Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gyeongju, Act II

For those of you who have been waiting ever so patiently for the continuation of the Gyeongju odyssey, the wait is over.

And really, the wait wasn't even that bad. 48 hours-ish. And you just had to check the interwebs, it's not like you had to wait in line like you did for the Harry Potter / Star Wars / The Land Before Time series.

But still, thank you for waiting.

After my second night in Gyeongju, I woke to weather that was less tourist-friendly than the previous day. It was raining, and the rain didn't stop. Thankfully, I had a roommate who was not only determined to get out there and see the city, but he also had a car. He invited me along for the sightseeing venture, and off we went.

First stop: Hwangseong Park. It wasn't much more than a city park (or so it seemed), but there were a few picture-worthy places.

Okay, I lied. There was one picture-worthy place.

But it was Halloween, and this forest is the perfect setting for anything related to the holiday.
We tarried a bit before heading to a place called Daereungwon Tomb Complex, where several royal tombs are located. The royal folk who were buried in this area had their tombs placed under mounds that eventually became virtually symmetric hills. My friend said that they're basically "Korean pyramids".

Here, I saw two big advantages of the rain: It reduced the tourist traffic, and it made the tomb complex look like something out of a fantasy book. Cue picture overload...

Cheonmachong Tomb - we could go inside, but we couldn't take pictures.

Just add snow, and bam. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

We returned to the guesthouse, where I took a short nap. When I got up, it was raining harder than before, but I figured that I should get out there and check out more of Gyeongju. I saw on a map that there was a temple close by, and I had an umbrella, so I figured I'd be fine.

You know what else I had? Well-worn shoes that, being over the ripe old age of three years old, had no interest in being worn in the rain. After twenty minutes of walking, every step felt like I was walking in a puddle. Also, the umbrella had a hole somewhere which allowed several sneaky raindrops to find their way to my head.

As for the temple? Here it is:

Okay...if I had more knowledge about the Silla Dynasty, and if it were sunny, and if it didn't cost me 1500 won, I may have been a bit more impressed. As it was, I was soaked, and I spent less than ten minutes here before it was time to trudge back to the guesthouse.

Maybe it wasn't a successful sightseeing evening, but to be fair, not much could have one-upped Daereungwon.

On a separate note, I was reminded at the guesthouse that there's nothing like a good hot shower after walking in the rain. Or any other time.

I relaxed in the lobby for the evening, got some shuteye, and woke up for a bit more sightseeing before returning to Seoul.

One thing I loved about the guesthouse was its proximity to several historic sites. One such site was an ancient (and surprisingly small) observatory called Cheomseongdae.

I could have paid and gotten five meters closer. I was fine with being a tightwad and taking this picture from a distance.
Close to the observatory was Gyerim Forest, with a random assortment of tombs and other historic...ness.

The tombs look cool up close and from a distance. I don't know what it is about them, but they fascinate me.

Okay, maybe I'm obsessed with the hill-shaped tombs.

Just in case you forgot it was fall.

This is where people kept ice way back when. The cold air at the bottom kept the ice from melting, from what I understand.

Silla freezer from the outside.

Sadly, at this point, it was time to go. I went back to the guesthouse, packed, took a bus to the station, and hopped on the KTX with just enough time.

Gyeongju, even with the rain and the fees, you were amazing. I'd recommend you.

Thus ends the Gyeongju tale...or does it?

Could there be more to say about this trip?

Possibly. Stay tuned.

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