Monday, April 27, 2009

Mmm, I Love Me Some Creative Juices!

It's been way too long since my last update--I know, I'm terrible at this. I've been so busy and tired and I like to spend time on my updates. Let's just call it... creative absence. Yeah, that's it. 
I probably will make multiple posts to catch you up to speed, to avoid one really really really incredibly loooong post. First things first, I believe last time I posted I said I would talk about our trip to Gyeongju, the first touristy thing that we've done in South Korea. 
Gyeongju is one of the oldest cities (maybe the oldest?) in SK. However, pretty much everything has been rebuilt or reconstructed due to pillaging and war. It's very touristy, lots of temples and statues and things like that. It takes about an hour to get there by bus, so Marc and I had planned on leaving around 8am to get there; unfortunately, we're both tired and lazy so we didn't leave to go to the bus station until 9:30. By the time we got to the station, bought tickets, and made the trip to Gyeongju, it was noon. Not terrible, but not great.
There was a tourist center just outside the bus station, so we ventured in and found an English map. The girl behind the desk was very helpful and told us where the main attractions were, as well as the bus lines to take us there. Hooray! So our first stop turned out to be Temple Bulguksa, one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Korea; we knew we should take the #10 or 11 bus, but where to stop? We decided just to look for the giant temple. Surely we couldn't miss it, right?
When we first got on the bus, there were maybe 5 people on it. Two stops later, it was completely FULL--as in, my elbow in some Korean guy's crotch for 30 minutes with him staring down my shirt. (I'm not sure Marc ever noticed that; this might be his first time hearing about it. Oopsie :) ). Anyway, we figured it would probably be best to just get off the bus when everyone else did because there was no way all those people were on the bus just for fun. Our plan worked, and we made it to the temple! Well, we made it to the bottom of the hill that we needed to climb to get to the temple. But whatever, we made it! 
I didn't get any pictures at the bottom of the hill, but I did at the top. I'm pretty sure I climbed a small mountain (at least my thighs were sure--holy moly). 
The view was pretty awesome; one of these days I'm going to take photos of the mountains around Daegu. I'm not used to living in a city with huge mountains like, right THERE. I asked some of my students if people live in the mountains here. They gave me a resounding, "Um, no. Hahahaha." I think they're lying though. People have to live in the mountains; what's the point of having mountains if there aren't mountain people to be afraid of? 
So we got to the top of our massive (small) mountain (hill), and there was a bridge. With fish in the water. Photo op!
Next there was a strange walkway with strange men in it. Ooh, la la. I like the guy with the snake-dragon-thing. Serpent?
Here are some people at the local watering hole. And a sexy foreign dude. Double ooh, la la!
And here it is, the great Temple Bul-guk-sa!! BEHOLD! Oh, and Sexy Foreign Dude again.
After walking around alot, we decided to move on the next attraction. There was a hiking trail we could take for 2.2km (about a mile?), or a bus. I demanded the bus because I was hot, sweaty, and had a sinking feeling the trail was completely uphill.
AND I WAS RIGHT! You know those movies that show people driving on scary curvy roads with sharp drop-offs if you make one wrong move? Yeah, that was what we took a bus on. Oi vey, uphill was an understatement for what this was---more like CURVY VERTICAL ROAD OF DEATH. I'm so glad we took the bus, with my luck I would have tripped, started rolling the hill and that would be it. No more Christina. I could hear the news headline already--"Female Foreigner Takes the Bul-guk-sa Plunge After Tripping Over a... Pebble?" 
So we made it to our next attraction, Seokguram Grotto. Long walking trail, followed by 98759827459872 stone steps WITH NO RAILING to walk up to the grotto. It's pretty neat, a giant Buddha carved out of granite. 
I hijacked this picture from Wikipedia because we weren't allowed to take photos inside the grotto.
And here are some photos that I did take. 
When you leave the grotto, there's a place to write messages and I guess people just leave them for others to read. Here are some that I thought were worthy of my camera.
By the time we finished at Seokguram Grotto, it was too late to visit anything else. We were exhausted anyway, after all the walking and sweating and touristy-ness. We plan to visit again to see more sites. I'm particularly excited about this: 
Cheomseongdae is an astronomical observatory in GyeongjuSouth Korea. Cheomseongdae means star-gazing tower in Korean. Cheomseongdae is the oldest surviving observatories in East Asia, and one of the oldest scientific installations on Earth. It dates to the 7th century to the time of kingdom of Silla, which had its capital in Gyeongju.
Ah, so that was Gyeongju in a nutshell. Well, half of it anyway. Okay, maybe one-third. But still! Stay tuned for more updates from your favorite waegookin (Korean for foreigner) blogger!



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