Travelogue: Visiting Gyeongju, South Korea

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The year is coming to an end so okay let me REALLY be diligent now and pen down all the remaining travelogues for 2016!

So, as with my previous travelogue about watching a local play for the first time in Seoul during my media trip with KTO, the earlier part of our media trip was spent in Gyeongju, a city filled with culture and historical value in South Korea. 

Yeah, it was my 4th time in the land of neverending cosmetics and kimchi, but it was my first time in the city of Gyeongju! And I really, really liked it. Unlike the bustling city life of capital city Seoul, Gyeongju is a lot more laid back, less congested, has fresher and cleaner air, less high rise buildings and more cultural infrastructure! Definitely a great place for a nice retreat, and also if you want to learn more about traditional Korea. 

Located on the Eastern side of South Korea, approximately 4 hours drive away from Seoul, the city was once the capital of the country during the Shilla dynasty. (Yea, the Shilla of the Shilla duty free that we are familiar with in the airport is the name of a king haha)

We spent a short 2 days in Gyeongju, but here's what we did and experienced:

Royal Cuisine at @ Surime

This was the closest I ever got to being like 大长今 ever, putting on the apron and learning to prepare royal dessert from one of the 12th registered/certified royal cuisine chefs in Korea. Nestled at the corner end of the stretch of the road, we spent an evening at one of the traditional hanoks, learning from the best and eating what the royalties used to eat at Surime!

Definitely one of the things that I enjoyed more this trip, since this is probably something I will hardly get to do if I were to be traveling by myself or with friends? But it will be a great day trip out for your family, or if you've run out of ideas on what to do especially since there isn't much shopping to be done in Gyeongju either LOL.

We learnt how to made Songpyeon, which is the traditional Korean rice cake!

Intricate details were clearly not our forte since we were no chef to be, so we tried making some cutesy figurine to make do...

The end result really didn't look too bad! HAHAHA Of course, those delicate designs resembles those that were served in the royal cuisine in the past.

We also had dinner at Surime and we got to try out their one of their various royal cuisine meals! Well, the meat and dishes you get varies with the price and number of pax you have. For what we had, it would cost around SGD30 per pax.

Meat is so good, it deserves a feature on its own. #Lifeasacarnivore

My biggest takeaway from this is... so much effort is put into the plating and presentation. Like how certain dishes must be shaped that way, contain a certain amount of colours and everything. They all symbolise something, and goes way beyond just food and how it tastes alone. Really makes you appreciate what is placed in front of you because food has now become an art, and definitely a tell tale sign of your status and wealth right there and then (in the past).

Anapji Pond in the evening

The best time to visit Anapji Pond is in the evening after the sky has turned dark, so as to get a nice good view of the full reflection of the pavilions in the pond... It really is so pretty and tranquil (well, this is dependent on the amount of tourists there lah) and a great park to take a stroll with your loved one, and just let time stay still for awhile while you admire the view.

The park isn't huge, and we walked here from the Cheongsamdae Observatory and Tumuli Park (about 15min).

Tumuli Park

I found this place really weird because technically it feels like a cemetery became a tourist attraction and all the cute teletubby hills here are actually tombs. LOL. I do not actually have photos of this place cos I am super bantang (superstitious) and didn't really want to take photos in a "cemetery" la. HAHAHA Maybe it is just me...

But the place really doesn't look like a cemetery of course, with all the little tomb hills, and it is believed that there are over 150 of such and inside each of them, lies an abundance of treasures. Only one tomb was extricated, thus it was converted into a museum/gallery that showcased all the treasures dug out! :O It is also a pretty huge legit park and people are seen jogging here too!

As aforementioned, the park, cheongsamdae observatory and anapji pond are quite near each other. I would suggest you to start around like 1.5hrs before sunset and just walk/visit in the order of Tumuli Park > Cheongsamdae Observatory > Anapji Pond and it should be sunset by then! :)

Other activities you can consider doing in Gyeongju include visiting the many temples (Bulguksa Temple is one of them, as pictured above!), watching plays and performances, such as the famed Shilla musical,

or try some of their local delicacies such as the Hwangnam bread (also known as Gyeongju Bread) which is basically a bread pastry with red bean paste filling :)

Alright, here's the end of my little sharing of Gyeongju, and hope you guys found this helpful :) I would think that maybe a 2 to 3 day trip to Gyeongju would be sufficient, or if you're a hardcore city dweller, a day trip here will be enough and you can hop on to other cities. Stepping into Gyeongju feels like going back in time to how Korea was like maybe a few hundred years back, but definitely a great getaway from the urban scape :)

Xin Lin

(The trip was sponsored by Korea Tourism Organization, Singapore)

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