Friday, July 29, 2016

Cycling Korea 2016: Day 11 - Daegu To Gyeongju Sites

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Cycling Korea 2016: Day 11 - Daegu To Gyeongju Sites
Tour of South Korea : Day 11, 14th June 2016
Bus Travel Distance- km.
Cycling Distance- 22.13 km.     Level: Easy
Time : 8:40am to 10:00pm.     | Bus Travel Time : approx. 1hr.      | Cycling Time : 11hrs 20min
Total Time Taken : 14hrs 20mins (including breakfast, intercity bus ride, checking into Hanuk, lunch, dinner, visits to parks, traditional village, museum, palace, rests, getting directions & photo opps).

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Route Recommendations :
1. Right is Right!
- Korea traffic is left-hand drive. For those coming from right-hand drive countries always do remember to ride on the right-hand side... i.e. Right is right! Same thing applies when crossing the rode, take note that traffic is approaching from left! Sounds confusing, it actually isn't, just take while to get use to it.
- Do be careful at un-signalised zebra-crossing, drivers often do not stop for pedestrians to cross.

2. Ride Conditions
- The cycling route was fairly flat and shade with pavements to ride along at the town centre and some boardwalk along the way to Donggung Palace and the Gyeongju National Museum.
- The weather was cool at 24°C to 27°C day time and dipping down to about 21°C in the evening.

3. Bringing Bikes Onto Korean Trains & Buses
    Full-sized bicycles are allowed onto the first and last coach of Korean trains on weekends or public holidays. Folding bikes are allowed onto the trains at any time.
    For intercity buses, our bike were put into the luggage hold. There was no necessity to bag them. The bus fare from Daegu to Gyeongju was 4,900KRW per head with a travel time of close to an hour. There are actually two buildings at the Dong Daegu Dongyang Express Bus Terminal, each serve buses that go to different destinations so make sure you are at the right one. The one with buses heading to Gyeongju is on the left if facing the buildings from the main road.

4. Points of Interest
- Tumuli Park (GPS: 35.83957, 129.21085).
Gyochon Traditional Village (GPS: 35.82975, 129.21466).
Buhnwangsa Pagoda (GPS: 35.84055, 129.23364).
Gyeongju National Museum (GPS: 35.82939, 129.2279).
Cheomseongdae & surrounding park (GPS: 35.83468, 129.21906).
Donggun Palace & Anapji Pond (GPS: 35.83471, 129.22695).

5. Food
- Breakfast was at a restaurant within the Dong Daegu Dongyang Express Bus Terminal (GPS: 35.87676, 128.62849).
- Lunch at the Wongjo Kongguk Restaurant (경주원조콩국), one that served healthy food base on beans & tofu (GPS: 35.83339, 129.21474). 41,000KRW for the five of us.
- Dinner at a 24-hr shop run by ajumas (Korean aunties) at the new town section of Gyeongju (GPS: 35.84306, 129.20724).

6. Accommodations
    Accommodations was 2 nights at the Hanok Sodamjeong (GPS: 35.83447, 129.20767) at the old town centre of Gyeongju at 60,000KRW per room per night.

7. Phone Sim Cards
For staying in touch with each other, it will be good to get local sim-cards. At the Incheon International Airport pre-paid sim card can be surprisingly obtained from a convenience store at the first floor for 29,000 KRW with a 1 gig data, 100 minutes of call time. A lady working for the phone company waits outside at the benches to help set up and activate the line, and presto! within minutes it's done.
    Or one can pre-order online through mobile providers such as Evergreen EGsim and collect at their outlet at the airport. They have several plans to select from.


The previous day, we had a good day discovering the nooks of Daegu; from chicken alleys, to shopping streets, to an art street and even a herbal market. Today we leave the city and head for Gyeongju for another exciting and full fun-packed day; see Gyeongju is a living UNESCO Heritage Site town.


Note: Zoom out to view bus route from Daegu to Gyeongju.
Ride Route - Daegu>>by bus>Gyeongju>Hanok Sadomjeong>Tumuli Park>Gyochon Traditional Village>Bunhwangsa Pagoda>Gyeongju National Museum>Cheomseongdae>Donggung Palace>Hanok Sadomjeong.

We started off the day with a quick ride to the Dong Daegu Express Bus Terminal, within the station is an eatery where we had breakfast which was okay only (i.e. "more to fill the stomach okay"). After loading our bikes onto the intercity bus, we hopped on and happily headed for Gyeongju.

As we arrived in Gyeongju, the first thing that impressed us was that most of the buildings are old - traditionally old. Even the newer buildings were designed to have that old look, like this Starbucks outlet.

At the bus terminal, we quickly unpacked our bikes and checked the bus schedule for Busan (where we will be heading in a couple of days) and rode out for our home-stay. En route we stopped at a bakery, one selling traditional Korean pastries. We bought a couple of types; one was flat like appam, while the other called Gyeongju Bread looked like tau sar pneah but with flowery motifs on top.

Okay, first a look at riding in Gyeongju:
Gyeongju is separated into two parts, the heritage section and the new town section. At the heritage section's commercial area there were wide pavements to ride along.

At the heritage residential area, traffic was light and it's easy to ride on the roads to slowly explore the area and it's narrow lanes.

Along Wonhwa-ro, on the way to the Donggung Palace and the museum, were wide boardwalks shared paths.

11:20am - We arrive at our stay in Gyeongju - the Hanok Sadomjeong, where will be staying for two nights.
No more love motels! We are pampering ourselves in staying in this traditional hanok - one with thin wooden/paper walls, sleeping on heated pine wood Ondlol floors. 

After a quick rest, we headed out for the day's adventure; our first destination, the Tumuli ParkThe park is officially known as the Daereungwon Tomb Complex; yes it is a burial ground but there was nothing scary about it. In fact it was a nice park with shady landscaped walkways.

The tombs are majestic tumuli (i.e. a mound of earth or stone raised over a grave or graves) looked majestic. Turfed bright green with no trees atop, the larger ones were more than a 150 metres across and 10 metres high.
The large ones were hollow inside with burial chambers within. The above called Cheonmachong had an entrance for visitors to go inside.

Like most of the larger tumuli, the inside of the Cheonmachong was hollow. A central stone rubble wall held up a timber-domed roof,above which a fairly thick layer of soil were piled - that is why the larger mounds do not have trees growing on top. Within the wall was a wooden chamber where the coffin of the king was placed. At the perimeter walls were artefacts on display, these artefacts and the burial coffin were actually replicas; the real items were on display at the Gyeongju National Museum.

One of the display was an impressive golden crown from that Korea's Three Kingdoms era.
(... read more of the Tumuli Park)

Next was the Gyochon Traditional Village, established in 682 AD it was Korea's first Gukhak (state-operated acadamy). These days, the place is more like a theme park, as no one lives here. It had houses in traditional Korean architecture; some were mock-up residential houses while others were trade houses (like potters, millers, etc.), there was also an archer's shop. But we where there on a weekday, it was quiet with most of the shops closed.

With the place almost to ourselves, we had freedom to pose in funny but memorable positions, like the one above at a stone see-saw...

... and this smoochy one at the potter's shop.

Fenn & Anne with their love for cute doors, standing in front of a small wooden door, it's rather low - perhaps Snow White's seven dwarves had migrated here?
Okay, jokes aside, no one lives within the village but on the perimeter were houses of long time residents like that of the famed rice wine maker Choi Geok-seon who first brewed wine six centuries back during the reign of the Joseon King Sukjong. Then there was one called Choe's House (note not Jo's house), which was the residence of Choe Wan, a renown figure from Korea's recent past, he was one of the patriotic fighters who fought for the independence from harsh Japanese rule to gain sovereignty for Korea.

3:00pm - Time for an overdue lunch! This time we at the Wongjo Kongguk Restaurant (경주원조콩국), a restaurant that has been around for decades. They served healthy food based on beans & tofu; the pancake above is not made from rice or wheat flour but from biji, which is the left over pulp after making soy milk & tofu. We also had Ground Black Bean Soup. This unique warm thick soup came with with chewey glutinous doughnuts (which I liked very much) with sprinklings of black sesame seed and was sweetened with honey.
(... read more about Wongjo Kongguk Restaurant)

Cycling further to the outskirts of town was the Bunhwangsa Pagoda (which means Fragrant Emperor Temple) which was also built during the Silla era of Korea. The temple was built in 634 AD under the auspices of Queen Seondeok. Today the temple is still used by a small group of worshippers but in its heyday, the temple covered several acres and was one of the four main temples of the Silla Kingdom used by the state to ask the Buddha to bless the kingdom. Other than the tower, there are several buildings withing the compound, one of which is a small temple with a golden Buddha statue.

A statue of Buddha can be seen inside the pagoda through a narrow slit entrance-way.

Here's Anne & Fenn posing in front of another interesting door; this one is in front of an adjacent temple building. Most temples or shrines would have a donation box for visitors to put in cash donations, giving alms could earn one good karma brownie points. I did that at many temples and hoped to win a new Brompton bike..... Oops.... one should just donate and not hope for anything otherwise the good karma won't come!

5:40pm - We reached our next destination, the Gyeongju National Museum just in the nick of, we were a bit late... er... rather late actually, as the museum closes at six.

The museum has several buildings, but without time to spare we just zoomed in on the main one. Inside there were the originals of the crowns, etc. - that of the replicas we saw at the Tumuli Park. There's even a video showing a king dressed up with the crown and other adornments.

These swords from the past reminded me of one of my favourite Korean period movies, The Shadowless Sword. It's a great movie with a pretty heroine too.

The museum had some other interesting displays like these pottery ducks...

.... and these monkey statues. For some reason in past, the Koreans were fascinated by these two animals.

Well, that was about as much as we could see before being shooed out reluctantly by the curators. Time to view the outside! Within the garden compound were several statues of Buddha.

And at the rear and side compounds were some stupas.

Riding pass Wolseong Fortress, we stopped for a quick look. It is still being archaeologically excavated and fenced up, so there was not much to look at (see the top right corner of the photo, that's where the excavation are). We did pop into the ice storage room that was built with large stones and mounded over, the Korean kings sure know how to live in style.

Nearby, another old structure was being rebuilt, the Woljeong Bridge (Woljeonggyo).

It was half completed, when finished it would look even more impressive with two entrance pavilions as can be seen in the above poster.

With time to spare, we rode around the park surrounding the Cheomseongdae Observatroy. It was a nice place to ride with lots of colourful flowers around; the soft earthen paths had also been covered with hemp-fibre mats to make walking/cycling around easier.

By 7:00pm we were at the Donggung Palace, this is the best time to view just as the sun is setting. When we arrived, the lights were already on but the sky was still bright.

The view is best at dusk, the sky is still blue and not to dark. The roofs of the buildings are visible silhouetted against the sky and below the spot lights highlighted the building and reflect them onto the Anapji Pond. There building here are rebuilt based on historical records of their design and materials used; three buildings out of 26 have been rebuilt, they are Building #1, #3 & #5.

The highlighting spotlight made the building glow conspicuously, standing out grandly.

Even as the sky got darker, they still look great!
(... read more of the Donggung Palace)

8:15pm - Happy with our Gyeongju first day's busy but remarkable bike-tour, we headed of to the town's newer area for dinner. At this time of the evening, traffic was light and we could safely cycle on the roads.
Dinner was at a 24-hour foodie joint, run by some ajumas (Korean aunties), even their logo has an older lady dressed in a Hanbok. Hey! They have been around since 1978, back then they must have been young, pretty ladies; come to think about it, back then I was a young, handsome guy WITH a head full of hair *grins*

Our route back took us by the Cheomseongdae again, at night shining in a yellow light, it looked so much better ...

Ahead was a glorious view of the Tumuli Park, serenely glowing bright green against the dark night sky.
What a soothing sight to end the day with.


his is page 11 of a 15-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
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A video by Sin of Day 11 of our South Korea tour, riding around Gyeongju - a living UNESCO Heritage List City .


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