Last weekend was a long one here in Korea-land because it was the lunar New Year, so Harding and I planned a nice little weekend escape. We booked a love hotel in Gyeongju and hatched a plan for sneaking Daisy around (the pack that will forever be part of our history here in Korea – poor pug). The weather forecast wasn’t spectacular but we were damned if we would let that stop us! Sadly, Friday I started to come down with a little nasty something. But it was too late to cancel our hotel without losing money so we forged ahead and left bright and mid-morning on Saturday 🙂
Less than three hours later we arrived in cute Gyeongju. At first there was nothing of considerable note, except for the absence of as much traffic and humans as we have come to expect from Korea. Upon closer inspection, however, we realized the rolling hills all over town and in all of the parks were burial mounds! I had known to expect burial mounds in Gyeongju but I had no idea there were so many and that they created the backdrop of the city. They honestly did make for some nice walking, but it was a weird feeling to stroll amongst a bunch of tombs. We were able to go inside one where they had recreated what the burial areas looked like, and were showcasing some of the types of jewelry and weaponry that would have been buried with these Shilla era kings…but alas, we were not allowed to take pictures inside. I didn’t want to risk the ire of the spirits by not conforming to the rules so you’ll just have to imagine it for yourselves.
We did a lot of walking that afternoon and by the time we had seen an ancient observatory, burial fields, burial mounds, a cultural “area”, and what would in spring be a big, beautiful field of flowers, we headed for some food. And got robbed. Ok, not literally. But we paid 15,000 won (about $15) for ONE squid pancake. It’s totally common for the prices not to be readily apparent in the typical little Korean restaurants, so we were not alarmed. We know at this point to expect about 7,000 for most basic meals. Maybe a little more if we’re in a touristy area or if it’s larger than normal portions. But 15! We were outraged. The pancake wasn’t even our meal! Harding had ordered it mostly to try and in the end, that meal cost us more than most “western” meals in Korea do. Suffice to say, I have since rekindled my interest in learning Korean so that I can ask ahead of time, or at the very least argue a point! Fortunately, being ripped off (or at least feeling so) is pretty rare here, so we shrugged it off and washed it down with some champagne and orange juice in the hotel room. Ballers, I tell ya.
The next morning I was feeling wretched. I imagine the couple glasses of champagne did not help matters much, despite telling myself that at least the OJ offered up a good dose of Vitamin C. We did go see Bulgulksa Temple – a World Heritage Site – and, I had read, a sight not to be missed. It was pretty cool, very pretty, and quite large…though none of the temples here in Korea seem to really blow us away. I thought maybe it was because I am not particularly spiritual or reverent and so maybe it was lost on me. But Harding, who is more spiritual if we can say that, is also quite unmoved by them. Architecturally, they’re nice. And the paintings are elaborate and gorgeous. But beyond that I am rarely moved more than to take a few photos, peek in at the Buddhas, and head on to the next thing. This one was honestly no exception. So we hopped the bus with the pug and attempted to get to Anap Pond…but failed miserably. We didn’t ask the driver to indicate when to get off and we didn’t hear the recording say the name, so we ended up right back at the hotel instead. I was really starting to feel awful at this stage though, so we decided a nap would do some good and maybe we could strike out again later to find the pond.
I spent the next 36 hours in that hotel room, in bed. It was awful. I have never had a fever like the one I had on Sunday. It was so awful that I was actually a little scared – and I am the person who pretty well never goes to the doctor because it is my firm belief that every time I bother, I just end up feeling worse for having gotten out of bed at all. The weekend was very nearly a full bust. I hate that we spent money to spend time in a hotel when being home would have been so much more comfortable. And I really hate that I spent an entire long weekend in the throes of sickness and thus wasted a perfect opportunity to see some things!
Gyeongju really does have a lot to offer though, so we will head back in the spring when we can rent bicycles and traipse around this odd little city of burial mounds, folk crafts, burial fields, flowers, kite flying, and teddy bear museums!