In the interest of spring soon approaching, I thought I’d share a relevant slice of my time in Korea.
I had never thought it was possible to drown in petals until I walked down a tree-lined path and a sudden vortex of swirling pink blocked out everything and the world outside no longer existed.
The scent has light and airy, sweet but barely discernible. They didn’t stick to me or land anywhere on my person, but continued to the ground, where I dreaded having to crush them underfoot, but at the same time anticipated it. I felt like some fairy princess, treading on a blanket of magical flowers.
I wished for a dress and tiara to match my daydream. Instead I got a crowd of strangers intruding on my fantasy and solitude. You are never truly alone in Korea. There are simply too many people.
But there were many other sights on my trip to Gyeongju. Temples, palaces, tombs, parks, a plethora of Buddhas, and gardens of delightful color and splendor.
I walked and walked, biked and biked, waited and waited, climbed and climbed, and didn’t mind one bit. I got to see things that no one else in my circle of family and friends will ever get to see.
The weather was gorgeous the people were friendly, the price was affordable, it was a great trip! I went with Adventure Korea, which I highly recommend. I also took a DMZ trip with them.
This is my tour group in front of out hotel. Yes, we had to share rooms with strangers… and had to sleep on the floor, but it was worth it.
We had to get on busses to go into town for the actual bike tour around the different historical sites. This is from just outside the hotel.
Our first stop after getting our bikes was an ancient palace grounds. Most of it was long gone with nothing but some stones in the ground showing where the walls used to be. But some parts were still standing, and lovingly restored and maintained. The colors!!!! This is traditional Korean architecture and decoration. Almost all ancient buildings use this color scheme, you see it EVERYWHERE.
After the old palace we went up and up a very steep hill and over and around, seeing an ancient refrigeration system. I didn’t include those pictures because they were much too dark. We actually rode along the top of this hill, behind the trees. This shot is from when we came down.
This place was LOUSY with graves and tombs. It was the seat of the Silla dynasty, so it makes sense, but still. I got a little tired of the endless parade of dead people’s swag after a while.
These, if I remember correctly, were Queens’ graves. Of course, the men get the ‘cool’ mounds of dirt.
This guy must’ve been super important. He lives in a gated community a millennia after his death. His name was Michu, the 13th King of Silla. The child in me wanted to climb to the top and roll down like I used to, grass stains be damned. There were signs everywhere telling you NOT to do this, but I saw a few kids trying anyway.
The cool thing about these tombs is that, unlike their Egyptian cousins, they were pretty much theft-proof. The king and his treasures are buried under than frick-ton of dirt and stone. No tunnels, no secret doors. No thief will dig into that, they’re thieves! They’re lazy! That’s why they’re THIEVES and don’t work for a living. And they’d just about need a backhoe to get into it again.
There was one such tomb tourists were allowed to actually go down into. They had excavated it and made it a museum of sorts. But pictures were forbidden, sorry guys.
There was a lot of walking around the tomb grounds, with biking in between them. I certainly got my exercise that day. But again, totally worth it. I saw some neat stuff that no one else in the group besides me and my 3 pals saw cause we split off and went our own way. For example we discovered this:
HA! I just racially insulted TWO groups of people at once! (read the caption if you’re a bit slow on the uptake, there, bubba). This weirdo temple/ sculpture park was just out in the middle of these rice paddy fields. We found it completely by accident.
This warehouse looking thing was just stuffed with dozens of huge Buddhas, and about a thousand little ones.
We biked some more, saw lots of trees and tombs and other super old stuff that got a bit boring, then we went back to the hotel. The next day was sans biking. We went to the ‘Buddha on the cliff’ and then a massive temple that challenged anyone with vertigo.
Before getting to the cliff Buddha, we passed this giant bell. You could ring it if you paid money. I didn’t.
Actually, legend goes that the hill was made that size so that if the Buddha came to life, he could stand up. They’d hate for their god to feel cramped or anything. Also, there used to be a big-arse diamond in his forehead but it was stolen. Guess by who? (It was the Japanese, the evil invaders of the East, according to Koreans.)
And again, no pictures allowed inside. But really, it was just another statue, in a hole in the wall. Whoooo.
This temple complex was gargantuan. It took more than 2 hours to go through the whole thing. And it was partially still active, too. There were several places to take off your shoes and worship Buddhas and such. The stairs were dizzying, though, so steep I felt like I was going to pitch forward any second.
In America, that backpack would’ve triggered a swat team and bomb squad. This is the best picture I could get, that little red, white, and yellow sign says no photos. I had to get sneaky. And in case you haven’t noticed, there are hardly any people in these shots. It took the patience of a kindergarten teacher to wait for the opportune moment to get tourist-less candids.
The trip ended with a walk through a cherry tree-infused park. This whole hill was just one big blossom conglomeration. It was spectacular, I’ll never forget it.
There were these stamps you could get at each historical site. I didn’t even get half. It was just too much for one day on a bike.
And finally, a map showing all the different sites and such of the town. I don’t have a clever wrap-up closing statement. The end.