Spiritual Saturday: The Path To Nirvana

This weekend, I had planned to visit a nearby town of Gyeongju, however, given the torrential rain and typhoon conditions we experienced on Friday, the plans fell through. Much to my disappointment I hasten to add, as I am quickly becoming “one who has been long in city pent”.

When I woke up on Saturday afternoon, I was further disappointed to see the weather was actually rather nice, with sunny skies predicted for at least until nightfall. You can, I’m sure, imagine my grumblings at this turn of events.

In order to take advantage of this weather, we instead decided to head to a more local attraction, to ease us into the temple mentality that will be necessary for the visit to Gyeongju. So we packed our bags, or, at least, J packed his with water, snacks and more water, as well as the most essential of essentials: suncream.

And so we headed off to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple on the outskirts of Busan.Temple cropYou’re probably thinking this looks incredibly familiar, and you’re right. I’ve visited before and wrote about it here (albeit in brief). This time though I had as much time as necessary to hold up temple visitors taking vapid selfies just like everyone else.

"Waygook I dare you to take a picture of me and my son. I dare you. Punk."

“Waygook, I dare you to take a picture of me and my son. I dare you. Punk.”

Above we have the entrance to the aptly named ‘Dragon-Gate Temple’. This being a rough translation by my director’s husband during my previous visit.

I’m not much of a tour guide as regards religion having lost mine in a scene similar to that described by R.E.M. So I shall let VisitKorea do the true tour guiding. I, on the other hand will supply some snaps I caught along with some snappy captions.


“No Emmet this is not the garden center section of the temple” -Jamie, stomping on my dreams.

This is the Lucky Coin Divination fountain, where, should you be superstitious, competitive, or just foolish with money, you can toss coins in order to make a wish. Your wish is only granted should you get a coin into the bucket, either on the turtle, or in the greedy monk’s hands.

Lucky for me I’m all three of the above, well… bar superstitious, and could not leave the bridge until I had cast all the shrapnel in my pockets into the pond. I did score though,  much to my delight and may or may not have received my wish. These things are open to interpretation, like tarot cards, palmistry and the efficacy of echinacea on curing that sore throat.


Next J and I headed to the main square of the temple which features many smiling faces. Least of all our own and this happy chappy in the background, who I overheard a Korean telling a westerner, is not Buddha but an earlier spiritualist named ‘Buddha-no-no-Buddha’.

Also in the main square is the inner sanctuary of the temple where people pay tribute to the deities of the temple by removing their shoes and bowing to their effigies within. Naturally curious as tourists are wont to be, J and I also partook in the ritual of entering the temple and bowing.

This ritual which brings peace to so many people, and is claimed by many foreigners who visit to instill them with some form of relaxation, failed to convert this devout cynic. Perhaps mainly due to the fact that I cannot help feeling like a total fraud for having little idea of a) what I’m supposed to do and b) who I’m actually praying to.

However, I do hope to remedy my ignorance by doing a temple-stay during my time here in Korea. I will let you know what the protocol is viz-a-viz worshiping in a temple such as this. Don’t count on hearing that I’m a changed man when that time comes though as my immortal soul was condemned the minute the ginger gene was expressed.

Temple selfie

See, here I am admiring the temple through the selfie cam on my phone.

The beauty of the temple was the major draw for me as I am a sucker for architecture. Especially of the religious variety, just ask poor Jill who I dragged around Barcelona last Summer while pointing my nose in the air as I gazed at the spires and towers all around. Meanwhile, I also lead us to lostville and ended up having to ask directions in a seedy hotel.

Back to Busan now though, as I may have learned the true path to Nirvana thanks to some other temple-appreciators who crossed our path. Sadly that path involves taking a jetski and brum-brum-brumming all over everyone else’s path.

I guess your motto just has to be “It is not enough that I should become enlightened, others must also remain ignorant”. 


Nothing says “I’m enlightened” like a trail of petrol left floating on the surface of the East Sea (not the sea of Japan as previously advertised).

StatueInconsiderate jetskiiers aside the Haedong Yonggungsa temple is one of my favorite parts of Busan, as it is in one of the most beautiful locations and has amazing paths to follow and explore, even if they don’t lead you to inner peace. From the majesty of the Haesu Gwaneum Daebul (the Seawater Great Goddess Buddha) to the totally natural underground spring (complete with hollow Styrofoam walls and a great drainage system) the temple has so much to see and experience.  

Also, I am compelled to mention the HotDok (a deep-fried delight filled with honey and nuts), which alone is worth the trip. Its sumptuous sweetness even persuaded the iron-willed Jamie to snack before he was truly hungry. A feat which could be considered a miracle performed in the temple as it is a rare occurrence indeed!

That was my weekend in full folks, and I know I’ve done this weekend a bit backwards as regards the blog posts, but some tinkering with the photos was required before they would do the temple justice.

Walk in the light my un-enlightened brethren, for you shall soon find the path. Or a path at least, either way have a great week!


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