A Day at Donghwasa

You can’t visit any country in Asia without going to at least one temple. In my case, many. I’m a fan. I love seeing the architecture, history, and customs. During a recent trip to Daegu, South Korea I had the chance to visit Donghwasa, and it was truly AWESOME!

Donghwasa is situated on the south side of Mt. Palgongsan, about 20 kilometers (an hour-long bus ride) from downtown Daegu. It’s surrounded by trees, hills, and a few parks and recreation areas. It’s hard to believe all this nature and serenity is just a few miles away from the crowds and lights of downtown Daegu.

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The temple grounds are pretty big. Monks live and work there, and Donghwasa also offers Temple Stay, where visitors can really experience Buddhist life and learn more about the Korean Buddhist culture by staying at the temple and interacting with the monks (for reservations and details check out  donghwasa.templestay.com – unfortunately the site is only in Korean). Things are pretty spread out. The temple itself is about a seven-minute walk from the property’s entrance gate. And there are hiking paths inside the grounds, which I think is pretty cool.

Colorful lanterns hang from cables in the temple courtyard and line the paths to other sections of the premises that are open to visitors. During my visit, I really wanted to see the big standing Buddha statue. There’s just something about Buddha statues that fascinate me and bring me peace. So I followed the trail of lanterns for about ten-ish minutes until I found it.

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The Buddha stands about a hundred feet tall. He’s Yakasayore-bul, the Buddha of medicine, and he’s magnificent. When I walked up, visitors gathered at his feet. They lit incense and got on their knees to pray to him. It feels very personal, almost intrusive, to hear someone’s prayers. But also, it feels uplifting to see people completely give into their faith.

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The statue is surrounded by a semi-circle of guardians and other Buddhas carved into a stone building. You can go inside it and visit the underground meditation center. There’s also a temple directly in front of Yakasayore-bul that you can check out.

There are a variety of other historic buildings on the grounds that you can visit. I wasn’t part of a tour group when I visited, and I was unable to locate any brochures in English. I  don’t know the purpose or use of the buildings, but they were very interesting. The detail in and on all the buildings is stunning.

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This is by far one of my favorite temples. And I absolutely recommend it to anyone who is going to be in Daegu for a few days. It’s worth the trip. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes.

Adult admission to the temple will cost you 2,500 won ($2.25). The temple has a small drink and snack stand, but no restaurant. There are a few restaurants between the bus stop and the temple. There are also several restaurants a few kilometers down the road the opposite way from the temple.

To get there:

Take the Number 1 bus from the Daegu City Center Square (it’s the park across the street from the Novotel Hotel. You buy your ticket on the bus (cash only); it’s only 1500 won ($1.35). You can also catch this bus from Dondaegu station, but the stop for the bus a little harder to find because there are several buses that leave from there. From the City Center Square, the bus ride is about an hour long, give or take about 10 minutes based on traffic. The stop to get off at is called Donghwasa, and the bus does display the upcoming stops in both Hangeul and English.  You can get back downtown the exact same way. The stop is across the street from where you get off at Donghwas. You can take a cab if you prefer, it’s faster but more expensive. Just keep in mind that finding a taxi to take you back to Daegu may be a little challenging; sometimes they aren’t available and you have to wait.

You can take a cab if you prefer, it’s faster but more expensive. Just keep in mind that finding a taxi to take you back to Daegu may be a little challenging; sometimes they aren’t available and you have to wait.

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