
The templestay costs 50 000 KRW/person/night, which makes it I believe the most expensive templestay in Korea. It is however, quite worth it. The rooms are also rather comfortable and always warm, as the monks have frail bodies.
When you take the bus back to Daegu, you have to buy tickets from a scary old lady that has a shop in this building.
When we were leaving, the manager gave us a wooden buddhist bracelet as a keepsake! She even gave us a bag of snacks to eat on the way to Daegu. How sweet of her...<3
We bought a giant pile of gifts and souvenirs, I got a pin and bracelet.