Trip Start Dec 26, 2003
27Trip End Ongoing
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This weekend Stacey and I took a train down to Gyeongju. In Ancient times, this city was the capital of the Shilla dynasty. The Shilla managed to unify all of the Korean Pennensula under one government due to military strength. What we found was a city where history is ever-present.
The Kings and Queens of Shilla are buried all over the city under large green hills that seem to bubble out of the ground everywhere. They are concentrated in the heart of the city in a special park. Some are bigger than others, some even have large trees growing out of them which indicate to me how old they must really be. The town was quite small and we managed to find our way around fairly easily. We also had a fun time playing with our newly acquired yo-yos, which we both went a little obsessive over as a result of our school's "market day." The mountains just south of the city were also scattered with Buddhist carvings and sculptures which emerged from the forest seemingly every ten minutes as we hiked.
I had an incident with a bus driver on Friday on our way to Mt. Namsan, when he wouldn't let us on the bus. I misinterpreted his rude tone and flailing arms for " I should ditch my coffee in the garbage can across the street and catch the next one." When he was probably telling me to cross the road to catch it after he turns around at the bus depot. As a result I told him where he could "stick" my coffee, and pretended to kick the side of his bus as he pulled away honking at me(OK, not my finest moment.) As a result I forked out the cash for cab rides to and from the rest of the attractions on his route and only charged Stacey the cost of a regular bus fare. I must admit I felt pretty ish... I'm usually not one to make a big scene...Let's just leave it at that.
On the next day we waited two hours for a bus to take us down to the coast of the East Sea (Sea of Japan,) to checkout the underwater tomb of King Munmu. When we got there we were a little disappointed because there was no boat actually going to the rocky islet where the tomb was. However walking along the beach we began to notice that people were sitting all over the beach burning incense and performing some very intimate ancestral worship. Near some rocks we found some remains of these rituals which included burned pig skulls, candles, and the tops of pineapples.
I came away from that place with a feeling like I'd experienced something very authentic, and I liked how it was so low-key. There were no tourist attractions trying to capitalize on the king's tomb, only a few small family-run seafood restaurants overlooking the ocean, and a steady trickle of devoted worshippers making the trip to give their regards to history.