Busan is my favorite of the Big 2 in Korea. Surely I haven’t visited them all but between Busan and that huge city to the north along the Han River, I prefer this southeastern city hugging Korea’s coast and home to so many beautiful sights. Why? There are many reasons I love Busan but its Haedong Yonggungsa temple by the water ranks pretty high on the list.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Seoul is also dominated by a huge body of water but Busan just feels different to me. This city pokes out of Korea’s nearly 2500 km-long coastline into the vast ocean surrounding the peninsula. Many attractions come to mind and among the big players are Haeundae and Gwangan beaches. Busan’s famed crowds roaring for their Lotte Giants are also memorable but personally, the best place worth visiting hosts something more sacred.
Koreans might not all identify with a religion but these places makes me think that some do, and in a loud way. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a lovely place even if many view this temple as “touristy” and find the weekend crowds disconcerting. Like Hyangiram near our home in Yeosu, Yonggungsa makes for a most peaceful getaway with views of the water accompanying sounds of monks reciting Buddhist sutras. Just like other places dominated by the ocean, the sea brings out the best in people and there’s a jovial nature that takes over when visiting. But why is it so special? Aren’t there plenty of other temples to visit, even in Busan?
Yes, many people might refer to Beomeosa as the spiritual heart of Busan and personal experience through a temple stay might lead me to rate it as the best. The buildings found within Yonggungsa are nice but might not elicit the emotions found at other temples throughout the country. The location helps create the shining star here. Korean temples usually linger among the clouds tucked away in mountains but this one finds itself right against the water.
Buddhism and nature are closely intertwined and Yonggungsa Temple’s watery scenes are much appreciated by those in love with outdoor scenes. The ocean helps give this place a more colorful appearance, if the brightly painted buildings haven’t already accomplished that. Add in smells of seawater mixed with incense and a revisit to Haedong Yonggungsa almost becomes a requirement, if not just a wish.
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Getting to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Courtesy of Naver Maps
Many people go there from Haeundae Station (Busan Subway Line 2) by taking a bus that you can find from Exit 7. Take Bus 181 and get off at the Yonggungsa Temple (용궁사) stop. The trip by bus should take about an hour and is the much cheaper route. If you want to get to Haedong Yonggungsa faster than that, grab a taxi and expect about a 20 minute and 8,000 won ride.