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Published: September 27th 2016
We arrived in Gyeongju, which is in the south-east of Korea, about 5 hours after leaving Seoul. The drive was quite pleasant as the roads are decent. There are a lot of fixed speed cameras in Korea apparently; and they're all signed which means that drivers seem to go as fast as they like between cameras and then slow down rapidly just before a camera and then speed up again.. Pretty sure that's not the point of the cameras.
After checking into our hotel we headed out to grab some food. Scott had noticed a Chinese restaurant on the drive to our hotel and had his heart set on that so we set off hoping that they would still be open despite it being 8pm. They were open but we're not entirely sure if that was a good thing or not as our meal was fairly average (Korean style Chinese...) and quite pricey!
The following morning we Seokguram Grotto. We parked the car and set off on the easy walk to the grotto; along the way we saw lots of cute squirrels. After about a 15 minute walk we arrived at the grotto...which was fairly underwhelming, though the view
was quite nice. The grotto was carved into the granite hillside and a large buddha statue sits inside. It is thought that the grotto was used by Silla royalty exclusively. After walking back to our car we headed to Bulguksa Temple which was just down the hill from Seokguram (they were built at the same time).
After parking and buying our tickets we headed into the gorgeous gardens. Eventually we arrived at the temple buildings... There are records of a temple at the Bulguksa location from 528AD, though it is believed that the current form dates from about 751AD. The temple was restored numerous (40+ times) since 751, many of the restorations were due to damage it experienced from wars / occupations. The present day buildings were restored between 1969 - 1973. The buildings were really beautiful, and the surroundings were even nicer. We spent about an hour or so wandering around the buildings admiring the architecture before heading back to the car to head to our next stop for the day, the Yangdong Folk Village.
The Yandong Folk Village was about a half hour drive from Bulguksa. Upon arrival we parked our car and set off on
foot to explore. The village, which is a traditional village from the Joeson Dynasty, contains approximately 180 traditional style houses. Most of the houses are still lived in so the charm of the village was slightly offset by the satellite dishes, blue tarps and junk lying around in people's gardens. We spent about an hour and a half to two hours wandering around the village (and walking up hills!) before we decided that it was time to head back to the hotel to relax.
The following morning we set off to Namsan mountain to do a hike. We parked at Tongiljeon Hall and followed the sign towards Geumomobong Peak. The first section of the walk was alongside a little stream on a fairly narrow dirt track. Eventually the track got steeper (and Scott got sweatier) until we arrived at some stone steps. At the top of the steps we joined what we assume was the main trail and followed it uphill. We took a little detour off the main trail to go to a lookout which had pretty good views and then doubled back and rejoined the main trail. Eventually we reached the peak, which had absolutely no view
as it was surrounded by trees! After a few minutes at the peak we set off on our way back down towards the car park.
Once we reached the car we headed to the other side of Namsan mountain to visit Samneung. Samneung (three royal tombs). These tombs, which look like large grassed mounds, contain the remains of three ancient Silla kings. The tombs were fairly underwhelming, though apparently beneath the mound they are constructed of stone and contained some of their most valluable possessions.
After the tombs we headed back to the hotel for a shower and to relax until late afternoon. Just before 6pm we set off to Anapji, also known as Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond. The palace was constructed in 675AD by a Silla king; I suspect the current buildings have been reconstructed. After arriving we headed straight to the pond to scope out a good spot to take photos as the sun was setting. The buildings are beautifully lit up at night and are reflected by the pond infront of them so it makes for a great photography spot....and a fantastic mosquito breeding ground!
After the sun had set and we finished
taking photos we headed to dinner. We ordered a spring onion pancake, a set menu each and a 1L jug of the homemade local rice wine speciality dongdongju. The food was quite delicious, I particularly liked the spring onion pancake which was crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and very yummy. The dongdongju was delicious and tasted almost cider like.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel to pack up as the following morning we'd be heading to our next destination Danyang.
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