Friday, September 24, 2010

Chuseok: Trip to Gyeongju and Busan #1

Hi everyone,

I've been here for just over a month now. Times flies over here! Seoul is a city that never sleeps. And this is no exaggeration. The neon lights here in Sinchon never seem to go out. Sometimes I can't even say if there's less or more people on the street during day or night time. And there are a lot of 24 hours shops and market places around.

I needed to see more of South Korea. I can't really say I've been and experienced living in South Korea if I have only stayed in the capital, right? By the way, Koreans don't really say South Korea all the time. Most of the people here think the North and South are one country and feel a connection with their northern neighbours, 'other pure Koreans'. Therefore if you meet any Koreans outside of Korea or maybe inside you should not easily ask if they're North or South Korean.

Annette from Germany let me know about a trip to Gyeonju and Busan. There was a girl called Jessica from another top university in Korea called Sungkyunkwan University that organized the trip with some other students. I had not made plans yet for Chuseok (Korean style Thanksgiving). The costs for this trip was 150.000 KRW (about 96 euro) which was quite cheap. The trip was from Sunday to Thursday. We paid for the accommodation and the busride. Because of Chuseok all the trains and busses were fully booked two weeks in advance. So there wasn't much choice and I really wanted to see Busan, the second city of South Korea. The students that went along were from Yonsei University, Sungkyungkwan University and Seoul National University. The group consisted out of about 20 people. The people that went along from my university, Yonsei university, were Annette and Greta from Germany, Daniel from Sweden, Tyren from the United States and me.

The first place we visited was Gyeongju. It's is a coastal city in the far southeastern corner of North Gyeongsang province in South Korea. Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla (57 BC – 935 AD) which ruled most of the Korean Peninsula between the 7th and 9th centuries. A vast number of archaeological sites and cultural properties from this period remain in the city. The city is often referred to as "the museum without walls". And this is very much true. You can see that for yourself when you see the pictures.

The first night we arrived at a guesthouse in Gyeongju. The guest house was located behind a themepark called Gyeongju World. It was funny that we could sneak in without having to pay the entrance fee. But the attractions inside weren't free. Even inside you had to pay per attraction which was weird. There is also a lake not that far from the guesthouse. I heard that Daniel, the crazy and superfunny Swede, went to the lake to swim at night. But the day after we saw dead fish floating in the lake. In the picture I just heard about the fish floating in the lake. 'Unfortunally' I didn't take a picture of that. We call him Mr. Radioactive now.

The guesthouse was quite basic and typically designed in a Korean or Japanese style. Why am I saying Korean or Japanese style you might ask? Well, there were no beds. We had to sleep on a thin mattress which was basically a thin blanket. Strangely enough I slept like a baby. The guesthouse also had a shower and toilets. Some toilets were a hole in the ground, lol. And they looked modern at the same time. Some were Western styled. I preferred using the Western style toilet. The shower had cold water but it wasn't that bad. One time we had hot water between 7 and 9 a.m. The first night we were playing Korean name games which were very catching at the time ( I forgot them already ) and drinking games. Some of us drank cola or the soda called cider during the drinking games and others drank beer or soju. The traditional Korean liquer.


Soju (Hangul 소주; Hanja 燒酒) is a distilled beverage native to Korea. Its taste is comparable to vodka, though often slightly sweeter due to the sugars added in the manufacturing process, and more commonly consumed neat.

The next day we went out to get some breakfast. Sometimes I miss Western styled food or even Somali styled food. It's difficult to get toast, pancakes, croissants or even other 'normal' breakfast without having to stay in Seoul. I had a vegetable bibimbap which is a mixture of vegetables and egg (and sometimes minced meat). It was actually very good, but I guess I became a little bit homesick without my kind of breakfast. It tasted better than it looks. =)

We went to see some of Gyeongju cultural heritage sites. The first was the Gyeongju National Museum. The museum showed the cultural history of the Gyeongju district. The exhibition hall is divided into 4 large parts: the Main hall, Annex I, Annex II, and the Outdoor Exhibit Area (Museum Grounds). It was different and nice to see an open air museum like that. It reminded me of the ruins I saw in Turkey. But these objects were placed on those spots expecially for tourism.

The next site we visited was the Bulguksa Temple. This temple is considered as a masterpiece of the golden age of Buddhist art in the Silla kingdom. It is currently the head temple of the 11th district of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. I was very surprised how well kept the sites were. It looked very beautiful to see and the views were breathtaking. I saw the Golden Buddha statue inside Bunhwangsa temple. I couldn't take pictures. I'm not sure why. Some said it will ruin the paint of the temples and others said it is disrespectful to take pictures.
I also saw some animals and insects. The most unique thing I saw was a green and black poison dart frog. It looked very camouflaged in the nature. We stayed away from it. You can understand why. The best thing about the trip is that it was nice to be away from the city and its rhythm. It felt quite peaceful.

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