Gyeongju II

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June 21st 2014
Published: July 24th 2014
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21st Jun: Our train left Suwon station around ten to nine. After a quick sandwich and coffee for breakfast and planning what we would do while we were in Gyeongju, we napped away the rest of the journey. The KTX station Sin-Gyrongju is not in a great location. It's about a twenty to thirty minute bus journey from the city centre. Armed with the bus times to Yangnam for tomorrow, we hopped on to a bus to the city centre. There are loads of buses coming and going from the station, so even though it is in the middle of nowhere, it is well connected to the city. The bus journey was fairly quick and painless. We got off at the regular train station, and located our hostel, that was a five minute walk away from the station. We were too early to check in, but the hostel has a bunch of lockers where you can leave your stuff.

We headed off to search for some lunch. there isn't really much in the area. I suppose most people visit Gyeongju on a tour and are bused from place to place, so eat at the big restaurants at the major tourist sights that cater towards them. Where do the locals eat? They are keeping their restaurants hidden. W e found a small place, that was filled with ajummas, that must be a sign the food is good. We ordered a jaeyukbokkeum (pork in a spicy pepper sauce) and I can't remember the other dish, I think it was kimchi jjigae. The food was really nice and the kimchi was amazing. We think the woman must of put dwenjang in it, to give it its unique flavour. Now full, stopped at a coffee shop to get a couple of take out coffees and then headed back to the hostel, as Ashley had forgotten her umbrella and the sky didn't look too promising.

We decided that we could find our own way to the Namsan mountain, so we didn't bother to ask for any directions from the hostel. Armed with a map of Gyeongju we set off. We headed past the restaurant where we had had lunch. We saw a big pond area covered with lotus leaves, so we stopped there to investigate for a bit. Not many of the flowers were in bloom, it would be lovely to come back when they are in bloom. It was cool seeing all the rain drops sitting on the leaves. We kept walking and ended up getting a bit lost. We came across a small hamlet and had to ask a lady for directions. She looked at us like we were mad. Obviously we were far off the beaten track and not using the popular tourist entrance for the hike. However we weren't too far from an entrance. So it only took about another five minutes to get there. The entrance felt like it was in someone's allotment and there was a truck parked in front of the trial markers. Yeah this definitely wasn't the popular route.

Not long after setting off we veered off the trail to see the stone carved female Buddha. We walked a few hundred metres off the trail and found it. It was really pretty just sitting there by itself, all on its lonesome. It got us thinking about what the area would have been like, back when the Buddha was carved. Back on the trail we went off again to find some more Buddhas, but we couldn't find them. The area was really overgrown and seemed to be cordoned off, although we ignored the cordon and tried to find the Buddhas. We continued hiking to get to the peak, the trail was really quite, we only saw a few people every now and again. This is definitely not the popular route. It was nice and easy though, not steep and no evil stairs. There were a few big rocks about and Ashley released her inner mountain goat by climbing all the rocks. There was one ledge that looked like you could fall off into the middle of nowhere. I kept well away. I don't think the fog helped at all, it made it look like you would step off the rock into the cloud. We made it up to the marker and took our photos with it. Due to the fog there was no view, however the peak marker wasn't very high and the surrounding area was covered with trees, so I don't think the view would of been amazing if we could have seen it anyway. We had decided that we were going to take a different trail back, as it would be more interesting as it had a Buddhist temple and more Buddha statues to wander off and see.

We started to follow the trail down, I think it as lightly raining by this point. We fond the cutest thing ever. There is a little box with pens attached to it, and you can help yourself to free postcards, write them, and post them in the little box and Gyeongju city will post them for you. What a lovely little idea. There was only one postcard left, so Ashley claimed it, but didn't have the address she needed so had to take it home. We set off on the temple route, but didn't get too far as the trail was blocked off. The path was totally boarded up, so there was no way to bypass it, obviously the path wasn't safe or hadn't been well maintained. So we went the other way, we had been trying to decide on the two trails earlier and had picked the temple trail, but it looks like it would be the other trail now.

We wandered down the trail and we could smell smoke in the air, not what you want to smell when you're hiking a mountain. We were pleasantly surprised when we happened upon a small 'am', an am is a little temple, I'm sure there is a more technical term for them. There were two buildings, a temple style room, filled with Buddhas and the usual associated stuff. The other building was a house. Two women and a man emerged from the building an were pottering around. It started to rain heavily by this point, so we decided to stay under the awning of the temple for a bit. There was a hot water urn an some coffee sticks, so I asked the woman how much a coffee was, and she made us them for free, so sweet and kind, we returned the act of kindness by sharing some cookies with her and she gave us some sweeties. The rain eased off a tiny bit and we started hiking again. We had to be careful as it was wet and slippery. This part of the trail was the best part for Buddha spotting. We came across a headless Buddha, we tried to pose with our heads on it, but we were a bit too short, so the photos didn't come out very well. We found another gorgeous Buddha, perched looking out over the forest. The last thing of note, we saw on our descent was some Buddhas etched on to some rocks. There were beautiful, but difficult to make out.

It was almost dark by the time we reached the end of the trail and the main road. It was totally dead and we walked along in the direction of the town. It would take us forever to walk, we had no clue about the bus schedule, and we were knackered. We hailed a taxi as there were the odd one going by every now and again. We were dropped by the hostel and we got checked in. Our room was small, but nice, with its own bathroom. We were starving, so we quickly headed out to find something to eat. After walking for ages we found a place and we had some galbi washed down with Cheongha and beer. It was lovely. The restaurant was dead, I think we were eating a bit too late around nine. Afterwards, we headed to what I think must be the city centre, and shopping area, as we ha decided to watch a DVD, as there was nothing decent on at the cinema at a decent time. We found a nice little dvd bang and watched a movie. I've forgotten its name, but it was canny. The town was so quiet, barely a soul was about and all the shops were shut up. We wandered back to the hostel and were in bed, not too long after midnight.

22nd Jun: We awoke about 8, got dressed and headed downstairs to make some of the free breakfast. We had coffee, toast, and eggs. It was delicious. We packed up our junk in the room and took a bus over to the bus station. We found the bus we needed, it wasn't from either of the bus stations (most large towns in Korea have two bus terminals, an intercity bus terminal and an express bus terminal, sometimes they are situated next door to each other, but they can also be at opposite ends of town), but just the regular bus stop across from the express bus terminal. We had dumped our big bags in a locker in the express bus terminal.

We got on the bus and it took us back through Gyeongju and it even stopped by the train station, we could of gotten on there if we had known. Oh well there's always next time. The bus took about an hour to reach King Munmu's Underwater Tomb. Well, actually we were meant to get off at the stop before, but we spent a little too long deliberating whether to get off there or at the coastal walk further round. It was a two minute walk back to the beach. We headed for a walk along the beach, there were a group of old people and two Buddhist monks making an offering, having a prayer session. We kept walking careful not to disturb them. There were more people making smaller offerings scattered along the beach.

We wandered along the beach until you could get no further. There was some kind of military installation and barbed wire fences. However this didn't deter some of the old men fishing. They just stepped over the small barbed wire fences and were sitting there happily trying to catch some fish. We wandered back along the beach to King Munmu's Underwater Tomb. King Munmu unified the three kingdoms (Baekje, Goguryeo, and Silla) and became the 30th ruler of the Silla Kingdom. King Munmu gave specific orders to be buried in the East Sea after his death, so that we would become a dragon and protect the Silla Kingdom from Japanese intruders. He is buried in a small rocky islet. Historians still don't know if the ashes of King Munmu were scattered over the rocks or if they were stored in an urn and placed under the granite. After taking some photos, we wandered over to the shop and bought a drink and some snacks. We sat by the beach and had a rest.

We took the bus to our next destination. We ha to wait a while for the bus, they ain't very frequent, I think about every forty to fifty minutes. We weren't on the bus for very long, about 15 minutes. We got off the bus at Eupcheon and some ladies at the bus stop pointed us in the right direction for Pado-sori-gil. It was about a five minute walk from the bus stop. We were at the start of Pado-sori-gil, the village at the start is really cute as the walls are covered with murals. So pretty! Pado-sori-gil has only recently opened up. I think in the last couple of years. Before that it was a military installation and was out of bounds to us civilians. However they decommissioned the area a year or two. We came to the start of the trail. There were loads of ajummas sitting on the ground, selling stuff. There is a nice map at the start of the trail, which shows all the points of interest.

We walked along the coastal path, detouring off the walkway at times and heading down to the beach. One part looked out of bounds, and there as a military bunker covered in barbed wire. We had a walk along the little beach, before heading back up and along the trail some more. We came to the cool columnar joints that Pado-sori-gil is famous for. They are these cool rock formations and were formed by volcanic larva, may thousands of years ago. We took loads of photos of them and continued along the coastal trail. We were starving by this point, so we ventured up to the main road in search of some food. The whole area is under construction, we came across this brunch cafe, only to fin that it wasn't open and it still had the for rent signs on it. We saw another huge cafe along the coast that had just been built and was being furbished, I bet that place will be heaving when it's finished. We found this little restaurant, that didn't look great from the outside, but then appearances can be deceptive. Their menu was quite small, and we both opted for the donkass. The woman asked which one we would like and we both went for the cheese. Plain, sweet potato or cheese, cheese will always win. We were a bit shocked at the price, man won (10,000 won), but when they arrived we could see why. They were huge and looked homemade. The donkass fillets were huge and the sauce was super pimped with loads of veggies chopped up in it. As well as the usual rice and salad there were some chips and a fried wonton. It was so big, I couldn't finish it. Let me tell you, me not finishing my food, only happens once in a blue moon.

Suitably stuffed from lunch I waddled the rest of my way along the trail. We came out at a village and there was a lovely looking cafe, which was situated upstairs and had outside seating looking out over the sea. We snagged an outside seat and enjoyed a coffee, while admiring our sunburn. Yeah, we thought because it was cloudy we would be fine, but of course not, idiots. After our coffees we headed through the village and found the bus stop for the bus that would take us back to Gyeongju. We arrived back at the bus station retrieved our things from the locker, went and bought some Gyeongju bread, and some salads from Paris Baguette for the train journey. We took the bus to Sin-Gyeongju station and our train left around 7 pm. All in all, a great weekend!

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