Monday, June 14, 2010

Gyeonju - The Museum without walls

This weekend Rich and I visted Gyeonju in Gyeongsangbuk-do, we have been waiting to go there for a very long time. Gyeonju is known as the "museum without walls" as it has so much history which is easily accessible.

The worst part of the trip was a painfully early start on Saturday morning in order to get to Seoul station in time to catch our 7:30 trip. The trip to Gyeonju to Seoul was only three hours altogether due to us taking the KTX (high speed train) to Daegu.

When we finally arrived in Gyeonju it was time to undertake our next adventure - finding the guest house we were staying at. In Korea this isn't as easy as it sounds due to the fact that street signs are few and far between.

But on the upside being lost does give to a chance to have a little bit of a look around the city and we got to see some interesting things looking around.
Finally, when we felt all hope was lost we went into a store to ask for help. This is another example of just how amazing Korean people are, basically no one in the store spoke English, but they found the person who spoke the most English to help us out - amazing!

The store was selling a type of "traditional Gyeonju bread" which was basically like two pancakes with red bean paste in the middle. They gave us some to try, I think because they felt sorry for us. The bean paste pikelets were awesome.
Shortly after eating our bean paste pikelets a kindly taxi driver pointed us in the direction of our Guest House Sa rang chae - if you ever go to Gyeonju you should stay here. It's a traditional Korean house, which is beautiful and the people who run the business are amazing and they have two cute dogs and a 150 year old well with fresh water.

Best of all - it's quiet and peaceful - my apartment is on the fifth floor and I'm subject to neon lights every night and builders constructing a monorail outside my window on Sunday mornings.

Sa rang chae was like heaven on earth!

Our first stop after checking in was Bulguka temple, this isn't in central Gyeonju, however public transport is amazing in Korea so it only cost W1,500 to get there (about $2 NZ).

When we got there we decided we really needed lunch, luckily an older woman was looking for customers for her restaurant and came up and said "you! Galbi? Bimibap? You come!". Which was fine for us and she made us a total feast for about W20,000!

We also had a friend to join us at lunch - but I think he was more interested in food than us!

Finally we made it to the Bulguksa temple, which was, like most places in Korea, incredibly busy! But it was also very beautiful and there were some moments you could pretend you weren't sharing the temple with about one thousand other people.

Our next stop was Seokguram Grotto, this is in the mountains above Bulguksa, which is amazing Buddhist carving in rock. It's truely breath taking - we had to go back and look at it a couple of times. Here's some photo's leading up to the grotto.

For obvious reasons, you're not allowed to take any photo's of the Buddha, but this link has more information about the grotto and some pictures of the Buddha and various other deities in the grotto.

When we came down from the temple we saw all these tiles that different people from all over the world had written on, we even found one from New Zealand.

After returning to the city after our trip to Bulguksa and the Seokguram it we decided to have a look around before heading off to dinner and I saw this t-shirt in a store window and I thought I had to take a photo. You have to love Konglish.We also found a really cool little cafe, we were actually looking for a tea shop but it had shut down. This cafe was a really nice surprise!

After a quick trip to the guest house for a rest we decided to head out to dinner, although we didn't feel like much to eat after our huge lunch so we just headed to Canmore for some icy treats.

We finished off the night by watching South Korea's first world cup game against Greece - South Korea won 2 - 0! Fighting!On Sunday, we spent most of our time in parks, first of all was Wolseong park. Where I think some Korean drama's have been made - as I got to have my photo taken with a Korean lady in traditional dress.

The park also has the far East's oldest observatory - which much less impressive than I thought it would be.

This park also has some Tumuli or burial mounds - which look like perfect little hills on the landscape.

Our final destination was Tumuli park which had, as you'd expect, a lot more Tumuli!

The most famous burial mound/tomb in the park is Cheonmachong or the "heavenly horse tomb". You can actually enter this tomb and see some copies of the relics found in the tomb like a golden crown, bracelets, adorments and pottery.

After Tumuli park it was time to say goodbye to Sa rang chae - I hope I can come back and stay here again before we leave Korea!
We stopped off for lunch in central Gyeonju before catching our train and whilst we were there we found a super cute cupcake shop!! Which made me super happy - it's been a while since my last cupcake. However, we were a little bit short of time so we had to get cupcakes to go.

Finally it was time to leave Gyeonju - here's a photo of me waiting at the train station - our train was late! This is the first time this has happened since we have been living in asia!
Finally - we ate our cupcake on the train. It was super cute with cookies and cream icing.

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