Auckland's hidden gem: Fo Guang Shan
May 2, 2016
by Keya Patell
I’ve been postponing writing this for a while; on account of it was exams week last week and I was a bit of a mess. But no fear, it is now officially my two week mid-semester break. So here I am, at your disposal as the self-appointed expert I claim to be, for the inside information on the few places I have explored. Today we are starting in on New Zealand; specifically Auckland.
To try to pinpoint one place in Auckland I would consider an “always a must” as the first stop in every traveller’s list, would be the biggest mission to undertake; instead I have chosen to enlighten you all with the one place in my city I would not be able to survive without:
Before going any further here is the background information:
- I am not Buddhist
- I am not even that overly religious – in the sense that I don’t even go to my temple on any sort of regular basis
- I love animals and so I would be vegetarian but, again, I love animals
I can’t tell you about the religious aspects or the significance of any of the features of the temple but what I can tell you about is the instant feeling of calmness I get every time I start the climb up the grand stairs. From the moment the smell of incense hits your nose and you see the ladies at the desk smiling at you and urging you to take a stick of incense to light and add to the big sand bowl at the front of the room it is hard to feel anything but content with yourself. There’s no way to be certain whether that feeling comes from the incense being such an integral part of my memories of my grandmother and the soothing feeling I had growing up knowing she was visiting when I would wake up to that smell or whether it is simply the knowledge that I was finally in my happy place thinking about the treat I would be in for when the food we ordered would finally be in my tummy.
The temple building is arranged in a huge square leaving a large open roofed grassy concreted area in the centre. This grassy area is the ideal spot for any Instagram pictures you were hoping to take, the split patches make it look so artsy and hip for the background to your selfies. The statues around the edges only help to enhance the feeling of being away from the outside world and all the struggles of your actual life. Also they are pretty to look at and fun to take pictures with so definitely take full advantage while you are there.
Once you eventually make your way around the middle grassy patch (or through, I don’t know your life) across from the entrance you will find a new set of stairs to get into the main hall area. This is such an amazing space; I believe it is where they go to do the actual praying? I always get a sense of purpose going into there, it always seems to make you feel like more than you are – it’s hard to explain but trust me just go in and quietly look around at all the details and take everything in until you too get that feeling of betterness. It will come I’m sure. But if that feeling fails to grow on you, fear not friends, I have a consolation prize. In the back left corner there is a relatively small box with a little opening and instructions on top. Sometimes it is known to have one of those kneeling stools on front of it, if it doesn’t I guess you have to get on the floor – tough luck friend. Follow the instructions on the box before reaching in and choosing one; I won’t lie to you I have no idea what the significance of this is but I feel bad not following it, like maybe it would ruin it? Bad luck? Maybe it’s rude? Bad karma? I don’t want to risk it so I follow – and you will follow too – and then you will have your little Buddhist version of a fortune cookie without the cookie.
I feel like now is a good time to tell you about my favourite part. The tea house – officially named the Water Drop Vege Cafe. If you haven’t picked up already this cafe only sells vegetarian food, but I guarantee you it will definitely be some good eating. The first thing on your list to order should always be the spring rolls, there’s no real way to sell this to you, just have a little faith and you won’t be disappointed. The next thing should be the dumplings. Now I’m not going to lie to you I have a thing for dumplings, I’m obsessed, there’s nothing I like better, they are my food version of ‘bae’, but that doesn’t mean I’m biased. If anything it makes me more picky as I have an idea of what I consider the best dumplings (and vegetarian ones in any normal situation would never be near that list) but I cannot lie to you, these are so beyond delicious. There is never a visit we can go through without collectively eating an unnecessary amount of spring rolls and dumplings but ultimately my favourite thing on the menu is the BBQ wonton noodles. Again there is no good way to sell these other than to tell you the wontons are whatever and the bok choy is healthier than I’m used to but the noodles themselves are next level and the BBQ whatever-non-meat thing will change your life. And besides, look how pretty it is? You know the golden rule is always “you have to eat pretty to be pretty”.
Of all the places in Auckland this is the one I need in my life the most simply because I use this place as so many things. I go here to chill out; just sitting and reading a book here is such a low key relaxing experience. This is my go-to brunch place to bring people who come from overseas to visit us and so far there have been no regrets and definitely no disappointments. Lastly (and I want to say most importantly) coming here to study is one of the best ideas I ever had; it’s such a quite environment making it easy to concentrate and I’m not going to lie to you study breaks are also just as enjoyable because you can walk around or get more food or just say hi to the nice people who are always walking around themselves. As a general rule the Buddhist temple doesn’t disappoint, I would suggest you definitely come and try it on one of your chill days of for a relaxing brunch or a little time out.
[single_map_place] 16 Stancombe Road, Flat Bush, Manukau 2016, NZ [/single_map_place]