Silla Tomb - Central Gyeonju
On Saturday morning, Paul and I got up early and got ready for a little break (as we had a long weekend). We took the bus into Seoul and then got the KTX (fastest train in the world!) to Gyeongju. When we found our hostel, called ‘Hanjin’ we were greeted by a friendly woman who spoke amazing English! She showed us to our room and then told us that when we are ready to go explore, she will tell us where the main attractions were. We get ourselves organised and the woman points out attractions on the map and helps us with what buses we need and where to get food etc. Once we knew where we we’re going, Paul and I set off to go get lunch and visit some King’s tombs. These tombs are just massive hills, built during the Silla period, between the 4th and 5th century. One of the tombs (Cheonmachong) was open to visitors. We saw how they built these amazing tombs, and what the Kings were buried with - gold crowns, jewellery etc.
We then visited the oldest astrological observatory in the Far East (Cheomseongdae) built in the 7th century. It was too hot walking around, so we sat in Gaerim forest where I saw a chipmunk!
We walked to the National Museum, which had relics from the area. It had artefacts from Anapji pond, which was and still is a pleasure garden, in the 10th century the Silla buildings burned down and the relics were only found in 1975 when the pond was undergoing repair work. These artefacts are found in this museum, along with statues of Buddha’s and artwork.
After this we got some western food (pizza and chips!) and then walked to Anapji pond. We got told by the woman at the hostel that the best time to see this garden was at night...It was so beautiful! There are three replica Silla buildings all lit up and people are going crazy for photo’s. Here I spotted a tiny green frog- so cute!
We then went back to the hostel and planned the next day.
Silla Building at Anapji Pond.
We woke up early as we had a lot to fit in, we asked the woman’s husband for advice on what to see first, he had amazing English and was extremely helpful. First thing though was to eat breakfast, and then we hired a tandem to help get us to our first attraction; Mt. Namsan (which has a 494 metre peak). Once we got to Mt. Namsan, we picked up some water and crisps. We then started hiking... We came across amazing carvings and statues of Buddha’s and temples and once we got to the top we were amazed by the view.
Viewing point from Mt. Namsan.
Then came the descent, which after taking a little break and eating our crisps, we got stuck behind an elderly group who had some awful music playing. Once we passed this group, we were nearly at the bottom. The hike took about 3.5 hours and my legs were really tired. We went to the nearest place that served food, and we didn’t really order they just brought out loads of food and kept saying ‘traditional Korean food’. The people that owned this place could hardly speak any English, but were so generous and helpful. One of the waitresses said she would drive us back after we had eaten to where we had parked our tandem.
Bulguska Temple - This staircase has 33 steps, as there are 33 stages to enlightenment.
We biked back to where we hired the tandem from to find that it was shut. After a while of Paul enquiring around, he found out that the owner had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital. We no longer needed the bike, so we took it back to the hostel and explained to the owners what had happened and they try to phone the guy who owns the bike shop. They have no luck getting through, and told us to bring the bike inside so we could go and sight see some more. We got on a bus to Bulguska temple, which is an UNESCO world heritage site. Even though the original temple buildings were burned down in the 16th Century by the Japanese, the replica buildings were stunning. In each temple building a different Buddha sits, to enter these temples you must take your shoes off - it is worth it!
We unfortunately ran out of time, as we really wanted to go to Sukulam Grotto, which we could get an express bus between Bulguska and Sukulam, but we were too late for the bus and didn’t fancy another hike. We then got a bus to the city centre, where we went to a burger place to eat. We had a little look around the shops and then went to a park where we played a few games of cards and then retired back to the hostel. The next day we started our trip home.