Summer is tough for those of us who don’t care for the excess heat. Beach getaways always help, with cool water nearby in case the sun starts to cook. So then, who would want to to visit something inland during such a hot and uncomfortable time? That thought creeps into mind as the car ignition shuts off and we exit the air-conditioned oasis. During a muggy mid-August day, a light work schedule allows an opportunity to take the afternoon and see more of our city. That’s what brings us to Yeosu Heungguksa Temple.
Yeosu Heungguksa Temple
Directions to Heungguksa Temple (via Korea Tourism)
From Yeosu’s Intercity Bus Terminal (여수시의버스터미날), Bus 52 will get you to Heungguksa Temple in about an hour. Buses run about every 40 minutes and the Temple is the final stop on the route.
Buses do come out to this quiet temple but having a car makes the trip as simple as “let’s go there.” No searching for bus numbers or mispronouncing Heungguksa to taxi drivers and hanging on while someone else is in control. It may be boring but running the show always wins.
Heungguksa’s claim to fame stems from its past, as a temple built to pray for Korea’s well being. Noble enough, but the temple helped this country in more ways than spiritual ones. 300 monks-turned-warriors received training here during the Japanese invasion of the 16th century.
Chivalry aside, the site has gained more recent regognition as the starting point for one of Yeosu’s most gorgeous hikes, up Yeongchwi-san. At least that’s in April when the azaleas come out. This is August. We pass the trailhead sign and think about how ridiculous a hike would be on this day. Sweat has already formed around my forehead and in pockets around my shirt. Thankfully I chose a dark-enough one to mask such things.
The heat will force a short visit but Heungguksa is not a huge temple. Nothing should be missed. Though the humidity is difficult to cope with, these grounds are impressive. They look to have not been touched up for some time. No spectacular restorations or paint jobs so commonly seen in Korea. Rusted door handles.
This feels like a real temple.
Passing by beautiful springs and statues, the sweat has done enough damage. A grown-over doorway appears and captures our concentration for a moment. Perfect. Not pristine. Just letting nature take its course here.
After a walk around and a look at almost everything, a couple of short-trimmed sheepdogs spot us and fitting the “animal lover” bill, my wife calls the adorable creatures over. Leave it to man’s best friend to keep visitors around for a while. My aversions to strange dogs still not completely overcome. I still say nice things to the little guys. They seem bored enough to not leave us alone, wagging tails in excitement. Maybe the monks ignore them, due to busy workload. Tough life.
The dogs’ interest shifts elsewhere shortly after we part ways and the walk out is another reminder that the heat is not going away soon. August might be the end of summer but it still feels like dog days. A line of buddha statues are the final stop before heading back to the front gate. Walking along the dirt path, Heungguksa seems just as empty on the way out as when we first arrived. Everyone must be at the beach today. Too hot to be outside and away from water. The car starts back up and that welcome sound of air-conditioning refreshes our minds and bodies.
Dog days indeed.