Photo Blog of Charlet's Post-Grad Antics

Historical Korea

Jeondeungsa: Korea’s Oldest Buddhist Temple

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.

Here are a couple of my favorites from the day.

It was a dainty adventure!

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A Look At Gyeongju: Anapji

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.


A Look at Gyeongju: Bulguksa

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.

One of my favorite things I saw at Bulguksa wasn’t old at all but a courtyard path filled with tiny rock stacks.

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.


Forget Me Not, Gyeongju: Promise of a Thousand Year Dynasty

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!


Happy Lunar New Year!

It’s the Year of the Dragon! Hope this year brings you joy and love.

We went to Gyeongju for Seollal (설날) Korean’s Lunar New Year. Will post more later, for now here is a picture of an ancient dragon…


A Visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone

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.

rusty mines

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.

Campy DMZ sign

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.

ROK Soldier inside the northern part of the Conference Building

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.

Looking at Panmungak

Headed back to the bus, we drove around and looked at the site of the Axe Murder Incident and the Bridge of No Return. Then we drove back to Camp Bonifas to buy souvenirs!

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.

The rocky road to Pyeongyang


Mama Letty’s Korean Adventure: Day 8

By the campy tourist DMZ sign

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 🙂