Day 6 – Andong
On day 6 I left the capital and headed south. I love big cities, the culture, the galleries and museums, the hustle and bustle, but I also love the tranquility and slower pace of more rural life too. My first stop is Andong.
Andong is about four hours train ride away from Seoul in a south-easterly direction. It was super cheap to get here, about £7! I am staying a lovely guest house run by a Korean couple who couldn’t be more helpful. It is a Korean style room with a bed on the floor and minimal furniture. My hosts made sure I was well versed in everything there is to do here in the town. I was also guided around the array of different shoes you have to wear. bathroom shoes, indoor shoes and outdoor shoes too! I also made some new friends – Terry and Jun the dogs!
Andong is famous for two ancient brick pagodas. I stopped by both on my walk, one is nine stories tall and is the largest in Korea and dates from the 10thC. I then walked along the meandering Nakdong River, and crossed the longest wooden bridge in Korea, with beautiful views up and down the river. I then headed back into town via a lovely wooden walkway that rises and falls with the adjacent hills.
Tomorrow I am getting the bus to the famous Hahoe Folk Village. So famous that when the Queen visited Korea, she asked to be taken to the most Korean town in the country, and they chose to bring her here! Apparently the village has a monument in honour of her visit! I shall find out tomorrow…
Day 7 – Andong
Well, the rumours were true! QE2 had indeed visited Hahoe Village, there was a plaque and everything to prove it! I spent about three hours at the village, wandering around what is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was nice that it is a fully functions village with people living there. You can see the homes they live, many dating from the 16thC.
The village name means meandering river and you can walk by the river and up a nearby cliff for wonderful views of the village.
I also visited the Andong Folk Museum. I learnt some interesting facts about Korean traditional life. It used to be that Korean boys did not cut their hair, wearing it in a braid until they married, when it was cut. I also learnt that when every child turned one, the family had an elaborate ceremony, one of the elements of which was to place a number of toys in front of the child. Depending on which toy the child selected was supposed to determine what career they would have. Not sure it happens too much now but it was fascinating insight into generations past.
I also managed to find some vegetarian sushi which was cause for celebration! I am off to Gyeongju tomorrow and I hope it is easier to find something to eat there. Andong has not been kind to me food-wise, my body is craving healthy veggie food! Oh what I would do for an oat milk flat white and a quinoa salad lol….
Days 7 & 8 – Gyeongju
I arrived by train into the town they call the museum without walls. It was about a billion degrees and I immediately melted. Having pulled myself together I headed to the Gyeongju National Museum to find out about the history of this area.
Founded in the 5th century, the Silla dynasty has left its mark on this area of Korea. Primarily in the form of a series of royal burial mounds found throughout the town. They are quite an eerie site, but beautiful too. My video below shows a few highlights.
You can go inside a few of them and see how they were excavated and how they were laid out when the person was laid to rest in them. The king or queen was laid out with their possessions, often gold jewellery and crowns. Some of the crowns are in the museum and they are stunning.
In the sixth century, buddhism was introduced into the Silla dynasty, and this has left an amazing legacy of temples and shrines in the area. The most famous is the Bulgaksa temple. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I sensibly went early, to avoid the heat and crowds of tour buses, and was rewarded with a tranquil experience to take in this beautiful temple.
I then headed high into the mountains above Bulguksa to a temple called Seokguram. I couldn’t take any photographs but this is a temple based round a beautiful stone carved buddha. I loved walked through the cooler air and the trees of the forest, with views back down to Gyeongju.
I then ended my day eating Japanese ice cream and cinnamon buns from a little Japanese cafe I found. I then sat next to one of the tombs and read, thinking how funny it is that two weeks ago I was commuting to Horsham up the A23 and now I am sitting next to a royal burial mound in Korea!
Tomorrow I am off to the south coast of Korea, to the second city of Busan. It has lots of beaches which I am looking forward to, then onwards to Japan!