Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gyeongju, Day 2

Sunday, August 2nd: Splish Splash, I Was Taking A Bath
Lotus Blossoms @ Anapji Pond

The original plan was to wake up early and go see a temple. That lasted right up until the alarm went off and Sarah and I promptly decided no thanks, we would rather sleep for another two hours. Story of her visit. We finally made it out of the hotel by eleven and set off to explore Gyeongju. Our first stop was Tumuli Park.

Tumuli Park

Tumuli are tombs from the Silla dynasty, which lasted from 57 BC to 935 AD. Tumuli Park has twenty three tombs of Silla royalty. The tumuli look like large grassy mounts and they're all over Gyeongju. Many of the tombs have been excavated and the largest tomb is open to visitors, with reproductions of the burial and some of the treasures, but mostly all you see are the grassy hillocks. They're immaculately maintained and there were flowering trees surrounding the tombs, but there wasn't much to actually see.

Our next stop was the 7-11, where we scrounged together a breakfast of Denish pastries (not a typo), some sort of blueberry cream cheese sandwich thing and nuts. Eating was a bit of an adventure in Gyeongju. While Sarah was here, we ate mostly western food. Korea is not an easy place to eat if you're vegetarian and since Tonga doesn't really have restaurants, Sarah was understandable more interested western food that wasn't normally available to her than trying to figure out what Korean food she could eat. That's all fine and dandy when we were in Seoul, but western food (at least, non Korean/western fusion food [*shudder*]) was far more difficult to find once we left the capital. A lot of our meals were pretty hit or miss.

Lotus Blossoms @ Anapji Pond
Lotus Blossoms @ Anapji Pond
Lotus Blossoms @ Anapji Pond
Lotus Blossoms @ Anapji Pond

After breakfast we went to Anapji Pond. Anapji Pond was built as a pleasure garden by King Manmu in 674. The buildings have been destroyed, but the pond is full of lotus blossoms. It's a really lovely spot, if very crowded. Sarah and I spend another hour wandering around, taking pictures of lotus blossoms.

Anapji Pond: Before

We also did the whole "posing in front of cultural monument so we could take a self portrait and sent it home to our parents in an attempt to convince them we're not dead yet" thing and, well, it ended poorly. We posed crouching down on some stepping stones making a path through the pond and as we were standing up, I overbalanced and toppled backwards into the pond. Luckily my purse didn't get (too) wet and I didn't loose my shoes scrambling out of the pond, but I did end up looking like this:

Anapji Pond: After

We (well, I) squelched back to our hotel, stopping briefly at Wolseong Park to see Cheomseongdae, the the oldest astrological observatory in the Far East.


Once back at the hotel I tried to wash the worst of the mud and pond scum out of my clothes in the shower and while my stuff tried, Sarah and I hung out at the hotel for a few hours. The owner of the hotel told us about a free traditional music performance held at a nearby resort that we decided to check out. It was, to say the least interesting. There were a few good acts in the first half, but the second half was a Korean/western fusion band playing western songs on traditional Korean instruments. In theory that sounds interesting, but in practice it sounds like this:

Halfway through the song Sarah and I looked at each other and incredulously asked, "Is that ABBA?" There was also a visible drunk man in the audience who kept running onto the stage to try and dance with the performers. It was an unique take of traditional Korean music. On the way home, we stopped by the train station to buy our tickets for trip home well in advance. (That was a bit of an adventure. The ticket seller kept saying there was no train to Seoul that night and I kept repeating Tuesday over and over again, but we finally understood each other and got our tickets.)

The train station was across the town from where we were staying and as we got off the bus we heard a flurry of whispers from a large group of western tourists staying at the same hostel as us. "Wait, is this our stop? Why are they getting off? Should we get off?" The strangest thing about the trip was the tourists. They were everywhere! I don't normally see that many tourists in Korea, since I don't live in a touristy area or spend much time at tourist spots, but they were everywhere in Gyeonju and I kept being mistaken for one. They were loud and complained about how no one spoke English and kept obviously disregarding Korean culture and for a person who travels as much as I do, it turns out I'm an awful snob about people traveling in the country where I live.

The rest of the photos from the day are here.

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