Thursday, July 3, 2014

South Korea Part 2

Hope everyone enjoyed my little style post this morning, but now we're shifting back to travel for another post about my incredible trip to Korea! These are all going to be pretty photo-heavy so heads up!

Sunday morning we were up bright and early and off to Daejon, about an hour and a half from Suwon to visit Lydia's aunt and uncle. We spent the night and were off the next morning (starting to notice a theme here?) for Daegu. We didn't do anything too exciting in Daejon so I don't really have any pictures!

Daegu is the hottest city in Korea and it certainly lives up to the title. It is known for being the site of the March 1st movement for independence, one of the first acts of resistance during the Japanese occupations, as well as Cheongna Hill which houses several old missionary houses that combine Western and Korean styles. The missionaries helped to establish Keisung School, Sinmyeong School, Jejungwon Hospital, the American Missionary Center, and many others. 

A mural commemorating the March 1st movement. 

Steps leading up to Cheongna Hill, part of the trail the rebels took on March 1st. 

In Daegu we also went to the top of Daegu Tower which looks out over the entire city and is the tallest observation tower in Korea. Our visit was short, which was fine as I didn't love Daegu. A little too hot and humid, a little boring. Gyeongju was definitely more exciting. 

Gyeongju is situated along the sea on Korea's east coast, and is known for its historical sites. Our first stop was Bulguksa Temple, a working Buddhist temple built in the 8th century.

Since the temple is still in use it is updated regularly, meaning the colors are as vibrant as they were hundreds of years ago. 

I snuck a picture inside one of the temples, where a service was going on. I had never watched a Buddhist service but the smell of incense, sounds of drums, bells, and singing was incredible. 

Our next stop in Gyeongju was Seokguram Grotto. We drove up the mountain (on a very, very windy road) to the top, where you then hike along a winding path that leads to the grotto. Just be careful, because one side of the path leads to a drop-off and there's no railing! 

The hike takes about 20 minutes, and at the top you are greeted by a plateau covered in lanterns, many of them with prayer messages written by people from all over the world. 

Another quick hike up some stone steps leads you to a small cave where a giant Buddha has been carved into the side of the mountain. Unfortunately, since this is also still in use as a sacred site, photos were not allowed. But it was definitely worth the trek up! 

This observatory was built by Queen Seondeok in the 634, a highly educated ruler who had the tower constructed to study astronomy; the name means 'star-gazing tower.' While it only stands a little over 9 meters tall, it is the oldest observatory in East Asia. 

Those hills? They're tombs! People used to construct giant dirt mounds above graves, and the bigger the mound the more important the person. Most of these tombs belong to previous rulers of Korea. 

You comfy there, Lydia? 

More food! The big meat patties on the hot stones are like hamburger patties but served as a steak.

A big thank you to this incredible girl for taking me along! I never thought I would be able to go to Korea, let alone with one of my best friends in the whole world! Thank you for the opportunity to travel a beautiful country, eat amazing food, meet incredible people, and have an awesome trip of a lifetime! 

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post as we head farther south to Busan!

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