Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Moment Back in Time: Gyeongju

Gyeongju (경주) is one of the most historical places in Korea. During the Shila Dynasty, Gyeongju is the capital city and this area encompasses almost two thirds of the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, due to its cultural and archaeological importance in relation to the history of Korea, it has one of the most historical sites and is the most-visited place outside major cities. 

At Seokguram
I happen to visit this place a few months ago as Gyeongju is very near to Daegu (my city). Gyeongju resembles a small city, trying to balance its modern development while at the same time, preserving its heritage. Due to the distance of this city far from other major cities, it is not well connected by major railways or does it has an airport.

Map of Gyeongju
Nevertheless, the city's charm lies in its thousand-long years of Korean history and the relative ease of travel by bus. It is recommended to travel to Daegu (from Seoul or anywhere else) if planning to visit Gyeongju, as you can just take a bus (very frequent) from Daegu directly there. Although Gyeongju is also directly accessible by train (albeit taking only the slowest train) from Seoul, it can take almost 5 hours because of the numerous stops along the way. 

From Daegu to Gyeongju

From Daegu Station (if from Dongdaegu Station, 동대구역, the bus station is located outside the station), take a cab to Dongdaegu Express Bus Terminal (동대구 고속버스터미널), after alighting from the cab, walk across the road to the opposite direction to the other bus terminal. Buy your ticket (4,200 Won) and the journey begins.

Bulguksa Temple

In my case, I chose a morning trip (more time to explore this place). My destinations: Bulguksa Temple (불국사) and Seokguram (석굴암) Grotto (both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites). After getting off the bus at the Gyeongju bus terminal, I crossed the road (to the small bus stop) and took a city bus (either Bus no. 10 or 11) to Bulguksa Temple. Cost: 1500 Won.

Gyeongju city bus routes
The bus I took: Bus no. 10 also passes by Gyeongju World (a water park). After that, I took another bus to reach Bulguksa Temple. According to many websites, Bulguksa Temple is one of the most impressive temple in Korea and is the masterpiece of Buddhist art. In my opinion, it was just so-so. Seokguram was interesting. After alighting from the bus, I had to walk a distance to reach this temple. 

The entrance to Seokguram
Seokguram located at the top

Even though, then, the weather was quite hot and humid, the lush trees around the area provided a shady respite. One has to climb up the steps to get inside the temple housing the grotto (behind the panel of glass). Unfortunately, no photography is allowed there. 

Summary of my trip: 

Bus schedule for Bulguksa - Seokguram - Bulguksa
Gyeongju Bus Terminal (Bus no. 10 or 11) --> Bulguksa Temple (Entrance: 4,000 Won) --> Seokguram Grotto (take another bus outside the exit of the Bulguksa Temple). Trip back is the same.

On the way back by Bus no. 10, you can get off at the Anapji (a lotus pond) or the National Museum. Before leaving, don't miss out tasting the delicious 찰보리빵 (Glutinous barley bread, a red bean paste filled pancake and is a little chewier than the ubiquitous Gyeongju bread) and the 경주빵 (Gyeongju bread, a red bean paste bread). 

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