Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Busan

As today is Buddha's Birthday, I thought it would perfect to post about our trip to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple on our recent trip to Busan. In honor of Buddha's Birthday, we have a national holiday. 

Although we are both now a bit tired of visiting temples and generally find that many of them are the same, we thought we had to visit Haedong Yonggungsa while we were in Busan. This temple is unusual as it is the only seaside temple in Korea. Most temples are in the mountains. This temple was first built in 1376. There is also an underground cave at the temple where you can drink fresh spring water. 

Our visit to the temple was brief but we enjoyed being near the water. We tried to go relatively early to avoid the crowds but it was really crowded when we arrived. The temple was absolutely covered with lanterns to celebrate Buddha's Birthday. I think the reason it was so crowded was because of the upcoming birthday. Despite the crowds, it was a fun visit and I enjoyed taking pictures with all the colour. 

How to get there

Take bus 181 from around the Haeundae area. There is a stop just near exit 7 of Haeundae station. 

Maisan Provincial Park and Tapsa Temple

One of the last places we took a trip to when my mom was here, was Maisan Provincial Park, or “horse ear mountains”. The name comes from the obvious 2 rock peaks, which from a distance resemble horses ears. The park is

located just near the town of Jinan, a 40 minute bus ride from Jeonju. We were trying to think of a day trip to do from Jeonju, and my Korea Rough Guide book had a short description about Jinan, which gave us this idea. It was a great choice as Tapsa Temple is a truly unique place and unlike any of the other temples in Korea (which all seem to look very similar).

After arriving in the small town of Jinan, we caught a bus from the terminal to the park. I guess the town doesn’t get many foreigners as the old men who seem to spend their days hanging out at the terminal, were very excited to see us and had fun jabbering away at us in Korean. 

After arriving at the park entrance, you wind your way up through a few tourist shops and restaurants. We first reached the smaller, more traditional temple of Unsusa before we got to Tapsa. We arrived early in the morning before most of the crowds, so the walk was rather empty and relaxing. 

Unusa Temple.

After passing the restaurants and little shops, you get to this lake just before the temple. You can even hire a swan paddle boat.

The word “Tapsa” means “Pagoda” and the temple is surrounded by 80 pagodas. What is amazing about this, is that the pagodas were single-handedly constructed by one man over 30 years. Even more amazing, is that these stone towers are not held together by any adhesive and the rocks simply balance on each other. It is still unknown how they “stick” together as the valley experiences strong winds (we can attribute to the very strong winds!). The man behind this magic is Yi Kap-Yong. After the start of his pagoda “project”, Yi Kap-Yong became a monk and so the area is now a Buddhist temple. 

Behind the temple, you can walk up to between the horse-ear mountain. Unfortunately, the rocks are closed for restoration so we couldn't climb them, but the walk to the middle of them is quite a decent walk (I think around 300 stairs if I can remember correctly), and there are many pleasant Buddhist features along the way. 

The flowers are lovely in the summer.

The temple just below the horses ears.

What the horse's ears look like from the distance.

You can bang this giant drum and it sends an eary echo down the valley.

Our trip to Tapsa and Maisan Provincial Park was well worth it and definitely a truly unique place to visit. 

Hiking in Jeonju

A drizzly Sunday morning inspired us to get out and explore some of the nearby hiking trails. Hiking, being a firm favorite among Koreans, we bumped into many avid hikers. Some who even offered us a drink of their very strange flavored water. The hiking trails are about a 20 minute walk from our apartment and there are many different trails that snake all over the hills. To our surprise, shortly after starting the walk, we came across a beautiful Buddhist temple and shrine. There were monks walking around too. There were also a couple of outdoor gyms scattered around the walk where a few locals were doing push ups, pull ups and other exercise. A great idea I think! Another strange/clever thing we saw, was a "high pressure air drying station". Basically there are hoses which blow high pressure air and you can use it to get rid of the dirt on your shoes and clothes. The hiking was really steep, but it wasn't too far to the top. We were rewarded with some amazing views. Definitely a place to visit more than once, and maybe even at night because some of the paths have lights.

After a very steep and sweaty walk we reached this Buddhist temple.

I love these paintings and engravings on the side.

Just look at all those tall buildings. One of them is ours in the faaar distance.

Again, now you can really see what I mean when I say there are tall buildings everywhere!

Just incase you need to know the time while you're walking!

One of the gyms (note the guy doing push ups back there)

View of Jeonju at the top.

Many more trails to be explored. Looking into the mountains from the top.

At the top-not very high!

Butterfly that was following us around.