A Travellerspoint blog

Geyeongju and the Bunhwangsaji Temple

semi-overcast 17 °C

We took the train from Seoul and arrived into Gyeongju and were absolutely amazed by the history that lies here. It is the oldest surviving kingdom in Korea, and claimed to be a “museum without walls.” Of course, since history is such a large part of this area, we wanted to embrace it and decided to go with a traditional temple stay for our visit here. The Golgulsa Temple is a Buddhist temple that was built in the 6th century out of solid rock. We were informed that during our stay we must keep our shoulders and knees covered, and refrain from drinking, smoking, and eating meat. Eating vegetarian for our stay is turning out to be no problem at all, and actually quite enjoyable. The monks here pray often, and are very welcoming and hospitable. We are paying 25,000 won per day to stay here, and it is well worth the money.

During some free time we had, we decided to visit some of the local attractions. We caught a local bus into town which was cheap and convenient and visited the Bunhwangsaji Temple. The temple was built in the early 600’s A.D. and was a Buddhist temple. The stone pagoda is thought to once have been 9 – 10 stories high, but today stands about 10 meters. Unfortunately, today many artifacts are missing, as they are thought to been destroyed in fires.

Gyeongju is known for it's many beautiful temples and we feel so peaceful and serene here.

Bunhwangsaji Temple

Bunhwangsaji Temple

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:30 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Geyeongju and the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu

sunny 20 °C

Our second day in Geyeongju was spent visiting the famous underwater tomb of King Munmu. King Munmu was the 30th ruler of the Silla kingdom, and unified three kingdoms. According to legend, he instructed his people to bury him at sea so that he would become a dragon and protect the people of Silla from the Japanese.

We got up at 8 a.m. and took the #150 bus from Geyeongju out to Bonggil-ri, which is just outside of Geyoungju. Andrea was very tired as we were up late the night before, so she was laying across three seats in the back of the bus resting. The driver slammed on the brakes which sent Andrea flying into the back of the seats in front of her (where Jill and Jodi were sitting) and fell to the ground. Just in time too, as we approached the island where the King’s remains lay. The sun glinted off the water, and the whole scene was very beautiful.

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The island has a small pool in the middle of it, and under the water there is a granite slab almost a meter thick, and 3 meters wide. It has not been proven whether the king’s ashes are under this slab, or whether his ashes were scattered on top and around it.

Unfortunately we had to leave beautiful Geyoungsu the next day, so we didn’t get to see everything that the region has to offer, but here is a website that shows all the attractions and sights that lie in Geyoungsu.

Geyeongju attractions

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:30 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

The gastronomical delights of Korea

semi-overcast 19 °C

Many times the "ethnic" food available in North America often doesn't truly represent the foods ethnic origins. Korean BBQ is becoming widely available across North America, though it does not truly represent the gastronomic delights of Korea. A big part of our adventure has been getting out and enjoying some of the delicious, and sometimes terrifying, cuisine.

Bap is a traditional dish of steamed rice and is a staple in many Korean’s diets. It is usually short grained rice combined with many other items such as beans, chestnuts, or barley.

Guk, or soup, is also a common site in meals, and is served alongside Bap. Some other dishes that we have been eating consistently include Jjim and Jorim (simmered meat), Namul (vegetables), Jeotgal (seafood fermented in salt), Gui ( BBQ’d meats), Jeon (pan-fried pancake), and Mandu (dumplings.) These foods are all delicious and we have been really enjoying them! Also, we have had the … um… pleasure of trying some of the more … exciting foods because when in Korea, do as the Koreans do. These local delicacies include Dakbal (chicken feet), Gejang (raw baby crabs), Gopchang (BBQ intestines), Beondegi (Silkworm larvae), and finally the best for last, Sannakji, which is live octopus. Jodi couragesly offered to try the Sannakji. After seeing the look on her face as she put the still wriggling tentacle in her mouth, Jillian and I opted to leave that experience to the imagination. Instead, Jillian graciously offered to try a local beverage, Soju. Soju is an alcoholic beverage that is similar to vodka, but sweeter. She drank four pretty quickly so we had take the fifth one away or we would have been carrying her home. For the record, Jillian drinking is quite… entertaining ;).

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Silkworm larvae YUM!

We have also learnt some etiquette about dining in Korea. Respect for elders is important here, and when we have an opportunity to eat with them, we were told to wait for them to sit and eat before proceeding, and to wait at the table until they are done. Eating soup before the rice and sides is also considered good manners. Andrea made a dive for the rice when first sat, and we had to... ahem... ever so politely tell her to behave and eat the soup first. When it comes to drinking, it is considered polite to let others fill your glass instead of doing it yourself, and vice versa. Finally, chopsticks and other utensils should be clean of food at the end of the meal. This we all had no problems with!

Our bellies were full, we had amazing experiences and nary a Korean barbecue in sight.

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:29 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Busan

Something seems fishy about this place.......

sunny 23 °C

Busan is Korea’s second largest city with about 4 million people. It is the main port for international cargo, as well as the passenger ferries to Japan and Jeju Island. They have amazing seafood so it is easy to see why they are famous for it. Also the beaches there are incredible! With the beaches and the weather around the beach, it gives the city more of nightlife. We are not really nightlife people but you just have to get out and enjoy it….as well as the fish smell that never seems to leave your nose. Because of the location of this city, it has a mix of both mountains and ocean. What an incredible sight!

Busan is where the record was set for the world's largest department store - Shinsegae Centum City. Hmmm, should we go to this mall? In the fairness of travel research we almost have to go. Plus, um, we're three girls traveling around and one of the largest malls in the world is right here?! Ah, yeah, of course we're going!!!

Centum City was built on the old airport site (only place big enough I imagine) with 14 floors above ground and 4 below ground. Now that is one big building! Inside there are a ton of luxury stores, some of which cannot be found in our mall for sure. We looked and browsed, then looked and browsed some more. Thankfully we all kept an eye on our bottom lines and the realization we have to carry whatever we buy on our backs so looking is all we did.

Shinsegae Centum City

Shinsegae Centum City

Calling it a city is very appropriate. By 3 pm we were all exhausted so made the decision to spend the rest of the day at the beach. Good thing it was later in the day so I didn’t look like a lobster by the end of it. However, I did get a wonderful Rudolf nose. Sometimes it’s so hard being a fair skinned beauty. That is how we enjoyed our day in Busan.

Too soon it was time to head to the ferry to Jeju...

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:29 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Jeju Island

sunny 22 °C

We took the overnight ferry from Busan to Jeju Island. The boat ride left at 7 pm and we finally arrived on the beautiful island of Jeju at 6 am - 11 hours later (yawn). We could have flown on a number of airlines including Korean Air but the chance to do something different and the budget-appealing price of 43,000 won couldn't be beat. We were pretty exhausted as we didn't sleep much on the ferry but WOW, Jeju is amazing!!

Located off the south coast of the Korean Peninsula Jeju was formed by volcanoes and is in the shape of an oval measuring 73km long and 31km wide. It's larger than we thought with a permanent population of 600,000 though it's one of the most popular vacation spots for Koreans so that number can balloon during peak tourist season.

Jeju Island is sometimes referred to as "Samdado Island" meaning "three many" because of it's abundance of rocks, women and wind. Wind blows steadily throughout the year and because of it's southerly location has warmer weather than the rest of Korea. Past volcanic activity has littered beautiful and odd-shaped black rocks around the island and the island has a reputation of having many women from the days when fishing was the main income. Many men were lost at sea and the island gained a reputation for the plentiful women.

As we made our way by taxi to the city centre to leave our bags at the hotel we passed many Some were serious but some were pretty comical looking. It reminds me of Easter Island heads but smaller and different styles. We also saw small, round towers built of rocks called Bansatap. They're everywhere - at beaches, in front of houses, at tourist attractions, etc. It is thought these towers ward off evil and bring prosperity to the islanders.

Some of the Dolhareubang (old grandfather stone statues).

Some of the Dolhareubang (old grandfather stone statues).

Jeju Islanders speak Korean but because they were cut off from the mainland, for the most part, for so long before the invention of modern means of transportation they have developed their own unique dialect and culture. It's very much Korea but also, very different and we can see why people come here - we already love it too!

Today we spent the day touring Jeju City and then decided to head out for a hike on one of the Jeju Olle Trails. Many years ago locals built stone walls to protect their properties from the harsh sea wind and created paths between the houses to the village. They have now become an extensive system of 20 different trails throughout the island covering 329kms. The views we saw along the clifftop trail we took overlooking the water and the beautiful white sand beaches were breathtaking. We watched the sun begin to set over the water and made our way back into the city for supper.

The Olle Trail System on Jeju Island

The Olle Trail System on Jeju Island

Tonight we tried a Jeju Island specialty - seafood hot pot! We decided to share a Haemul-ttukbaegi. It's a delicious seafood soup made using shrimp, clams, and other kinds of shellfish. Soooo good!! But now we're off to bed. It's an early night as none of us got much sleep on the ferry and we have a big day planned for tomorrow.

Delicious seafood hot pot

Delicious seafood hot pot

Posted by jillandreajodi 08:28 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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