Our day in Gyeongju was filled with cultural and historical sites from start to finish. Up first, we visited the site of 30 Silla tombs (a historic dynasty of Korea). They are sometimes called the ‘Korean Pyramids’ as they are manmade, above-ground tombs for leaders and royalty similar to the Egyptian Pyramids. They look like artifical hills made of clay, and over time grass has actually grown all over them. Years ago, the government actually decided to open up 2 of the tombs, and one of them can be walked through with replicas of the discovered artifacts present inside. The real artifcats are kept in a museum (which we went to later).
Up next, we went to the site of where large palaces once stood, and only the bases remained (They were destroyed throughout Korea’s history of ownership such as while under the Japanese). What did remain was an ancient observatory tower designed for an optimal view of the Big Dipper constelation. It was also shaped to double as a large sun dial. We moved on to the famous “Moon Bridge”, which consists of the same beautiful design and artwork common to other palaces and temples in South Korea.
It was now time to visit the previously hinted museum, housing all of the artifacts recovered during excavation of the two tombs. There were countless gold relics in addition to macaroni-shaped jade ornaments for necklaces and armor. The prized piece was the large, 3 prong gold crown and belt which I (basically) wore myself.
Our next visit required a bit of work, being located at the top of a mountain. After driving through a twisty, uphill road (our driver is the man), we got dropped off about a 10 minute walk from the temple. At the parking lot, however, we did get to watch people pay 1000 Won to ring a big temple bell. I greatly enjoyed the walk to the temple, with a glimpse of light peircing the tree-line every so often, and a beautiful, natural view below along the way. Once we arrived, we were informed of our luck, as it was actually the one day of the year that the temple is fully open to the public (Bhudda’s Birthday). So we got to fully enter this beautiful, man-made entrance to the mountain featuring a large golden statue of Bhudda surrounded by food offerings and more. Photos were prohibited, but it was a rather magnificent room housing a very unique spiritual aura. Outside, there was a small Baby Bhudda statue standing in a small pool with wooden spoons. We each poured the water over his head three times for good luck/fortune.
Our last stop was at the base of the mountain, where another famous temple stands. Again, constructed with the same beautiful artwork and architecture as the others, I was in awe of its construction. Outside there were 4 warrior statues, in place to protect the temple from imposters, each meticulously crafted and painted. Seeing a countryside city with lots of history was a very striking and insightful contrast to our days in Seoul, and definitely put the modern infrastructure of Seoul into perspective.