Adventures of a LuLu

Mischief and Mayhem in East Asia

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Location: Seoul, South Korea

Steer away from the beaten track and leave a trail for others to follow.


Rob and Louise's Excellent Adventure

Day 1

I got up at 6.30 and arrived at Incheon airport half an hour before the plane was due to arrive, only to discover "delayed" and "2 hours" screaming mockingly at me from the board. Every single plane was on time except Robs...Of course. I spent the next two hours reading up on Korean Heritage, and finished the book. When he finally graced Korea with his presence I was surprised to find how quickly we relaxed in each others company.

Seeing as we were only an hour away, we decided to pay a brief visit to Seoul. His plane did not arrive until 3 ish, so we were limited as to what we could do, as it gets dark at 6 and the museums/palaces etc close at 5. In the end we just took some general photos of Seoul and of Namdaemun, a big gate designated National Treasure no 1. By the time we finally found it, it was starting to get dark, so my camera couldn't pick it out very well. I am waiting upon Rob's photo.




Nandaemun by night.

We arrived back in Gunsan just past midnight and set the alarm for 8.30 in order to be up in good time to go to Jeonju.

Day 2

This was my second trip to both the Paper Museum and Hanok village. Rob made some Hanji paper (which he was rather proud of) but nothing really seemed to take his fancy in the way of souvenirs at Hanok village. We took up a neighbouring hill and then back down to the village, where we witnessed the end of some kind of ceremony, and watching some traditional dancers skip round in a circle and beat drums.

Day 3

Rob's Gomdo lesson, but of course, true to form Sok Jae broke his promise and I ended up training him instead. He seemed to enjoy it though. In the evening I paid for myself, Rob and some of the Gomdo gang to eat at an eating house. Here Rob experience Korean eating house food, manners, and of course soju. After some convincing I then took him to a Noraebang where he sang his heart out.

Day 4

After work Rob and I met up with some other Foreigners for Claude's birthday(at The Hospital, where he witnessed the legend of the Blue Flaming Penis), and then went Noraebang-ing again!

Day 5

While I was at work Rob entertained the kids at Doo Song hagwon by taking them for a walk in Wolmyeong Park.

Day 6

Rob and I arrived in Gyeongju at around midday. I chose Gyeongju as it one of the most important historical sites in the whole of East Asia. Further, most of Korea's heritage was destroyed during the numerous Japanese invasions, so it would be nice to see something that escaped this.

Upon arrival we immediately got the bus to Bulguksa. Bulguksa is a large, famous Buddhist temple of the Shilla period, and has been designated Historical and Scenic Place No 1, and in 1995 as a World Cultural Heritage (along with Seokguram) by the UNESCO. Bulguksa and Buddhism the temple and grotto page on the UNESCO site more about the Grotto

The construction of Bulguksa began in 751 during the 10th year of the reign of King Gyeongdok and was completed in 774 during the 10th year of the reign of King Hyegong. It served as the centre for the Buddhist religion and for prayer for protection from foreign invasion during the United Shilla period. Despite this, in 1593 during the 26th year of the reign of Seonj(Joseon dynasty) the Japanese burned to the ground. It was subsequently used as a base for volunteer militia. It was not until 1973 that the temple was completely rebuilt after ardeous and through excavations and research.

There are several important cultural properties located on the site including two stone pagodas, Seokgatap and Dapotap pagodas, two seated gilt bronze statues enshrined in Guknajon and Birojeon halls, Anyangmun gate, Yeonhwagyeo and Cheongungyo bridges. All represent the Buddhist art and culture of the Silla period.


The steps and entrance to the temple.



2 out of 4 of the painted wooden statues inside the front gate.

I'm so glad these fellas are just made of wood...


Cheongungyeo (upper bridge)and Baekungyeo (lower bridge), National treasure no. 23.
The main hall can be reached by Cheongungyeo (blue cloud)and Baekungyeo (white cloud)bridges. The bridges are linked by Jahamun gate which is a gateway to Buddha's land. It has 33 steps, representing the 33 steps/courses that people should take to reach Buddha's land.



More views of the front of the temple, flanking the bridge. The top photo show a large drum...





Bom Yeong Ru (Overflowing Shadow Pavillion), outside the temple bridge. The sound of the bell overflows the whole universe with shadow. It was originally constructed in 751, and has been repaired an rebuilt several times. The stone pillar of the platform was made in the shape of Mount Sumeru, which is imagined to be the centre of the world, and of the 33 heavens according legend.

Inside the main hall was a fantastic reconstruction of the art work of the buildings (the significance of which I will describe in more detail at a later date).



The main hall housed the main worship hall, Daewoojeon, which enshrines a gilt bronze statue of seated Buddha.



I discovered afterwards that I was not permited to take this photo, even though I was outside the building when I took it.

The roof of the hall:



This style of painting on buildings shown in these photos (and in photos on other blogs) is called Tancheong. This was done to convey beauty and majesty, as well as preserve the buildings. Tancheong uses basic colours and repetitive symmetry; because no building with Tancheong from the Silla has survived to the present day, the pattern and style has been deduced from royal tombs, where evidence of Tancheong was found. The ends of the supporting beams have a particular motif painted on them, according to the type and significance of the building.

I am not sure if the painting of Bulguksa was taken from Shilla tombs, or copied from later periods when the style of painting was known.

Outside the smaller hall were couple of stone Pagodas, Seokaptap and Dabotap. Seokaptap is simple in its design and is representative of Silla's pagodas (National Treasure No 21).


Meanwhile Dabotap, made of granite, is more eleborate, (made in the unified Shilla period) and stands to the east. It is National Treasure no.20, see below:



This staircase leads to another main hall which houses Geukrakjoen hall, which represents the Land of Perfect Bliss (no photo, the ajumma responsible stopped me), where a good man goes after death. Amatibha, another seated statue is enshrined here. As you can see, there is a Swastika on the wall...the right way round.


Left: View from the second main hall.

Right: After this we made our way to the grotto. It started to snow heavily...this is a photo of the bell during the snowfall.

When we found our way back to the carpark (after going the wrong way) the Tourist Information officer pointed in the direction of the bus that will take us to the grotto. Given that we had another 25 minutes to wait and it was snowing outside, Rob and I sat waiting in the office. 10 minutes before the bus was due to leave, we started to get up in order to board the bus...only to watch it pull out of the car park and onto the road without us. The Officer phoned another bus for us and 45 minutes later we were on the bus to the grotto.

When we got there the bus driver informed us that we have only half an hour walk up the hill, see it, and walk back. As we walked to the grotto, we passed a large (or several smaller) party (ies) of school children who shouted "hello!" and "nice to meet you!" as they trundled past. In the end I jumped up and down in the middle of the path and waved my hands "hello, nice to meet you too!" as I was getting sick and tired of saying it to every child that passed us.

The grotto consisted of a stone carving of buddha in a cave that, while peering through a glass window, quite frankly did little to impress me. The statue was carved out of granite and took 30 years to construct. According to my guide book " the essence of cultural and scientific excellence, religious aspiration and faith of the Silla people. " So there you go.

I was not allowed to take photos of it either, so you will have to use the link above. All I have is views from the bottom of the path to the grotto, taken when it was starting to get dark:



Rob and I stayed overnight in a Youth Hostel and ordered far too much pizza. The pizza cost more than staying in the hostel, but Rob enjoyed it nonetheless, having previously lamented over Koreans eating too lightly (rice, noodles etc) and lack of solid food in his stomach (baked potato, that sort of thing).

Day 7

We left the hostel looking foward to the day ahead-a visit to Yangdong, a village that has been untouched by war over the centuries. We asked several ajummas if they knew where the bus stop was for the village, but after walking around in different directions (as per the advice of the different little old ladies) I concluded that we do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ask another local again about local knowledge. I found the tourist information office and enquired as to where to get the bus. Not suprisingly, the bus stop was in completely opposite direction to each of the ajummas' directions. We must have wasted over an hour doing this; there are some days when Korea really gets to me and this is one of them. People not knowing the first clue about where they live. It's the same situation in Gunsan. Rob took the situation with far more patience than I, but then he hasn't been living here for 7 months.

It took us around an hour on the bus, followed by another 15 minutes to the village itself.

Yangdong was founded in the 15th centurary and is nestled in a shallow valley; people still live there today, working on the land. It represents an astrocratic village of the Joseon dynasty, and was founded by the Yeogang Yi clan. It has a total of 150 houses, 24 cultural properties, with 4 treasures, 1 national treasure and 12 important folk materials. The aristrocrat house are located higher on the hill, looking down at the rest of the village below. The aristocrats that lived here hold scholarly and official positions, rather than aristrocats by wealth.






The very bottom photo show a resident working his 'garden'. The houses that used to belong to the lower classes had thatched roofs, while those that were of the Upper classes had tiled roofs.

Gwangjeong, National Treasure no.442

This house was constructed at the end of the 1400s by the Minister of Home Affairs during the reign of King Seongjeon (Joseon dynasty). It has a seperate women's quarters at the back of the house where there is a shrine located in the gabled roof. The front gate was constructed in 1981 when the house was repaired.


Rob in front of the front gate to the house.





Hyangdan (National Treasure no. 412)

This house was the head residence of the I Yeogang clan. It was originally built (by order of Josean King Jungjong) for I Eon-Joek (pen-name Hoejae) to take care of his sick mother. I Eon-Jeok was the governer of Gyeongsangdo and a famous confucian scholar. Also, he was born in this village. The house has Womens, mens and servents living quarters (anchae, sarangchae and haengnangchae respectively). Its has round pillars and roof supports which are apparently uncommon in a private residence.


Enterance to the residence grounds.



Inside the residence


Hmmm...another house.

When it started to get dark, we made our way back to the bus stop to wait for the bus to take us back to Gyeongju. I took this photo on the way.


We had to wait for half an hour for the bus (Bus...bus...bus...'twas the plaintive cry of Sir Robert the whole time we were stood there) which was frustrating as we had no idea if it was going to come at all, and it was a relief when it did.

Once we had arrived in Gyeongju we immediately set about getting the bus to Daeju so we could climb the mountain the next day. Just like on all the other bus trips so far, I fell excellent way to pass the time. Once at Daeju, after alot of gufuffle we found out how to get back to Gunsan from there, and slept in a motel overnight (my first time on a water bed!).

Day 8

Our last day of our trip was spent in the valleys of a large park. We wanted to climb the mountain but the paths were closed off due to an outbreak of fire making it too dangerous. Instead we walked through the valley, which had 3 waterfalls, a small river (of course) and a small buddhist temple and a shrine in a cave.


This rock outcrop inspired the Parks emblem.


The remains of a fortress wall. Not very interesting, but most fortresses in Korea are mock-ups of what originally stood there.



The river in the valley.


The enterance to the small the guest-book I wrote "foreign person" in the name column in Korean...I thought it would be rather ironic.


The corner of the temple enterance with the valley in the background...this photo give an indication of how steep the valley is, as do the following photos:




The waterfalls:


This is the first one we encountered. Underneath this waterfall there was a shrine in a cave...





The second waterfall, and the river by this waterfall.

And finally, the third waterfall, that concluded our walk:


Here we turned to go back, as we need to catch the last bus back to Daegu...the only way we knew of that would get us home. On the way back to the bus stop I bought a couple of bead bracelets to remind me of our walk, and some inscence.

When we arrived in Daegu an ajumma kindly drove us to a motel...and she chose well. For W20,000 all together we had a huge TV, a computer with internet connection, a huge bed and a jacuzzi (which sadly had blown its last bubble before we arrived).

Day 9

Feeling refreshed we made our way back to Gunsan via Jeonju. When we got there we went to the Naurobang in the evening, and then straight to bed.


Rob's last day.

After hagwon, my ex-boss and Eun-Jung came round to my apartment with food, beer and some traditional tea cups for Rob to thank him for his kindness in taking his students for a walk in the park. I was embarrassed by the state of my apartment, but my guests seemed unphased by it.

All in all, a very successful visit for Rob, I think!