Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bulguk Temple & Seokguram Grotto. Gyeongju Day 2

After spending the night at a Jjimjilbang on the shores of Bomun Lake in Gyeongju's resort area. It was time to head off to the ancient Buddhist Temple of Bulguksa and it's accompanying grotto.

The backside of Cheomseongdae Jjimjilbang. No soothing bathing pools here, but they did have these huge tumuli-like saunas. I don't think I've ever before been in anything quite so hot. I barely lasted 10 seconds - and I've been to the Sahara in August!
The view of Bomun Lake from the front. I swear Jjimjilbangs always have the best views! This one also had something I've never seen before - designated sleeping rooms! One for men, one for women and one mixed. Unfortunately, even women snore. Family run, this place also had delicious food.

Founded in 528 AD, Bulguksa (불국사) was built at the time when Buddhism was first adopted as the state religion of the Silla Dynasty. Like many other such temples, it was destroyed during the Japanese invasions of 1953, remaining in disrepair until the 1970s. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the two Stone Pagodas from the unified Silla Period. This one is much more ornate than many from the period. A single stone line, the only one of four that remains, is perched at the top of the steps. 

A collection of shoes outside the lecture hall where monks come to learn everyday. 

A stone prayer among many.

The remains of a hall.

I just loved the colours of this!

A heavily worn lucky bronze pig. The boar is one of the animals believed by Korean tradition to represent  longevity.

A view of "Four Bridges". Two flights of steps leading from the earthly world to that of the Buddha. They are national treasures and, so, cannot be climbed.

An ancient flag post. Flags announcing festivals, events and  Temple news were hung vertically from a rod which would have connected the two stones at the top. (You can see the slot in the leftmost pillar.)

I always claim that I'm going to refrain from climbing mountains and yet somehow that never seems to come to pass. A pavilion at the Seokguram Grotto Parking Lot, most of the way up Mount Toham. Buses were available, but they only leave once an hour. As I'd just missed one, I opted to make the 30-45 minute, 3km hike instead :).

The view from the Pavillion

Patrons can pay 1000won to visit the pavilion and ring the bell for peace. It was an offer I obviously couldn't resist. Much more fun than actually ringing the bell however, was placing your hand on it and feeling the vibrations go through your whole body as someone else rang it.

Seokguram Grotto (석굴암) is a hermitage that is home to a giant stone Buddha and attendant guardians housed in a temple that is built into the mountain. Unfortunately, in order to protect the site, there are no photos allowed and a pane of glass (which can be difficult to see through due to reflections of light from outside) separates visitors from the statue. Still, it was worth seeing (I went through twice). And the location offered some stunning views of the East Sea.

Attempting to capture the roof and rocky mound of the grotto.

After enjoying the sights of and from the grotto, it was time for me to head back into town. Unfortunately, I found that I had, once again, just missed a bus. I figured I was left with two options: 1) hike back down, and 2) continue upwards for the 1.7km to the top. Naturally, I chose the latter.

The view from the top.
Once back in the city, I found I had about an hour to spare before my bus ride back to Gwangju. So naturally, I chose to spend it eating Gyeongju Bbang (경주빵 - literally, Gyeongju Bread), a type of barley based sweet bread filled with sweetened red bean paste - far more delicious than it sounds - and relaxing among the tumuli in the free Noseo-ri and Nodong-ri parks.

er... rather, on the tumuli...
(Archaeological Disclaimer: warning, this is most definitely NOT allowed.)

A mother and son. Seeing them up here is what prompted me to join. So glad I did.

A sad departure. The little boy didn't want to come down. I know exactly how he felt!

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