I’ve been to many Buddhist temples but this is the first time I’ve been to one that sports a spectacular view of the sea… Haedong Yonggungsa, definitely, nailed my search for one of my best travel spots in South Korea. It wasn’t even something I planned going to. Last year, when I got here with some colleagues, I remember telling our invisible tour guide over the phone if she can tell our Korean driver to bring us to Beomeosa Temple. But to my surprise, we ended up visiting another temple instead. I don’t know if it was just plain language barrier that caused the confusion but I figured I’d rather not complain. I think Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was a better alternative to Beomeosa if you don’t have enough time to explore Busan. From what I gather, Beomeosa is an excellent choice for those who wish an authentic ‘temple stay’ experience. But if not, and you don’t have the luxury of time, settle for Haedong Yonggunsa. Set on a rocky cliff overlooking the sea, Haedong Yonggunsa is simply breathtaking for first time visitors like me. It’s a 45-minute ride from our place at Novotel Ambassador Busan in Haeundae Beach. It’s proximity to our hotel was probably the reason why our tour guide decided to bring us here instead. I can see exactly why she would choose this; foreigners and locals absolutely love and are raving about the stunning scenery in this temple. As I mentioned, the group I was with enlisted the help of a travel agent so I’m not too familiar with the exact directions on how to come here. So we went together on a tour bus, but I guarantee admission fees are free. That Saturday afternoon (wintry December 2015) we visited, a lot of people, mostly tourists, have come for sightseeing. And even if the negative degree Celsius weather is making it difficult for us to move our bodies, we made every effort to snap pics and selfies when we scoured the place. After getting off at the parking lot, we were instantly drawn to the food stalls and souvenir shops lining the street leading to the entrance. But since we just finished eating lunch, we decided to drop the idea and instead moved quickly to the temple grounds… As you walk up the street leading to the entrance you’ll see this cute life-size statues representing the 12 Chinese zodiac signs. Interestingly, one of this statue represents the “Chicken” sign. 😉 And then there’s this “Traffic Safety Prayer Pagoda” where devotees pray before the rubber tire for…less traffic jams, I guess? Hehehe…Well, I have no idea. Most probably they would come here to pray for safe travel… As you go around this monument, you will find a winding staircase that leads to the bridge connecting to the main temple ground. Just before going down I snapped pics of fascinating sculptures like this one below… The staircase is a bit steep, so we went down very, very carefully…but the view from here is undeniably very lovely… There’s a Buddha god for academic achievement; one of my friends who was with the tour was hoping to be pregnant, so somebody made her rub the belly of a Buddha god for pregnancy. Each Buddha statue I think, has some kind of ‘specialty’… I was a bit worried taking a selfie at the bridge for fear I might lose my grip on my mobile phone or my camera. My friends, likewise, feel the same. So we just took turns taking photos of the place… I found this spot a bit intriguing, so I went further down to check what’s inside. This one is located in the middle of the park. I really do not know what this shrine stands for. I took the chance to warm myself in here… From what I learned of its history, Haedong Yonggung temple is popular among locals not only because of its aquatic sanctum but also because of its motto: “At least one of your wishes will be answered here through your heartfelt prayers.” Buddhist Koreans come here to worship the “Great Goddess Buddha” because it was considered one of the three sacred places related to this deity. A sculpture of the sea dragon here and the goddess Buddha is supposed to embody harmony in the place. This temple is actually founded by the great monk Naong who was then consultant of King Gongmin (I came across the legendary Korean king in the Korean drama Faith featuring Lee Min-ho.) Legend has it that Naong was practicing asceticism at a temple in Gyeongju when the country was hard hit by famine. People then blamed the god for the drought. The story goes that one night, Naong dreamed of the sea god telling him that if they built a temple at the edge of Bongrae mountain and pray there, their hardships would vanish. The temple was destroyed in the 1930s when Japan invaded Korea, then rebuilt again. Originally named Bongrae temple, a monk named Jungam renamed the temple as Haedong Yonggung after dreaming of the “Great Goddess Buddha” in white robe on the back of a dragon radiating a five-color beam. We capped off our tour of Haedong Yonggunsa going up the staircase where we entered. I suppose we missed seeing the other side of the park but since we still have to do some shopping at Nampo District, we felt this is enough. But before we left the place, I snapped pictures of these carvings one last time… Those wanting to visit this temple hassle-free can opt to take the Busan City Tour. I don’t exactly know the rates but I guess you can inquire from the website. But if you’re more adventurous and wish you can save as much as many Korean won you want, take the Haeundae Station (Busan Subway Line 2), Exit 7. Then wait for Bus No. 181 and get off at Yonggungsa Temple.