• Day37

    Highlights of Gyeongju

    October 3, 2019 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Another early start, as we got up and anxiously checked outside. There had been heavy rain, but it was now only sprinkling, and there wasn't much wind to speak of. So we'd gotten fairly lucky I think. Undeterred, we pressed on.

    Stop number one for today was Bulguksa Temple, a Silla-era Buddhist temple outside town. Another bus ride and we were here fairly early, though it's a common tourist stop and it was busy already. Despite being constructed in the Silla kingdom, most of the buildings here are much later rebuilds, some of them in Joseon styles. And there's a couple of old relics too, like stone stupas that dated back to the 8th century when the temple was originally constructed, so that was cool. Plus the rain had stopped!

    Another short bus ride to the other part of the World Heritage site, Seokguram Grotto. Located in a man-made cave, the highlight of the grotto is a large and beautiful stone Buddha statue at the back of the cave. It's surrounded by wall carvings and reliefs of other Buddhist iconography. The whole complex dates back to the 8th century and is apparently mostly original which is quite cool. Though it's protected behind glass, and about 10 metres away so you couldn't see it that well. And no photos either, which is going to make for a not-very-interesting video!

    Back on the bus down the hills and into Gyeongju, where the weather had almost completely cleared. There's a separate WHS here covering the rest of the remains of the Silla kingdom, including a palace, tombs, and an observatory. We started with the palace - not much to see except foundations and some modern replica buildings.

    The observatory was cool, about 9 metres tall and still in original condition. It's just a stone tower really, but was used for astronomical observations and looked quite photogenic sitting in a park surrounded by flowers. Last stop was the tombs. There are actually hundreds of these dotted around town - mounds containing a small burial chamber. Some of the mounds are enormous - 20 metres high, while others are quite modest. These are where the golden crowns we'd seen yesterday were found.

    You could go inside one of them, but it felt suspiciously modern so I wasn't super sure about what we were seeing. It was nice to walk around the park surrounded by these mounds, but the signs everywhere warning of a 20 million won fine for climbing them was a bit of a bummer.

    Feeling tired, we just had another 7-11 dinner before heading to the hotel.
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