If you are planning to visit Busan and are interested in a traditional Templestay experience, I encourage you to book a stay at Busan’s Beomeosa Temple. Located on the mountain slopes of Geumjeongsan Mountain, this hidden temple offers a unique experience for persons both inexperienced and well-experienced with templestays. Depending on your point of origin, and the cities to which you are closest, there are multiple temples you can both visit and stay in. Among these: the Myeogaksa Templestay in Seoul, the Bulguksa Templestay in Gyeongju, the Haeinsa Templestay in Hapcheon, and the Donghwasa Templestay in Daegu. I have met multiple travelers, on extended stay in South Korea, who have made templestay checklists. Their goal is to visit all. As they will tell you, each templestay offers a unique experience.
To reach Beomeosa Temple from Busan’s Seobu Intercity Bus Terminal, take the subway directly, specifically line number 1, to Beomeosa Station. This subway ride is lengthy, so exercise patience. From Beomeosa Station, walk several minutes to a nearby bus stop. From that stop, take bus number 90 to the temple’s entrance. As you arrive, visit the office, identified by signage, in order to check in. On my first visit there, I had no trouble arriving.
The temple and its surroundings merit an entire post, not a simple paragraph. That said, I will attempt to do them justice using a few words. While walking from the bus, to the temple, there are several gates through which you must pass, each of which deserve a photograph: Iljumun Gate, Cheonwangmun Gate, and Bulimun Gate.
My travel mate and I gazed in curiosity at these structures before arriving at the temple. I encourage you to take time and do the same. We eventually connected with the friendly administrative staff and were assigned our sleeping quarters. These were comfortable if rather small, and offered a heated floor.
We removed our shoes, as it common courtesy and protocol in South Korea, and unrolled our bed padding across the floor. We then changed into traditional clothing. You can see this uniform in photos below.
The templestay experience is chock-filled, and I mean this in the best way possible. You are able to effectively experience temple life. Among the activities: an early early morning ritual during which you observe three monks beating a large drum. Some time later, visitors engage in a series of bows/prostrations and specific hand-positioning. This tests one’s discipline. It certainly tested mine, as it did my back and leg muscles. Be prepared for this.
I enjoyed our morning, afternoon, and evening meals. These were very nutritious. Visitors are required to eat every single thing on their plate. If you are a visitor newly arrived to South Korea, or unaccustomed to Korean food, please bear this mandate in mind as you apportion food on your plate or in your bowl. I am a fan of most all Korean foods, but I made the mistake of serving myself more miyeok-gook – a seawood based stew – than I could handle. I stayed late one morning to appropriately empty the bowl. I also enjoyed, but found difficult, an activity during which we stringed 108 prayer beads. With each bead, we were required to bow deeply. This was another instance in which my discipline was tested.
We also hiked a section of Geumjeongsan Mountain, on which the temple stands, early in the morning. We did so in silence, just as many of the templestay activities were, yet I still found camaraderie with my fellow templestay-ers, who represented a multitude of countries across the world. When we reached our destination, a small temple structure, we meditated as a group.
As I wrote at the outset, If you plan to visit Busan and are interested in a traditional Templestay experience, I highly encourage you to book a stay at Busan’s Beomeosa Temple. This is a unique Korean experience that you will never forget. I hope that this review helps you to prepare.
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