Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Historic Weekend

We apologise for the length and delay of this posting. I worked on it on a number of occasions. Enjoy.

A few weeks ago we caught wind of a traditional rice cake and rice wine festival to be held in one of Korea's oldest and most historic cities, Gyeogju. Chelsie loves rice cakes and neither one of us wanted to pass up an opportunity to experience Korean culture.

Discovering new destinations, places and events to visit is easy, getting there, however, isn't always as easy as one might think. Not having a car here, it is necessary for us to use the bus system. Thankfully it tends to be quite reliable, although still not quite as comfortable as ones own vehicle. To get to Gyeogju we rode the intercity bus off of the island to Busan, took the subway through Busan and then hopped aboard another bus to reach our end destination, a five hour trip once everything was said and done. The city was bustling with festivities. We the information booths to be very helpful. After hitting a number of them we were able to attain a map in English as well as a schedule of events. We quickly realized that there was plenty to see and do in Gyeongju even without a festival.
The park in which the festival was held could be spotted from a distance by the kite line stretched almost out of sight.
Chelsie's mission for the weekend was to learn how to make rice cakes, of which there are many kinds. We were so fortunate as to be grabbed by the local media and taken into the rice cake exposition hall for some cake making on camera. A humorous experience.
They are beautifully decorated with edible flowers, predominantly pansies and azaleas.
The bonsai experience came with the festival as well. There were many different shapes and varieties on exhibit. Fascinating.
One of the activities for the kids was an origami art exhibit/booth. I believe that a local art academy was promoting their business. The kiddos would gather around tables and with uttermost concentration folding tiny origami pieces and then incorporating them into beautiful and complex scenes.

An interesting portion of the weekend and festival included the Miss Gyeongbuk pageant. A regional competition leading to Miss Korea. The ladies strutted their stuff in traditional costume, as well as formal and pop/trendy outfits. I believe there was a portion in which they introduced themselves. We didn't understand that of course.
After the evening contest and fireworks we took a taxi to the historic district of the city and went for a walk. The first historic site was the burial mounds for ancient kings of Korea. They were mounded up, or built somewhere between the 4th and 6th century A.D. There are many scattered throughout the city and in the mountains.
The second historic site was Anapji pond. King Munmu of Silla in his 14th year of rule had the pond dug. The temples were built and then later destroyed by Japanese invaders. After researching records and excavation of the site, the temples were reconstructed in 1975 to their original splendor.
It was recommended that we visit this setting at night. We were very glad that we did. The subtle lighting and faint sound of traditional Korean music really set the mood. It was very surreal.
Later on in the evening we passed the famous observatory, which to me it looked more like a grain silo that one may find in the Midwest. According to our guidebook, standing 30 feet tall, it is the oldest observatory in Asia. At one time a ladder went to the window and then one could climb in and onto the top to observe the heavens.
Chelsie and I were beat after the first day of sight seeing. We hiked back into town and found a tiny motel. The next day we took Bus number 11 out to see Bulguksa temple. Again, reconstructed to its original splendor, it is a masterpiece of temple design and construction from the Silla era.

We were some of the first tourists to arrive that morning. After about an hour we began to notice a humm of excitement as hundreds of children began to come and set up their easels and get out their paints. Within an hour the temple grounds were covered with kiddos painting the scenery. We found out that there was a competition in honor of the weekend.

It was difficult to get pictures of just the two of us or the scenery without catching a kiddo too.
The beauty of the maples left us intrigued and anxious for a return to Gyeongju in the fall.
We caught a brief traditional Korean meal in the town below.
The folk art village was alive with artists and artisans marketing their wares. Chelsie and I purchased some unique pottery and a couple of beautiful vases.

Although there are parts of Geyongju which have been reconstructed, there are some landmarks which are memorials. The World Culture Expo Park is home to a monument representing the location of the once magnificent 9 story pagoda. We took an elevator to the top of the monument for a splendid view of the area. We were very impressed by "Korea's best" and were very satisfied with our adventure off our little island of Geoje.

5 comments:

Jeff said...

Nice! I'm in a loooong conference call, and this has been fun. Shall be back L8r ...

Jeff said...

Sigh. Did you know that if you leave the comment page for anything, such as to look at a close-up of a photo, you will lose your carefully crafted prose? I just did it ... a second time in mere minutes. Who programs these blogs anyway?

What was I saying? The first time through this posting, while on that conference call earlier, I thought the Bulguksa temple was your hotel, and I thought, Nice! Then skepticism returned and I re-read the accompanying text. Still, lovely place, and well worth returning in the Fall, when all the [Japanese] maples will make it look like ... like ... New Jersey! Great shot of Chelsie at the table. You could be a photographer for a food magazine. Beauty pageants are kinda odd anywhere, I guess. Who won? The bonzai reminded me of Harold Blackwell ... did you know him in Salida? His wife Betty started the Son Shine Inn and other schools at the Something Baptist Church (always forget who's First and who's Not). He collected natural bonzai, if you will. He kept an eye out in the hills for naturally stunted and odd treelets and transplanted them. He figured he didn't have time to train one. I like the first photo of Chelsie staring at the buses, or into space. Makes me want to see "Lost in Translation" again. But come to think of it, those signs on the buses are pretty clear. If you know what symbols to look for, it would be easier than, like, the Port Authority in NYC when I was kid, when many buses didn't have any indication on them of where they were going. That was fun. That's a stunningly clean bus terminal in the photo.

P.S. Don't worry about the length of the posting. Just worry about the delay.

Jesse and Chelsie said...

Hey Jeff, Thanks for all your comments. Chelsie and I are headed for Seoul this weekend. We have a 4 day weekend this time. I agree that the blog software has its glitches. I have run into plenty of them on the design and compose side as well. You have to find loop holes. If you want to go back and review a portion of the blog while commenting you can simply (1)select all of your composition, (2)copy or cut it, (3)review the blog, (4) return to the comment section, (5) and paste your comments back in the box. If you think about it while you are typing away, you can even use hot keys like (ctrl+A) select all, and then (ctrl+C) copy. (ctrl+V) is paste too. I use this method all the time.

Take care, Jesse

Jeff said...

Yup, that's what I finally did, ctrl+C periodically, kinda like ctrl+S. That was a habit I learned long ago. Now I don't even think about it. When I pause in a word processor, my fingers do ctrl+S, ctrl+S, ctrl+S. Then in another program, they do it in an inappropriate place, and a window pops up saying, "What?" And I scream back, "Just do what I want!" It seems a reasonable thing to say at the time, anyway.

Hope you had fun in Seoul. I hope you got to see Bukchon Village, and maybe climbed Bugaksan. Gyeongbok Palace and Itaewon are OK. Maybe you went to Namdaemun Market and then recovered with a quiet walk along Cheonggyecheon Stream. Yeah, I know all this stuff. I'm a librarian.

Jeff said...

Just because I'm back eight days later does not mean that I'm impatient for another post. It was completely an accident. My mouse hand was jittery after drinking tea all day at our library's 100th anniversary celebration of it's Carnegie building. Food and drink and circus folk and sidewalk art and balloon animals and a kids' movie and an art lecture on spinning exotic fibers and now a cheesy librarian movie (The Librarian: Quest for the Spear)(( I wanted to show "Party Girl" with Parker Posey, but our movie license didn't cover it. Classic librarian movie.)). So anyway, I just wanted you to know that I'm not impatient for more info and photos. Seventeen days between posts? That's nothing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise ...

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