A Weekend Away to 경주

A few weekends ago, Sara, Kelly, Jen, and myself decided to have a weekend away from Seoul. So we booked a bus (actually, Sara’s co-teacher booked it… but that’s getting technical) to the southern city of 경주 (Gyeongju). It was much smaller than Seoul and the whole weekend we were there, we were constantly wondering where in the world were all the people??? Someone had told us that this place was going to be busy since it was the long weekend and *everyone* was going to be in 경주, as it is a popular tourist destination among Koreans. Yet, this busy time was still much quieter than an “empty” Seoul when everyone leaves to see their families during 추석 (Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving).

At any rate, we still had a good time. We arrived late Friday night and Saturday was spent wandering around the city and it’s various cultural highlights. Check ’em out.

The 첨성대 (Cheomseongdae) Observatory, one of the oldest
surviving observatories in East Asia. It’s name means star-gazing tower.

Jen at the observatory. Yes, that’s a miniature observatory
on her head.

안압지 (Anapji) Pond.

A pair of statues from the Gyeongju National Museum.

One of the traditional markets in Gyeongju. Compact and full of lots
of interesting produce. Without the same kind of space of the big
box stores at home, we were able to get right up close and
personal for a good look at the fresh catches of the day. Yum!

The view from atop one of the many tombs scattered throughout
the city. Each tomb is basically a giant mound of rocks, up to
three or four stories high (depending on how important you
were, I guess) covered with about 30 centimeters of soil. It was nice
and grassy, but if they ever got enough snowfall in the winter, they’d
be sweet toboggan hills. Atop these burial mounds, this was the view
all around. Without the highrises so common in Seoul,
one could see the mountains in all directions. Truly awesome.

After having taken in some of the local sights, Sunday saw us taking a bike ride out to the 불국사 (Bulguksa) Temple. Not really knowing where to go, or even how far it was, we found ourselves stopping every 20 minutes or so asking the locals which direction to take. With none of us knowing Korean and none of our helpful hosts knowing English, it resulted in us asking “Bulguksa? Bulguksa?” and them pointing. After a while, we’d ask again to make sure we hadn’t missed any turns. Quite the adventure.

In the end, it took us about 3 hours to get there (lots of stops and wandering… but still a good 15-20km… only took us an hour and a half to return), but the weather was really nice and it was great to get some fresh air to actually be able to see the mountains and not have smog block out your view half a city block down the street.

불국사 was nice, but it felt very touristy (mostly Koreans) and not really, well, sacred, or anything that you would normally think of associated with religious places/icons/treasures. I also wish I knew a bit more history, and that might help me appreciate the place a little more.

So, in the end, the trip to 경주 was good in that it was a nice break from our usual weekend and we got to see another part of Korea. I wouldn’t call it a must see place, even though many Koreans seem to enjoy this area for vacations. Wouldn’t go back for a second trip, but I’m glad I went on the first one.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with a few more photos.

Gyeongju World Culture Expo Park. We passed by this cut-out
building on our way to the temple. Pretty neat.

불국사 Temple. The place was strewn with tons of lanterns
everywhere as this weekend was Buddha’s Birthday.

A series of self-portraits while Jen was biking.
One of my favourites from the trip!

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~ by dawseng on May 28, 2008.

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