Sept 17, 2008 – Gyeongju


Today I seem to be continuing a trend when traveling through Asian countries. In Japan (2001), I lost a hat. Now twice this trip I have lost a hat (I brought two on this trip!). Now both are gone and I had to buy a new one which will hopefully make it through the trip. We are two weeks through the trip, so it has to survive ten days. I’m averaging 7 days a hat it doesn’t look good.

Each city in Korea seems to have a product that is for sale all over the city. In An Dong it was dried mackerel. In Gyeongju it is a barley bread which is similar to pancakes, two are served together with red bean paste in between. It is really good, we bought a box of 40 of them from breakfasts and snacks.

We traveled up to Bulguksa which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a site that is one of Korea’s oldest Buddhist temples and also served as a base for a voluntary militia during a Japanese occupation of Korea in 1593. It was reconstructed in the 1970s.

After Bulguksa we continued to Seokguram (stone cave hermitage), which is a Buddha statue the in a stone grotto. Most grotto temples in Asia are carved or built in caves, this differs by being a constructed grotto. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed within the temple. It features a central Buddha statue – the Sakyamuni Buddha – that is surrounded by stone generals, stone kings.

We have to take a shuttle bus between Bulguksa and Seokguram (or hike 2.5km up hill in 30 degree heat). We opted for the bus, it runs once an hour and has a 20 minute break at Bulguksa. During the break the driver locks the bus and disappears. When he arrived to take the bus up again, he was shocked to unlock the bus and discover he had locked a western tourist on the bus. The tourist smiled and shrugged his shoulders as he got off the bus, a little embarrassed! We noted the driving being fairly careful on our trips about counting passengers.

The afternoon was shopping for a new hat, sunglasses (but we found crazy glue to repair them).

For dinner we found a quiet air conditioned restaurant that looks out to at the largest Tumuli in Gyeongju. It offers a mix of Asian and western food. I decided on a more western looking dinner, but it had a bit of a twist. Salmon with baked potato and soup. It was the first time that I have had baked potato with whipped cream.

One thing we have noticed is many things in Korea are smaller. People are thinner. Squirrels are thin and less furry and even vans have stunted growth. 🙂