Gyeongju – “The museum without walls”

On our second full day here, we piled into the car with Moon’s family and drove about 2 hours to Gyeongju. Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, and so it is a historically rich place with much to see. After driving up a mountain with very steep corners, to the melodic sound of Moon singing his favourite songs on repeat, we arrived at our first destination. Seokguram is a religeous site, and has a massive buddha statue in an 8th century cave temple…thing. It is difficult to describe, and I would post a photo if photography wasn’t prohibited in the cave temple thing.

Anyway, it is a 15 minutes walk to the cave temple, and thank goodness photography was not prohibited on the walk because it was extremely beautiful.

There were lanterns all along the path on both sides.

There were lanterns all along the path on both sides.

Next we were off to Bulguksa Temple, which includes various shrines and stone pagodas. It was a nice place to see the ancient Korean architecture, which is more intricate and colourful than I imagined. The beauty of Gyeongju and the places in it is that they have been very well preserved, and so it feels rather magical walking around.

Beams

The gods of hell

The map of Bulguksa Temple

Architecture

It was soon lunch time, and even that was traditional. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were ushered down a corridor and told to remove our shoes before entering what was, I suppose, our ‘eating room’. There everyone sat on the heated wooden floor with legs crossed underneath the low table. Although our main meal was a beef dish, the meal came with over 10 side dishes; various pickles, noodles, pastes and things I can only call concoctions. I did try to taste most things, but I must admit that Norman was more adventurous than me. At least I could eat my rice with chopsticks, and resist the temptation to use a fork.

Norm looks slightly bewildered.

We also visited the Gyeongju Museum, which was interesting but nothing to write home about. So I won’t.

Lastly, we visited the tombs of ancient Kings and Queens. Apparently they were buried with their treasure, as well as their slaves, horses, wives, etc (all thrown in and buried alive). It cost the equivalent of R20 p/p, so we decided it was worthwhile to spend that and meander through the park, which had a surprisingly zen atmosphere.

This photo only shows 2, but there were over 20 tombs. Or mounds as we referred to them.

This photo only shows 2, but there were over 20 tombs. Or mounds as we referred to them.

My relief was palpable when I was told we were having pizza for dinner. Thin based, western, topped with rocket kind of pizza. It was the best end to a interesting but still slightly exhausting day.

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