We decided to take a day tour to Gyeongju Korea which is in the Southwest part of Korea. As we were staying in Pohang, it was only a 30 minute bus ride to get to the tour. There are buses and trains that take people from Seoul to Gyeongju easily. We took the Gyeongju City Tour as it had pretty good ratings by foreigners.
Gyeongju is a great place to visit as it has a large amount of heritage sites and old ruins.
Gyeongju was the ancient capital of the Silla Millennium. Some of Gyeongju’s most important relics are Seokguram Grotto, Bulguksa Temple, Poseokjeong Pavilion’s original site, Heavenly Horse Tomb (Cheonma-chong), Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory, and Anapji Pond. With a total of 396 registered cultural properties, Gyeongju holds 5.5% of Korea’s cultural properties, and 30% of the cultural properties of North Gyeongsang Province.
The particular tour we went on was Course 1 for the Silla Historic Areas for 14,000 won + 4,000 in admission fees (collected prior to departure)+ 9,000 won lunch buffet.
- Singyeongju Station (08:50)
- Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal (09:00)
- Bomun Lake Resort (passing through)
- Bulguksa Temple
- Silla Arts and Science Museum
- Bunhwangsa Temple
- Tomb of General Kim Yushin
- Cheonmachong (Heavenly Horse Tomb)
- Gyeongju National Museum (when closed: Wolseong)
- Donggung Wolji(Anapji Pond)
- Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory
- Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal (17:10)
- Singyeongju Station (17:30)
We arrived at the Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal late, so we missed our tour bus. Good thing that tour office was across the street so they could help us get to the bus at Bulguksa Temple. We took public transit to meet up with the tour. It was a bit stressful, but it’s good M was there to do all the talking.
The tour goes to 8 locations and before we get off we are shown an introduction video about the location in 3 language – Korean, English, and Japanese.
You can choose to stick with the tour guide (only spoken in Korean) or wander off on your own. Do note, there are NO explanation on what time to come back in english. A lot of the foreigners had to ask around for a translation to make sure they come back to the bus on time.
The temple area was quite beautiful and had a large enough space to roam around. It is quite far from the city centre, so going on this tour was worth it. Of all the locations of the tour, this place had the best scenery.
Coming on a weekday, this place was crowded with lots of students on field trips. It was packed and so many kids being loud and running around. It did disrupt the whole experience of this place. There was also some construction going on.
Silla Arts and Science Museum
Silla Arts and Science Museum is a 2 story museum with a basement level with six exhibition halls. Its all indoors and isn’t that large. It was also packed with kids, so M and I just skipped the museum and walked outside to look at the pottery stores and grabbed a drink.
The temple is in a small area and it features the Bunhwangsa temple part of the Old Silla era.It was built in the year of 634, so it’s quite old and you can see the aging of the structure.
The other item to look at is their giant bell. You can ring it for a 1,000 won donation.
We didn’t spend much time at this location, but the structure were nice to look at.
Lunch at Myeongwon Shabu Shabu
We stopped at Myeongwon Shabu Shabu for a buffet lunch. It was 9,000 won after taxes. I don’t see too many all you can eat places in Korea, so you know its definitely a place thats just for tourists. We saw tons of tour buses in the parking lot too.
It’s a large space, so you know it’s a perfect location to bring a large amount of people in one sitting. Located in the middle of the restaurant is the long table of food. there’s also signs located around the restaurant saying something about 5,000. There’s no english signs, but basically it says that if you don’t finish the food on your plate, you are charged 5,000 won.
Once a new tour arrives, you can see 30+ people hurrying to get a plate of food.
There’s rice and kimbab.
Nigiri Sushi. You can really see the vibrant green wasabi underneath.
Different types of banchan, which is essentially side dishes.
Different vegetables and kimchi.
The hot items had japchae, bulgogi and some other meat dishes.
The last bit of the table had soup, noodles, and fruits.
The food is alright, but isn’t the best Korean food to represent the area.
Anapji Pond is located in Gyeongju National Park and its very beautiful. The pond was part of the palace complex in ancient Silla. It was a lovely place to walk around after lunch. There is a long path that goes around the 3 different structures.
Gyeongju National Museum
This museum houses many ancient relics from the Silla kingdom. There are various building located in the museum, but it was very packed with several groups of students.
Cheomseongdae Observatory in Gyeongju
It’s a small area and the observatory looks like a chimney. It was used as a star-gazing tower and the oldest surviving observatory in East Asia. There’s really not much to do except to stare at this and take photos.
Across from the observatory, there are these hills in the field. There are actually thousands of these spread out all around Gyeongju. They are actually graves for royalty in the Silla Dynasty.
We then headed to Cheonmachong Tomb to look at Tomb #155. The king is still unknown, but you can take a look at the surrounding area and go into the tomb to see what it looks like inside.
There’s no pictures taken inside, but there are just artifacts lining the walls and also a recreation of the burial site.
Tomb of General Kim Yushin
This was the last stop of the day was to another tomb. This one is a little but different as it has stone carvings with 12 zodiac characters.
Overall, the tour was alright, but it was really hard to understand the cultural significance of these locations. The video did describe a bit about each location, but it just isn’t the same. One thing I liked about the tour was that it would be easy to get around to the locations with the tour rather than getting there yourself.
Since I’ve already visited the historical sites in Seoul, I felt like I’ve seen very similar buildings. The one thing new to me were those tombs.