Happy Birthday Buddha! I know I’m a bit late for this post but I wanted to share some of these great photos of Jeondeungsa.
The temple is said to date back to 381, which would make it the oldest temple in Korea. It’s a beautiful place, especially with all the Buddha’s Birthday festivities.
The Korea Tourism site mention to check out the corners of the main hall Daeungbojeon—you’ll see little carved figures of what kinda looks like a naked women holding up the roof.
“According to legend, the engineer building the temple fell in love with a barmaid in town. Unfortunately for him, she absconded with all his money. In revenge, the engineer worked her image into the temple, where, at least figuratively, she would have to hold up the temple roof for all eternity.”
Wow Korea is so good at revenge.
There are several national treasure here too, such as: Yaksajeon (Treasure No. 179), Beomjong Bell (Treasure No. 393, constructed in China in the 11th century), and Yangheonsu Victory Monument (Tangible Cultural Treasure No. 26). There are also many ancient trees.
Anapji (meaning goose and duck pond) is an artificial pond that was a part of a palace complex in the ancient Silla Dynasty. It went into disrepair, but during a renovation project in 1974 it was restored to it former flourishing glory. The complex is located in central Gyeongju and only a three minute walk from Gyeongju National Museum. You can take city bus number 11. It was highly recommended to visit at night.
Gyeongju is the former capital of the kingdom of Silla Dynasty that lasted for almost a thousand years. The city is rich with history and ancient treasures. One of the biggest and most famous spots is Bulguksa or Bulguk Temple.
The temple, along with Seokguram Grotto, was added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. It’s also the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The temple is classified as Historic and Scenic Site No. 1 by the South Korean government. With all that, you can see why it’s a big deal and a major tourist site in Gyeongju.
The most highly recommended thing to see at Bulguksa are the two stone pagodas. These pagodas were build in 751 and are prime works from the Silla Dynasty, which is considered the golden age of Buddhist art. One pagoda Dabotap (pagoda of many treasures) is elaborate, full of details and unique sculpting. In contrast, Seokgatap (pagoda of Sakyamuni) is a simple and basic design. Both compliment each other nicely in the courtyard of Bulguksa.
You see a lot of rock stacking in Korea, at temples and on hiking trails. Someone once told me that you add a rock to a stack and make a wish. If the stack stays the wish will come true, but if it falls then all the wish won’t come true. Some rock stack as a family, each rock for each member. Some use it as prayers. I have even seen rock stacking in the current video game I’m playing Skyrim. It’s a bit of an enchanting sight to see so many little stacks of rocks, it’s a peaceful feeling to gaze at all of the mementos of prayers and wishes of hundreds of people and families.
Gyeongju is a beautiful city in the southeastern part of Korea. It was the capital city of Korea during the Silla Dynasty for about one thousand years. It was the longest surviving kingdom in the history of Korea.
Gyeongju is packed with things to see from burial tombs to temples to a theme park.
We stayed at a really inexpensive hotel called the Sajo Resort. It was about ₩80,000 a night divided by five people, it was a steal. The room was condominium style with a living room/kitchen area and two small bedrooms. We got a taste of Korean style sleeping, which means sleeping on a pallet on a heated floor.
Getting to Gyeongju is real easy and similar to our trip to Sokcho. We head to the Express Bus Termial in Gangnam right on line 3. Thanks to Sunny we already had our tickets so we all got some breakfast and waited for our bus. Tickets for the bus only cost about ₩20,000 for one way. (Round trip cost about ₩40,000.) Due to the holiday traffic the bus ride was about 5 hours instead of the usual 4 hours without traffic.
Once you enter the city you know you’re miles away from Seoul. You enter a city full of Hanok style homes and buildings. You can see the mountains that surround you and no skyscrapers to obstructed your view.
The air is fresh once you step off the stuffy bus and be sure to stop by the travel information center that is located right next to the bus terminal. Grab a map! There is a bus stop right across the street that leads to most of the hotels and Bomun Lake area.
If you want to know more about the ins and outs there is a great blog I found written by this guy that has lived there about five or so years, check it out!
It’s the Year of the Dragon! Hope this year brings you joy and love.
Here are some pictures of our DMZ trip. We took the USO tour which is by far the best tour available because it’s the only one that allows access to the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the Panmunjom area. KoriDoor is the company and the tour takes you to JSA, Third Infiltration Tunnel, Dora Observatory, and Dorasan Station. It cost a bit more but it’s worth it, about 92,000 won or 80 USD.
First we went to the Third Infiltration Tunnel. This is the third out of four official tunnels found that lead from North Korea to South Korea. Stooping all the way, we made it to the end of the tunnel where we could see the third concrete barricade. In that barricade you can see a tiny window where the second barricade is visible. The first barricade is not visible. Also taking photos is prohibited in the tunnel. There is a movie about the war visitors can watch and there is a small exhibit filled with items from the war and miniature models of the DMZ.
There was this amazingly campy tourist sign of the DMZ outside so of course we need a picture of that.
There were a couple of other cute things that you could take pictures next to.
After the tunnel, we drove to The Dora Observatory on the top of Mt. Dora. From there you can see into North Korea. We ate lunch at the Inter-Korean Transit Office. After that we were scheduled to go to Dorsan Station but we had to change plans and get to Camp Bonifas.
Camp Bonifas is a United Nations Command military post located 400 meters south of the southern boundary of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. There we received a briefing about the JSA and the DMZ. We got on a military bus and headed to the JSA.
We were not allowed to take photos of Camp Bonifas or the Freedom House in the JSA. But we could take photos inside the UN Command Conference Building and outside of the Freedom House that looks towards the North.
Inside the UN Command Conference Building there were two ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers. All ROK soldiers stand in a taekwondo stances wearing dark Ray-Ban sunglasses and helmets. They wear these to show no emotion to North Korea. While inside northern part of the UN Command Conference Building you are technically standing inside North Korea.
We walked back outside and stood on the edge of the top step of the Freedom House facing Panmungak the North Korean building. While there we could ask any questions to our US MP tour guide as long as you don’t point or gesture.
Finally we made our way to Dorasan Station, with it’s motto “Not the last station from the South, But the first station toward the North.” In hopes of reunification, the train tracks lay there new and quiet waiting for that day.
Day 8: A little trip to the DMZ. I’ll write more about it later when I have more time but for now enjoy this picture
Day 7: Visited Gyeongbok Palace today. We were suppose to tour the Blue House (Cheongwadae), which is the president’s house but we missed our tour because I got us lost. However, all was not lost we did get to see the changing of the Royal Guard ceremony and that was really cool. We also toured the rest of Gyeongbok Palace which was great and that was my last palace to see. Now I’ve been to all Five Grand Palaces!! Gyeongbok Palace was the largest of the 5 and with the most still standing or restored. It was the main palace and called “Palace of Shining Happiness.” Inwangsan stands in the background while looking west at the palace. It also has the National Folk Museum and Palace Museum on the grounds.
After our trip we went to Chad’s school to meet his kinders and older students. They were great. One even wrote my mom a letter, it was so sweet.
Now the big adventure tomorrow, the DMZ.
Day 6: Toured the Five Grand Palaces and the Secret Garden of Changdeok Palace today. The Secret Garden was so beautiful. It’s a giant rear garden that was a relaxing place for the king and queen. They would partake in several outdoor activities such as military exercises and archery. The king would even raise grain and the queen would engage in sericulture, the rearing of silkworms for raw silk. It was a little bit of a up and downhill walk at times but completely worth it. I’d love to go again in autumn and spring. Tickets were 8,000 won per person that was to go around Changdeok Palace and The Secret Garden guided tour. You can only enter the Secret Garden with a tour group. They have tours in Korean, English and Japanese.
Day 2: We walked around Dongdaemun and did some shopping. Then we walked from Dongdaemun to Jonggak Station along the Cheonggyecheon Stream. If you know the subway route it’s about 3 subway stops on line 1 the dark blue line. It was a long but fun walk. We saw this grandfather walking with his grandson teaching him about the fish in the stream. The kid was no more than 2 or 3 years old. I actually could understand what he was saying. It was a very sweet little moment. We took a couple of pictures and enjoyed the scenery. The stream is a beautiful oasis in this urban jungle.
Then we met up with Jamie and went to Myeongdong. At Myeongdong we visited the Myeongdong Cathedral and lit a couple of candles. Its Neo-Gothic architecture is something to admire. Kyle met us for a late lunch and then we went to see Nanta. Nanta is amazing even if you’ve see it before.
Tomorrow is another adventure, stay tuned!!
Seoraksan National Park is located in the northeastern part of Korea. It’s close to Sokcho Gangwon-do which is just south of the 38th parallel. We started our trip at Seoul’s Express Bus Terminal right off line 3. We took a bus from there and it only cost 17,000 won per person one way. So it’s about 34,000 won round trip. It’s a 3 hour bus ride and you go up into the mountain because my ears were popping like crazy. They take one 15 minute rest stop along the way and we almost missed the bus! It was a scary moment but the bus stop as we were running towards it! Once in Sokcho we wandered around looking for a city bus stop that would take us in the direction of Seoraksan. We finally found it after some walking and it was just across the street from the bus terminal so I felt really dumb. It’s a 30 min bus ride (taking city bus no. 7 or 7-1) the last stop is Seoraksan National Park.
There is an ATM just outside the entrance and I recommend getting some cash before going in the park because most little vendors in the park don’t take card. We paid the around 3,000 won each to enter the park and started the search for our hotel. I booked us a room at the Seoraksan Tourist Hotel. The hotel is actually located in the park which was pretty cool. The hotel is easy to find once you walk into the park and it’s right next to the cable cars that take you up to Gwongeumseong Fortress. Every room has a great view from the balcony of the cable car and the top of the Buddha statue. Manager of the hotel was super nice and spoke great English. He gave us a map and a run down of the Sinheungsa Temple Area.
Here is a picture of the National Assembly during the Cherry Blossom Festival. It took me a second to realize the flower patterns are the Taegeuk the symbol of Korea.
Happy ONE Year in Korea Moriah teacher! My co-teacher friends and I went walking around this very cool area of Seoul that is full of the old house style of Korean architecture. Korean houses or Hanok are all around and been preserved or restored. There are even some house you can go in but most are actual private residence. We walked all over this area and it’s full of great little shops and cafes and restaurants.
Gyeonghuigung or Gyeonghui Palace is one of the “Five Grand Palaces” of Seoul built by the Joseon Dynasty. It was built as a detached royal villa where the kings would stay during daily excursions and emergencies. Construction began in 1617 and finished in 1623. It was large enough that it connected to Deoksu Palace. Sadly, Gyeonghui Palace was destroyed during Japanese occupation of the early 20th century. In the 1980s the site was designated as Historical Site 271 and parts of the main palaces were rebuilt from historical descriptions, tablets and sketches; that’s what stands today.
Admission is free and it’s a great place to wander around. The recreated buildings are full of vibrant colors and beautiful Asian architecture. Right next to the palace park is an art museum and the Seoul Museum of History. There is also a walking tour between Gyeonghuigung and Deoksugung that I accidentally took that’s a beautiful little walk that parts don’t feel like you’re in present day Seoul.
N Seoul Tower is a communication and observation tower.
The tower has been a symbol of Seoul and measures 236.7 m (777 ft)
Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower was build at the peak of Namsan Mountain in 1969 the tops reaches 479.7 m (1,574 ft) above sea level. It was open to the public in 1980. In 2005 it was renovated with new high-tech multi media and reopened as N Seoul Tower.
It has restaurants, shops, an observatory and is one of the most romantic places in Seoul. Right outside the tower are fences and “trees” covered in love locks.
I get super excited every time I can see in it the city. I could go there every weekend and never get tired of it.
Teaching the history of Korea using teddy bears, best idea ever Korea!! So there is a folktale of the tiger and the bear. (I’m not fully versed in the folktale so forgive me if it’s wrong) Both the tiger and bear wished to be human, so they were giving a task to eat garlic for 21 days. The tiger gave up but the bear persisted and passed the test and was turned into a beautiful woman. That woman married the god-like Hwanung and gave birth to Dangun who founded Korea. SO it’s only natural to explain the history of Korea using TEDDY BEARS!!!
Deoksugung or the Deoksu Palace is on of the “Five Grand Palaces” in Seoul built by the Joseon Dynasty. It is one of the only ones that include Western architecture. Most of the buildings of the five palaces were heavily destroyed by Japanese invasions. But the parts still remaining are beautiful and are some of Korea’s best examples of Far Eastern architecture.