Sleeping Korean Style.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Where I stayed
Sa Rang Chae Guesthouse Kyongju
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Korea Rep.  , North Gyeongsang,
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Ondol" is an excellent Korean word.

Ondol is the word to describe the unique underfloor heating system that is a Korean tradition, going back to ancient times. Originally coal was burned in an oven under a clay floor, however now days hot water is pumped through pipes. It is cold here in Korea even though it is Spring and it is wonderful to feel the warmth come up through the floor.

This is brought to mind as we are now in Gyeongju, after taking the metro first from Seoul to the train station, then two trains. On arrival we walked for quite awhile and eventually found our guest house, Sa rang chae, down a little back alley. The proprietor showed us to our room and we had some mixed feelings about the authentic Korean experience we were about to have. You see our bed was a neat pile of bedding to be rolled out on the floor at night and doors were made of wood with paper panels. Would we be warm enough? Would we be comfortable? The thought played a bit on our minds but later after the sun went down, the answer was clear - we were going to be wonderfully warm, thanks to "Ondel".  It makes sense sleeping on the floor when it has wonderful heating coming up through it on a cold night!

Gyeongju is described as an open air museum, as everywhere you turn there are items of historic significance. Just out walking we come across tombs, temples, shrines and remains of palaces. Some of these relics date as far back as 700 AD. Short bus rides that cost $1A take us to sights further afield. However finding English assistance to understand what we are seeing has been a little bit difficult. Most tourists to this place are Koreans or Japanese and it seems not enough English speakers are coming to require tours. Not to worry, armed with a map in English and helpful advice and directions from our guest house we have knocked over a huge amount of historic sights and have had the occasional assistance with an English speaker. The Koreans are so helpful too. We can be looking worried at a bus stop and invariable someone comes to try and help us. Many times we have been physically taken and put on the right transport or led by the hand to the right place. Bus drivers will ask for someone on the bus to interpret if he can not work out what we are saying and invariably someone will step forward.

Today we found ourselves being photographed for a Korean travel magazine while exploring a historic Korean Cultural Village called Yangdong that is UNESCO listed. We had to pose taking pictures and the photographer says he will send us a copy of the picture if it is used. After catching a bus back in to town, we set of by bus again, in another direction and climbed the main peak of the Namsan Mountain ranges, quite a strenuous climb in a beautiful forest area strewn with the remains of fortresses, temples, rock cut figures, and lots of Buddhas and tombs.

And now with bodies aching from walking and climbing all day we are looking forward to our "Ondel" experience for the last night here in Gyongju. A hot floor will never have felt so good....!

Footnote: Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple, Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong and Gyeongju Historic Areas (incorporating Mt Namsan District, Wolseong Fortress District, Daereungwon Royal Tombs District and Hwangnyongsa Temple District) are all UNESCO World Heritage listed. [Hahoe Village not visited].
Mt Namsan District includes Oreung Royal Tombs, Poseokjeong site, Samneungol Valley and one we did not visit Najeong Well.
Hwangnyongsa Site includes Bunhwangsa Temple (we visited but was under reconstruction).
Wolseong Fortress Site includes Imhaejeon site, Gyerim Forest, Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory, Seokbinggo Ice Storehouse and the Gyeongju National Museum.
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