A bit of a history lesson…
March 16, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, sighted the island of Samar Island, a large island located in the Visayas. Then in 1565 European colonization began and they formed the first European settlements in Cebu. Colonization of course spread all over the archipelago. Today, many of these Spanish colonial are gone due to wars, revolution, and age. However, one still stands and that historical town is called Vigan City.
In 2007, Vigan City was listed by UNESCO as the best preserved example of Spanish colonial towns in Asia. Its architecture is the conglomeration of cultural elements from the Philippines, China, and Spain, making it unique to the rest of the world.
I hope to go back there someday and really experience it. We missed out on eating Empanadas and riding a kalesa which are both a must! We did go shopping in the little shops and bought some souvenirs and even some antiques. We also went to Vigan Cathedral and listen to mass.
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.
Cheomseongdae (meaning star-gazing tower) is the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia. The observatory was build during the reign of Queen Seondeok of the Silla Dynasty. It’s 9.4 meters tall and 5.17 meters in diameter. Built with square granite stones and filled with soil and pebbles to the 12th layer.
It’s one of Korea’s National Treasures and it’s only cost 500 won to enter the grounds. It’s easy to get to take buses 10, 11, or 70 and get off at Daereung-won Tumuli Park. There is tons to see and do in the area too.
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.
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.
Buddha’s Birthday is a national holiday here in Korea. So we have to go to work on Monday but we get Tuesday off, go figure….
Buddha’s birthday is the birthday of the Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who founded Buddhism and is considered Buddha because “Buddha” meaning “awakened one” or “the enlightened one” found enlightenment. It’s held on the 8th day of the 4th month in the Chinese lunar calendar.
This year makes it May 10th.