I am trying to stay with locals as much as it is possible and luckily I am able to find them most of the time, my host in Seoul was about 45 mins train ride from central Seoul. They are Korean-American family with a 3 year old who is so much fun, full of energy all the time. My host told me to that they will be going to the lotus lantern festival on the weekend and I can join them. I had no idea what it was until I googled it. Korean Buddhists celebrate Buddha’s birthday and they have a huge parade in Seoul which is few miles long, they close the streets and people sit on both sides to watch it. My host had another person (J) visiting from Brazil originally from Spain but teaching and studying in Brazil, another crazy added to the list, hippy looks, long braided hair and doing two PHDs. Anyways we all went to watch the lantern parade which started a little before sunset and we were checking out other places during the day. We went for lunch at one of the temple lunch places were all the dishes were vegetarian, buffet and was cheap. It was interesting vegetarian korean food, when we were done and I was placing my plate near the washing area and the lady looked at my plate and said 1000 korean won, I was confused and told her we already paid then she went to the counter and type on her phone and showed me the translation, it said fee. I paid it and then my host told me that I didn’t finish my food so that’s a kind of fine you have to pay. I liked the idea.
I had also signed up for a trip organized by local Korean university kids I saw the ad at the hostel. I went with them in the afternoon to a local food market called as Gwangjang market and joined J and my host later at the parade, market was indoor and local food with lots of food carts in a small area. It was crowded and they had all types of seafood and various meat dishes. We had lunch at one of the local shops and I tried the local rice pancake, it was little bit like Uttapam. I also enjoyed the fresh sugarcane juice. One of the sections of the market had wedding dresses shops on the first floor. Lots of shops with local traditional dresses. Towards the end of the tour we walked along a water stream and one of the kids asked me about my plan after Korea and I told him about the whole trip and he was like lot of people here will envy you then he started asking about details, planning etc. I could sense his excitement and by the end of the tour he told me he will also do a similar trip once he graduates and we hi-fived.
I went back to the parade area and was late, apologies again amigos. Parade was really nice and it reminded me of all the different procession I have watched and participated while growing up, school days republic day parades, dussehra, numerous nagar kirtans anyways they had wonderful display of various dance, music, performances and local costumes and my favorite moment was one of the exhibition which said “Welcome the Buddha that’s within you”