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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Day 36: Seoul - Gyeongju

We were very excited as this was our first trip outside Seoul. Well, Incheon wasn't counted because it could be reached by subway. :P

Initially the plan was for a two-day Busan trip, but since we bought a 3-day Korea Pass (that's the minimum days) and the fact that he's on holiday the next day, I decided to add another city for this trip. But which one? After consulting guide books and internet, I decided to go to Gyeongju, an ancient capital of Korea.

Seoul Station

The old Seoul Station

The new Seoul Station

There's no direct KTX train that goes to Gyeongju, so we took a 2-hour KTX to Dongdaegu followed by one hour journey with a slower train.

Our train tickets

KTX train

The seats are pretty narrow, just like in the economy class of an airplane.

KTX train could reach 300 km/hr, couldn't feel that it's very fast though.

A snack trolley

Korea countryside with paddy fields

Reached Dongdaegu and transferred to this train, it didn't look good on the outside but the seats were much spacious and had more facilities than KTX.

This train couldn't close its mouth. :P

A train cafe

Rooms on the left, it had a massage chair and a Karaoke room! Some workstations on the right hand side to surf the internet.

Finally we reached Gyeongju around noon.

Gyeongju station

From here, it was a long walk to our guesthouse. We had to settle for a guesthouse since I couldn't get any reservations in hotels or even motels nearby the station. Apparently summer was a peak holiday season in Korea. There were some hotels available at Bomun Lake resort but it was pretty far from the sightseeing places.

As mentioned in their website, it was a ten minutes walk from the station, yeah as if we had wheels under our feet. We walked for half an hour to the guesthouse, luckily the weather was cool and windy.

The guesthouse is near the perimeter of Tumuli park. It is a tourist attraction where you could enter a royal tomb under the big mounds of grass. Same concept as the pyramid in Egypt.

Tumuli Park

One of the royal tombs at Tumuli Park.

Sa Rang Chae Guesthouse
I was a bit worried on how the guesthouse would be because I only paid 30,000 won (SGD 35) for the room hehehe...

Well, after looking around the place my worry was unfounded. Now I felt pretty excited because this would be our first time to stay in a hanok (Korean traditional house) and sleeping in an ondol room (heated floor room). Yay!! The guesthouse was somewhat rustic and cluttered and at the same time it felt cosy and warmth. Does it make sense? :P

The garden outside our room

Wooden door to our ondol room

This is one of the best room in the guesthouse that comes with a private bath room. The common toilet is out in the garden. :P

The review of this bed will be on the next post. :)

More flowers from the garden

Next, we had lunch nearby. This eating place is very popular according to the locals.

Alfresco dining :)

While waiting for our food, I snapped more flowers.

Initially I thought this bowl was to wash our hands, but I looked around and saw people pouring the water to the bowl and drank it! It's barley water hehehe...

The cutlery were heavy, real bronze?

His clothes didn't match the props hehehe...

A Korean traditional dinner

The dishes were mostly vegetarians and the mains were sardines and curry chicken. It was just ok, didn't like it much.

After lunch, we took a bus to our first stop: Bulguksa Temple. It was a twenty minutes ride from where we stayed.

Gyeongju has many flat lands with paddy fields like this. It was like Netherlands countryside.

Bulguksa Temple

Entrance gate to Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple

Three storey stone pagoda

There are many temples in the complex with different Buddha statues. After awhile they all looked the same to me.

Finally we saw something interesting.

Man made towers

Someone was getting mischievous :P

From the temple, we took the same bus back and stopped at this flower complex. Wow, I was going hysterical. :P

Huge lotus farm

A sight to behold...

Two scary looking dolls protecting the flowers

Miss Gyeongju hahaha...

Other flowers around the area

Cheomseongdae observatory
It is the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia. There's nothing much to see here except this tower.

More Royal Tombs

Took a break and bought Gyeongju traditional bread that is made from barley.

It's a redbean pancake.

This is like the Chinese red bean pie.

I only like the pancakes and he likes the pies, so it suits us well. :P

Went back to the guesthouse to rest for a while and then went for dinner.

This restaurant was the most crowded along the stretch of restaurants, so we dined here. It was famous for ssambap.

I counted, there were 29 unique dishes!! It's a buffet on your table hehehe...

The food was pretty nice here compared to the one we went for our lunch. This cost us 19,000 won (SGD 22) only.

Going back to the guesthouse and the owner asked us to join them for a handicraft class. We had to make a norigae, a traditional clothes accessories.

Well not entirely from scratch, we just had to put all these together.

Surprisingly hubby was doing better than me hmmm....

That's our norigae hung in our room. :)

The fun didn't end here, later the owner asked us to join them again for a traditional Korean music experience.

Gyeongju was wonderful, the guesthouse was excellent, we did feel like going back to the old times. What a great experience!


Peter Cherches said...

Nice writeup, and useful to me because I plan to stay at the same place and use the same train connection. Plus, who better for a restaurant recommendation than a Singaporean!

Irene said...

Hi Peter,
Thanks. Hope you enjoy your trip there. :)