About 20 minutes drive north of Busan’s beach resort town Haeundae is one of the city’s most popular temples. Donghae Yonggung-sa (해동용궁사) was first built in 1376 during the Goryeo Dynasty, and rebuilt in 1930 after being destroyed by war. Unlike most Buddhist temples in Korea that are built on inland, this one is famous for its location on the rocky shores of the ocean.The path to the temple is lined with stalls selling local vegetables and street food, and following a path down 108 stone steps leads to a crossing bridge and the main complex. There are numerous statues, shrines, and sanctuaries throughout the site, and a large Goddess of Mercy overlooking the sea. Typical of many Buddhist temples, the paintwork on the main building is intricate and colourful.
Being east-facing, this temple is a favorite for sunrise watching, particularly on the first day of the year, and on Buddha’s birthday, when it is decorated with hundreds of lanterns. However, it seems equally busy on regular weekends when packed with visitors, mostly local Koreans.
In fact, probably a bit too busy for my liking. While the dramatic coastal scenery and temple grounds are quite nice, the loud and pushy crowds results in a carnival-like atmosphere. Anyone hoping enjoy some solitude and tranquility won’t find it here, at least not during peak times. Better to come during off-hours if you’re planning a visit.