Korea Roadtrip 2015: Gyeongju, Temples, Grotto, Forests and MORE!

After a quiet evening at home where I packed and prepped for my trip (HAHAHA–try again, do you know me at all?), I woke up bright and early and started my Korea Roadtrip 2015 with Gyeongju! Since Gyeongju is quite close to Busan, I hopped the metro to Nopo bus station  and bought a bus ticket for only 5,000W. When I arrived, I sweated through all my clothes, located my awesome Couchsurfing host Evan and proceeded to eat my weight in Korean convenience store snacks (no, it’s not as terrible as you’d think…Korean snacks are healthier than American Crappy-Ass Treats).
Kimbap, yogurt, and pastry!
A quick aside here: I want to mention my Gyeongju Couchsurfing host. As an avid Couchsurfer, I love to give blogging props to great hosts! Evan is a Korean dude who’s planning to start his own kick-ass tour guide and assorted awesomeness business for non-Korean tourists. To get practice he’s started hosting mucho Couchsurfers and showing them all over his amazing city. Since Gyeongju is basically ALL UNESCO Heritage Site, there’s a lot to see. So, on top of having a great place to stay for my time in Gyeongju, I was also treated to a free guided tour of the area!
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First stop of the Gyeongju Adventure involved Evan leading me and 2 other travelers across the city to catch a bus (bus #700) out to the Bulguksa temple.
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We wandered through the site, took mucho pictures of everything (I will not clog this post with them–suffice to say that the temple is WAY too big to capture in one shot), dodged the scorching sun, and found a  bronze pig statue to pet! Or pretend to pet for my pictures because, damn, bronze gets HOT when it’s 100 degrees!

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We then decided to hike to the top of the mountain because why not! Remember how freaking hot it was… We started up a trail to the summit with Evan alternating between playing background music on his phone or singing loudly to scare off the chipmunks–Korean hiking survival tip #1.
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We paused for a much-needed break at the above-picture mountain spring. Korean hiking often involves public drinking fountains–usually rustic “fountains” like this one, with communal ladles included. I soaked my feet and fed almonds to the chipmunks and Evan.
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We finally staggered to the summit and hid from the sun underneath some pretty Korean lanterns–these rainbow sun-blockers appear at many temples, sometimes for festivals, sometimes just because. We then entered the Seokguram grotto, still dripping sweat. The grotto is a temple built underneath the hillside.
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Like most Korean monuments, it’s been rebuilt  a number of times. Unfortunately they did stick the gorgeous statues behind a glass barricade, because tourists have sweaty fingers and cannot be trusted. However, it was still magical and COOL inside. (The grotto and Bulguksa temple together cost about 8000W.)

After we hiked DOWN the mountain again–WHY? well the shuttles weren’t running that often–we decided to devour bibimbap and then check out the Gyeongju burial mounds.

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See that hill? It’s human-made. And there’s about 20 just like it scattered around Gyeongju.
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Because ancient Koreans decided to make their own version of the pyramids. Same exact concept: let’s bury our kings in massive tombs so the entire city can admire them from afar. Since it rains here, they got covered in grass and now taunt thousands of children (and immature adults) with their perfect-for-rolling-down hillsides.

We ended the day by heading to the beauteous viewing pond–which is the most “romantic” spot in Gyeongju, according to Evan. What was I doing there? Dodging couples and their selfie sticks, mostly.

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My second day in Gyeongju was (possibly) even hotter than the first! In the interest of self-preservation and not melting my brain, I decided to check out the museum. In case you hadn’t noticed from all the monuments and UNESCO sites, Gyeongju is a massively important historical site for Korea. Which means the museum is LOADED with cool relics, mostly from the Shilla Dynasty (57 BC – 935 AD, educate yourselves people!) The museum is also airconditioned, which made just as happy as drooling over pretty 1500-year-old jewelry.

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After museum-time, I took a siesta. Because it was still HOT AS <insert explicative>!
And then Evan took me to his work dinner at a Korean BBQ place that specialized in duck meat! Yup, duck, quack quack quack…

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I was the only Westerner there. And got to make fun conversation with the Korean guys sitting next to me–well after they’d had a few sojus. Because speaking English is scary… I got to practice my terrible Korean, mostly by listening to every one of the 30-odd people ask Evan if we were dating. Quick Korean lesson, “yo-ja chin-gu” means girlfriend

The next morning I grabbed my backpack and dodged the sun on my way to the bus terminal. It was ridiculously hot (still) and I needed to get to Pohang–because Pohang has a beach!! (And in Pohang…)

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