Feel the old Royal at Gyeongju, South Korea

At one cold weekend, when the winter almost ends, I met Gyeongju on my way back from Seoul. Why met, instead of went? because I've heard many people mentioned this city (if not raving about it) since I arrived in Geoje. Maybe because its historical background, or resort, or relatively easy access (from Geoje). So when I arrived I said, "hello Gyeongju, finally we meet'. :))

So, I told you why people keep mentioning this place for weekend getaway or short trip destination. First, because its background. Here's what the official Korea Travel Guide book said about it :

Gyeongju was the capital of the Silla Kingdom for 1,000 years and the valley in which it is situated as a great concentration of historical buildings, temples and artifacts. After Silla unified the peninsula in year 676, the city developed into one of the world's major cultural centers. The area is truly a museum without walls due to the wealth of historical buildings and treasures. 

My imagination were linger when I read the last sentence, few months ago. Museum without walls sounds intriguing, how would it be? I wonder. The Gyeongju herself (if I can impersonate this place, it will be a woman.. a queen perhaps) shows off what she has.

I took KTX from Seoul and arrived in train station quite in the outskirt of Gyeongju city center. Then I got bus no.700 ride across the city to reach Bulguksa temple. On my way there, the view was ... plain. Maybe because Gyeongju's landscape is not as curvy as Korea landscape in general. Not many hills, mountains, valleys, etc. Mostly plain a.k.a flat. Winter didn't help either.  The colors surround was just dusty colors. But thanks to the clear blue sky, it made the day felt romantic, a little bit.

Anyway, when the bus approach the city center, I felt drawn to the old days instantly. A little bit here and there, just scattered around, you can see some  historical items, whether in the forms of rocks, tombs, or landmarks. There.... she revealed her odd beauty. I can't describe much here. But the feeling of Gyeongju uniqueness still remain today inside me. Now I get to understand why people keep talking about this old city.

However, this post will share only a very very limited Gyeongju charms.

Here is Cheomseongdae Observatory, said its Asia's earliest known observatory still in existance. Much prettier at night time though. But i didn't get the chance to see it. Made in the 7th century with quite unique technique. Next to the main ground of the observatory, there is a small room called multimedia room which surprisingly interesting!
According to the interactive screen in this room, stone by stone was put in order to make this shape with the soil to hold them still. After it reach the peak, the soil in the outside was cleared out part by part. Once they believed its bond perfectly, then they cleared the inside soil, give ample room for people to get inside and start observing.

Very close to this observatory you will find Anapji Pond. It says the Silla's royal family like  to have recreation here. 

And what is Gyeongju without these royal tombs? Tombs is beyond cemetery. Its more like treasure for today's people. I am glad one of the tomb is open so we can get into this 'low hill'. I thought my claustrophobia will 'make a scene' inside. But it didn't, the  tomb wasn't that big for holding me too long, but not that small to make me feel inconvenient. There are displays of royal items and importantly an artificial 'body' just to give idea how the treat the body. Good that they dont show the real ones. But they kept it in the other museum.

There are many tombs around but if your time is limited, there are few you can find in city center, and the biggest tomb is in Daereungwon Tomb Complex. This complex has 23 out of 200 tombs in the city.

Actually, by riding the bus no.700, I can almost see everything. With limited time, I only wander around the places I really curious about. Places that particular to the city and likely doesn't exist someplace else. Well, there are also tombs in Seoul, but only in Gyeongju there are (too) many parks of tombs. 

With only 1 day I had for Gyeongju, visiting Bulguksa and give myself both bus tour and walking tour in the city center was satisfying. If I had more time, I might relaxing around Bomun lake resort.

I close my visit by trying this famous 'Hwang Nam Bang'. This kind of Bang or bread actually can be found anywhere in Korea. But rumor says this one is the best. It took me almost an hour to get my order ready. There are lines to order and pay, then you'll get a receipt with the waiting time written down, on the approximately precise time they will call your name and voila you get the bread. 

Hwang Nam bread actually a soft thin layer dough with red bean paste filling. Made fresh (you can watch them working) and served hot. But for me, it's not that special. When I get mine and immediately taste it, so much remind me of 'Bakpia', similar bread we usually get as 'souvenir' from a trip to Borobudur or Jogjakarta, Indonesia. The difference is the filling, Bakpia has green bean paste instead of redbean. Hwangnam bread dough also feel more softer than Bakpia, which slightly crunchier. 

Beside the bread, I also bought 3 Gyeongju kites for my children. I walked pass this big field full of family playing kites regardless the cold wind (temperature was under 5 degree celcius then). Before dark and temperature drop, I reach the Station for KTX to Busan, continue my journey home.

Next post.. the famous Bulguksa temple. If you don't like history too much.. this place would be overrated. But again.... Gyeongju is not Gyeongju without it.. visiting Gyeongju isn't real without coming here :))


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