Monday, January 4, 2010

Korea Road Trip: Part 3

Cheomsongdae Observatory and Tombs:
After catching lunch (as you read in part 2) we were pretty tired. The previous night at the pension was spent in an overheated room. We thought we could control the ondol but that wasn't true. So it felt like a really hot jimjilbang (Sauna). To counteract this we opened up the windows and even perched the door open a little. That seemed to help and I fell asleep only later to be awoken by dogs barking nearby.

We both wanted to see more but decided to head back to the pension and take an afternoon nap. It seemed to do the charm and by 3pm we were up and ready to see a few things before the sun went down.

We decided on some historical places nearby the "downtown" area.

The Observatory:
It is interesting to know that the people who lived a long time ago were fascinated with the stars. The Silla people seemed to be included in this as they had built the Cheomsongdae Observatory.

We came to the area in which the observatory was located where there was a vast field with some tombs. To me it felt like the old kings and queens of those tombs must of been upset since it was very windy and cold.

Also what you see is the remnants of what were Silla structures.

Coming upon the observatory I realized that it seemed somewhat smaller in scale than I thought it would be. However I tried my hardest to admire it despite the harsh winds.
The tower is built out of 362 pieces of cut granite which some claim represent the 362 days of the lunar year. Some surveys of the site have indicated that there are 366 blocks.[2] It has 27 circular layers of stones (some associate it with the fact that Queen Seondeok was considered to be the 27th ruler of Silla) surmounted by a square structure. 12 of the layers are below the window level and 12 are above. There are 12 large base stones set in a square, with three stones on each side. These sets of 12 may symbolize the months of the year.

 Everything about this structure was planned out according to astronomical design, so it perhaps is more than just a monument. They say it could have been used as Silla's celestial meridian.  It was just fun to see it since I studied it in Korean Art History class. Certainly a lot more lively than the small black and white photo I had back then.
Tumuli site:

We walked away from the Observatory tower and back towards the car, where behind the parking lot was a tomb park. This site has more than 20 tombs of varying sizes and techniques.
During the making of Tumuli Park, a number of ancient tombs were investigated. These included not only stone-piled wood-lined chamber tombs, but also jar-coffin tombs, stone-lined chamber tombs, and tunnel-type tombs, revealing the various burial methods during the Shilla period.

First you go through a gate and then walk a little path through a forest. Then you come to the sloping hills of the tombs. It almost feels surreal.


With the muted brown color canvassing the tombs and the clean cut look of the grass the tombs looked like something unnatural yet still beautiful.  One couldn't help but wonder at how they were built and cared for over the years.

Cheonmachong or Heavenly Horse Tomb:

As you make your way through the park you come to one tomb that allows you to look inside, sort of like a mini museum. This is so because it was one tomb full of many treasures such as glass cups and bronze shoes.

The stuff in the display cases weren't the actual relics and instead were replicas. To see the actual relics one had to go to the Gyeongju National Museum, which we did and I will post on this later.

We moved on out of the tomb and strolled through the park back to our car.

This was a statue in the parking lot, which made a great golden reflection in the setting sun's rays.

Later on we moved into downtown Gyeongju, which consisted of your typical narrow streets here in Korea. There were many clothing and cell phone shops, nothing out of the ordinary. We stopped at one little cafe for some hot chocolate and rested for a while before dinner.


For dinner we had ssambap, which was basically a lot of sidedishes and some meat to wrap in a lettuce leaf.


It was an overall fun day and so far I was loving the countryside sprawl of Gyeongju. Stay tuned for Part 4 where we go to more sights such as a famous Buddha and more relics.


  1. wow! your trip to gyongju looks exactly like mine. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who was struggling to be impressed by the observatory. I had expected so much more from something so famous...

  2. This was a statue in the parking lot, which made a great golden reflection in the setting sun's rays.

    You do know that statue is there for reasons other than to make pretty reflections, right? It marks a pretty important archaeological discovery ... *rolls eyes*

  3. Well they marked it with a statue that reflects the suns rays...better than something that just sits there and doesn't look shiny. pardon me

  4. Your photos are beautiful!
    The new camera has great resolution...the colors and clarity are spectacular! I'm sure you're enjoying it.

    I'm amazed that your friend is also into visiting all these historical, religious sites also! Is this his interest also or just a good friend & sport touring you around for your interests?

    ps. Don't think awoken is an English word! try "awakened by...."!

  5. I'm just disappointed to see how often you pull out a reference to your Korean Art class like it's a badge of honor but never seem to apply any knowledge when writing your posts.

    It wasn't that long ago that you wrote about not knowing whether or not Korea had a constitution and using that to segue into a comment regarding how 'foreigners' don't really know that much about Korea after all. Here you had a chance to visit - and write about - a site associated with one of Korea's foundation myths and the origins behind one of the country's most common surnames. And what sort of treatment does it get? "Ouhh, it's a shiny statue!!11!one" For future reference, please keep in mind that just because you choose ignorance doesn't mean that everyone else here does.

  6. Hmm I seem to be completely guilty of even knowing what you are talking about. I suppose if I had taken a few more steps and looked at the statue and read what was on it I wouldn't be in this mess. Or if I had spent the time to research the spot.

    Certainly the I am not the only one guilty of blogging in the "This is what I saw" format. I thought I tried to look up the information about an object or relic and provide accurate information. Instead of spitting out the memories I have of Korean Art Class, I would rather check first my memories and recall them through research then write about it.

    I thought sharing how I felt when seeing the statue glow in the golden sun would relate how it made my trip to that area feel majestic and special. Someone made that in honor of what you are talking about but also chose to use metal as their medium. This caused it to glow when the sun hit its surface. As an artist (before historian) I couldn't help but admire this sight.

    I admit my ignorance and shame in previous posts. I admit I contradict myself nearly all the time. I admit I should write however you feel is appropriate when writing about historical artifacts.

    In some sense I feel that the way I write about historical sights and artifacts is a lot better than maybe just some one saying...

    "I think this was some kind of Buddha in some kind of temple...ah well it was fun."

    And if I leave out information, kind folks like yourself, can provide more insight. This is a blog for Pete's sake it isn't the allmighty bible on truth.

    If I have come across as the one who-knows-it-all then I am sorry.

    In the end I think although my writing may be blog is still better off in the Kblogosphere then the ones where people post pictures of hapless Drunk Korean people and make a joke about it.


  7. I just want to add that I understand your frustration and hope that my previous comment shows I take your input seriously. I don't really want to come off sounding ignorant and vehement.

    Please know I respect Korean culture but of course should not taught my Asian Art History studies like some kind of badge of honor.

  8. Joy, I feel a little awkward mentioning this, but you may want to put more thought into organizing your thoughts before replying. There are a couple of instances in your last two comments where I'm not sure what you're trying to say. The final sentence in your last reply and the first sentence in the one above it are good examples of what I mean.

    Using a "This is what I saw" format isn't the problem. As you said, there are plenty of other people who use that same approach. Similarly, there are no rules on how one 'should' be blogging -- whether in Korea or elsewhere. The issue I have is how you choose to put down other foreigners in Korea by saying they (we) don't really know much about the country.

    Do you ever read Gusts of Popular Feeling? Robert Koehler's blog? Considering the displays of cultural ignorance in your writing - both in regard to contemporary social mores and within a historical context - it's really grating to see how poorly you think about others who are making an effort to better-understand Korea.

    If you want to devote your blog to pretty pictures and whatnot that's fine -- there are plenty of Korea-related photo blogs out there. However, don't go around saying "us foreigners are pretty dumb, we really need to change that" and then sit in complacency. This doesn't mean you have to turn your blog into a mini-history channel, but you would do well to take a closer look at what you write here. Either step up the quality of your writing or stop being an ass toward those of us who are making an effort.

    You complain about foreigners not knowing about Korean culture but then ask to meet your boyfriend's family. You complain about your school not having you there to "explain yourself" during your annual evaluation but didn't think to work out any issues before then? You complain about Koreans not having yards after four months of living in Seoul but ignore the fact that downtown Paris, London, and Tokyo are not exactly filled with them, either. You're trying to have your cake and eat it, too.

    You write:

    I admit I contradict myself nearly all the time.

    You don't think that's a problem? If you're contradicting yourself nearly all the time doesn't that suggest that you don't put any thought into your writing? Is that the image you want to give your readers -- someone who can't be bothered with proper spelling and word use, who doesn't care about consistency, and who is willing to slag off others while not having a clue herself? People laugh at politicians who contradict themselves. If they do it enough they lose support. Keeping a blog isn't any different in that respect.

    I do appreciate you saying this:

    I just want to add that I understand your frustration and hope that my previous comment shows I take your input seriously.

    It shows an extraordinary jump in maturity from six months ago.

    I can remember at least one example in the past where you refused to publish my comment but then went back and changed your entry to remove all traces of the issue I had raised -- without giving any credit or indicating that edits had been made. Talking with Amanda, I know that I'm not the only person you have done this to.

    So ... the fact that we can have this discussion is definitely a vast improvement!

  9. ACorn:
    I am confused. Perhaps in my past blogs I have made comments saying that foreigners are dumb or my attitude in writing exemplifies this. I want to say I am sorry because that isn't my goal with my blog. I am not trying to say that expats are dumb and should learn more.

    I don't know when I have been an ass to those who are making an effort? You are the only one who has complained..I think.

    I complain a lot that is true. I guess this paints me as an idiot. Acting before thinking or finding ways to solve my problems. I understand Korea is similar to the cities you mention by not having single houses with yards. I think in those observations I was hoping to just relay my reactions to my new surroundings.

    You really have read a lot on my blog and remember more than I think I do. For that I am thankful since you seem to understand my faults.

    Yes I want to have a conversation about all this. And again I am sorry for the past where I erased your comments and so forth.

    Sure it is better to have a discussion about this than just throw crap around the blogosphere.

    But I don't see eye to eye on your critiques. In fact your comments make me feel like all my efforts at blogging and trying to say how I truly feel and react to living out here is stupid and petty.

    I get a lot of emails of praise from readers who say they never comment.

    Really I feel like I am being attacked here.

    If you want to make a public apology for writing in a way that makes other expats look dumb than I will.

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  11. Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm enjoying your Road Trip series and I hope one day I'll get a chance to travel Korea myself.

    I don't often comment but I couldn't help jump in after reading Acorn for a Dog's Food's (AFDF) comment. Well, his first one because his second response to yours got tediously long and started sounding like the wawawa's in Charlie Brown.

    First of all, I enjoy your descriptions and impressions of the sites and scenery immensely.

    Secondly, yes that statue was gorgeous in the way it reflected the sun. I cannot see how anyone could twist your words to mean that the statue is merely there to be shiny.

    So I'm little infuriated on your behalf because AFDF's words reek of bullying. His points are really nitpicky, not worth getting all huffed up about.

    Frankly it's your blog and you should be able to share what you like or screen comments if you like.

    And AFDF can go play with his acorns.

  12. Haha Hana~ You know the odd things is me and AFDF have actually met each other and had a great time at a coffee shop in Seoul. So I was surprised by this. Understand that in the past I pissed off some of his friends by deleting their comments. So basically I have some anti fans. But since then I have tried to respect others comments even if they are vile.

    I just hope those who don't like my blog will make the choice to not visit it. Why torture yourself? haha

    ANyways glad you enjoyed these posts. :)


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