Going around Gyeongju Part 2: a Vegan dinner, Anapji Pond twinkling in the darkness and saying goodbye to Anna

Dinner was at the ‘Healing Kitchen’, a farmhouse style restaurant with a garden area brandishing twinkling fairy lights and a wooden bench in front of a heart shaped stencil. A weird Vegan/Romantic coagulate vibe but once inside, the restaurant swung back to being instead quaint and pretty in pastel, as was reminiscent of the restaurants we visited in Seoul.

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The heart stencil in question    To quote: love is to receive a glimpse of heaven. Isn’t that chocolate?

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The pastel interior

Food was mixed. The mushroom starter was shared amongst us and I wasn’t crazy on it, but I very much enjoyed my spicy tomato pasta (though, like all Korean food, anticipate a strong kick of flavour).

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Mushroom starter                                             Tomato pasta

Our next stop was a return to Anapji Pond; Anna and her parents were keen to take us back but we weren’t initially to sure why.

And then we arrived to this:

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I know right- don’t you just want some club anthems? Disco lights illuminating the pond.

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And that wasn’t all:

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So Anna and I wanted to express how we felt… :

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Roaming away from the pond, coloured lights are still illuminating certain areas of vegetation:

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And then there was time for one last shadow photo:

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My travel companion, Anna and I

Gamsahamnida Anna!

Because the next morning, three would go back to two and my travel companion and I were about to experience the biggest culture shock to date (for me anyway, it’s unfair to second guess how he felt).

Bye bye Gyeonju, Daegu and South Korea. And hello Beijing, China!

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Going around Gyeongju: Part 1- (partially) dawdling during the day

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Being only 57km (approximately 35 miles) from Daegu, today we decided to take a city tour around Gyeongju. Anna’s dad kindly dropped us off at the coach stop where our tour was heading out from, and we soon set off for our first stop- a traditional Korean tomb which was the burial site of King Taejong Muyeorwang (the 29th ruler of the Silla Kingdom). This was one of two tomb sites we visited around Gyeongju.

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The tomb where the king was buried- to put it into perspective, the circumference of the tomb’s mound was 114m and it’s height is 8.5m.

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A tortoise shaped pedestal near the tomb

I labelled this post as partially dawdling because it was at attraction 1 where my travel companion, Anna and I fell behind the rest of the tour group 🙂 we caught them up again, but sometimes you just have that desire to view an attraction without lots of background discussion and I think that’s how we felt earlier on in the day.

Next the coach took us to Tumuli in Hwangnam-ri, Gyeongju. These are a set of tombs scattered around the Hwangnam-dong area, some of which are believed to have been created during the early Silla period.

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The grounds surrounding the Silla tombs

The main tomb in the grounds was nicknamed Cheonmachong due to a flying horse painted on the pendant of a saddle excavated from the tomb. The inside of the tomb was full of history and other artefacts retrieved from the tomb but unfortunately, photography was prohibited in there (and to be fair, I felt weird about breaking the rules somewhere honouring a dead person).  So below is a picture of the entrance to the tomb instead:

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The next stop was my favourite, but one that really comes alive at night (you’ll see what I mean in part 2). Anapji Pond is an artificially constructed landscape that boasts natural beauty- kind of oxymoronic but somehow it works. Built during the 14th year of King Munmu, it was destroyed but excavated in 1974. With some of the original features remaining and historical records, the garden has been restored and is very picturesque:

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Next we went to see the Seokguram Grotto and the Bulguksa Temple.

The Grotto was constructed by prime minister Gim Dae-Seong in 751, the 10th year of the Silla King Gyeondeok.

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Climbing to the Grotto and a water feature you are meant to drink from for luck and longevity

The Seokguram Grotto consists of an antechamber and round main hall, in which sits a large Buddha carved in granite. Again, I was unable to take a photo here but it was tough to see the Buddha properly anyway since it was busy and the statue sits behind a glass wall.

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A prayer room and being able to write wishes to loved ones on slabs, which was a nice touch

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Building works slightly ruined the ambience of the place though

Our final stop was the Bulguksa Temple, which was surrounded by some beautiful lakes and vegetation:

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Above images of areas surrounding the temple and below, the temple itself

We ended the tour part of the day being dropped in an unfamiliar hotel. But as we later found out Gyeongju at night is incredibly different to Gyeongju during the day 🙂

Dog-walking and discovery in Daegu- the personal side of travel

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Why travel? Such a multitude of reasons exist. On a personal level, one reason ranked especially highly for me- I wanted to actually experience where my friends came from, a step up from only hearing about where they come from. With travel you are tangibly there; you can look and hear and feel your surroundings, which is amazing because everyone, to some extent, is shaped by their upbringing. And I was incredibly heartened by how warm and welcoming both my travel companion’s family and Anna’s family were (it definitely explains part of why both are such wonderful people).

And so onto Daegu… there will be two sides to this blog post. First, what we got up to on our incredibly relaxed first day in Daegu and then onto some of the Korean customs I learnt whilst having dinner with Anna’s family (I checked with her thoroughly so I haven’t made any silly errors).

Our first day in Daegu was perfect; we were tired but greeted by Anna and her father at the airport. We got to her apartment and met her mother and Anna’s two babies- her dogs Marron and Noir.

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Noir sensing the presence of visitors             Marron being adorable…

I’m very much an animal person so it was a treat to be able to play with the dogs. Anna suggested we take the dogs out for a walk to Gangjeongbo, a relatively new landmark in Daegu which is significant in its role serving as a meeting point for the Nakdonggang and Geumhogang Rivers.

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 Fun fact: the name “Gangjeong” is derived from the past belief that there was sperm on top of the river.

With Marron in a blue collar and Noir looking cute in pink, the three of us walked around the park and had a catch up.

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Later that night, we visited Dongseongro- a shopping area in Daegu, with Anna and her brother. Alongside browsing in a number of shops, my travel companion, Anna and her brother had famous Korean style fried chicken which I’m told was really nice (I can’t vouch for it personally as a vegetarian but I’ll take their word for it).

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 On night two in Daegu, Anna’s mum made a spectacular vegetarian meal consisting of Korean dishes including Kimchi (or kimchee), which are spicy fermented vegetables, a gorgeous noodle dish, mushrooms in a batter and sweet and sour style sauce and rice whereby you add vegetables and chilli-paste. My tolerance for spice is compared to everyone else at the table was low so I went easy on the chilli paste.

I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t want to seem intrusive at the meal. However, the food looked beautiful, an array of different colours decorating the table. Another thing I learnt about was some Korean customs that are upheld during meals. If you are younger than your companions, you clink your glass under half of where your companion is holding their glass (if I’ve articulated that clearly). In addition, if you are drinking with someone older than you, you face away from them and cover your mouth with your hand while you drink. Finally, an empty glass is perceived as insensitive so people continuously check each other’s glasses and fill them with drink. This is usually the responsibility of the youngest (which, at that dinner, would have been me). But I can’t actually remember if I poured or whether Anna’s family took pity on me and my former ignorance of customs and helped me out. Either way, it was incredibly interesting to learn that these were the traditions and norms which surrounded a typical meal in a South Korean household. It was a lovely start to our stint in Daegu, with more exploration still to come…

Jubilant in Jeju Part 2; having an a-maze-ing time at Kimnyong Jeju Maze Park

65% ring the bell. 35% don’t ring the bell and leave the way they came out. 5% need the Rescue Squad…

We were determined; having just explored the Lava Tubes, we spontaneously decided to enter the Maze Park and prove that our internal navigation skills were strong enough for us to reach the centre. There is a cost for enter the park, but it is very cheap at only 3,300 won for an adult (only £2 each) and less for a child or elder, with under 7s going free.

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Upon entry into the maze, you see a water feature and well-maintained gardens (see first two pics below). There is also a brightly coloured café selling ice cream, coffee, juices and other refreshments. People with cat allergies should be warned- whilst the maze itself is absent of these furry friends, the area outside the souvenir shop at the start of the maze attraction (near the ticket office) is full of cats. So if you like cats- great, if not- having purchased the ticket, avoid this area.

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This was definitely a family attraction, but my travel companion and I are big kids a lot of the time anyway so it suited us just fine. I was allocated the task of plotting our route to the centre of the maze. I stood to the side with a pencil in hand, methodologically drawing out the route- from the central bell we needed to ring, to where we were standing. A 5 year old boy walking past gave us an odd look- clearly bemused by the lengths we were going to try and fall into the 65% that succeed in ringing the bell (actually, it was more our desperation to avoid falling into the 5% who need the rescue squad). My travel companion and I agreed this statistic may well be exaggerated because we thought it would be very difficult to not either reach the centre or leave the way you came in, but it is a fun fact nonetheless.

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The maze is no Hampton Court (a maze in England which is massive) but it is a lot of fun. The other tourists seem to be smiling all the way through and we acquired a small group who decided to follow us a few hedgerows from the bell when we had figured out how to get to the centre.

Upon completion of the maze, the route out is incredibly simple. It is a quick attraction, which could take anywhere from 10-15 minutes (if you were abnormally good at figuring it out) upwards. I would hazard a guess that most people would spend half an hour to 45 minutes there.

I’m not sure whether we would have gone there were it not for our visit to the Manjangul Lava Cave but if you find yourself around that way, swing by! For us- a large part of travel was the emotion associated with the attraction. And whilst other attractions we have done are undoubtedly more cultural, the sense of achievement and feelings of childlike happiness you leave with after visiting the Maze Park more than justify the visit to the place.