Gyeongju and Jeju visit

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Aug 13th, 2018, 06:34 AM
  #1
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Gyeongju and Jeju visit

I was in Incheon for a meeting and decided I would like to take some holiday as well. This was my third trip to Korea with previous visits concentrating on Seoul area and Jeju Island. For something different, I chose Gyeongju for this trip.

I pondered a long time about how to get from Incheon to Gyeongju--bus (direct, could get hotel within walking distance of terminal, low cost, but less comfortable and uncertainty about finding the right bus, especially after the break enroute), flight (get to GMP, fly to PUS, then bus, so more complicated), or high-speed train (get to Seoul station, taxi to hotel from the train station outside of town, so moderately complicated, but comfortable). A colleague wanted to go into Seoul for a few days, so it worked out that we could share a taxi into Seoul, so I booked an overnight hotel near Seoul station and opted for the train.

A Korean friend offered to meet me for lunch, then see me to my train, so the route became even simpler. I spent my short time in Seoul walking to the Sungnyemum Gate, browsing a bit in the Namdaemun market and the Shinsegae Dept Store, and getting completely turned around. We took a taxi to the train station where a protest was taking place with hundreds of people sitting, blocking the way. That was when I was really glad to have my friend with me to guide me out of the taxi, around the protesters, and up the steps to the station with my bags. I had booked my seat online a few days in advance, but had some difficulty printing, so I wasn't sure if my printout was a perfect ticket. My friend said not to worry, if I sat in the right seat no one would bother me. Turns out he was right. A conductor did walk through the train several times, but never asked to see tickets. The stations were listed on the board, so no problem getting off at the correct stop. A comfortable ride. I took the first taxi in line (once I figured out how to get to the line) at Singyeongju station, showed my hotel printout (English and Korea), and we started off on one of several wild taxi rides in Gyeongju.

Gyeongju was hot (as expected) with lots of Korean tourists, but very few Anglos. I walked 8-10 miles a day through Tumuli Park, around other tombs in town, the market, the restored Woljeonggio bridge, Cheomseongdae observatory, and Anapji park after dark. I found the surroundings very interesting even though only a few tombs have markers with English descriptions. The National Museum was really interesting and I spent quite a bit of time there. There was a free outdoor concert by one of the tombs one night, so I wandered by--it was easy enough to see the stage plus there were large screens. Several families had brought blankets and picnics to sit at the side beyond the chairs.

To visit the temple and grotto, I decided to hire a taxi to the lot below Seokguram from where I walked up to see the grotto, then I walked down the trail to Bulguksa Temple. The grotto walk was fine with the reward of the small temple. The walk downhill was hot despite being completely shady. Lots of locals getting their exercise and several long-distance hikers on the trail. Bulguksa was silent went I arrived and overwhelmed with people when I left. The details of the restored temple were interesting. I walked down from Bulguksa to find the bus stop at which locals indicated I needed to run across the street to catch the bus just arriving on the other side--they were correct.

I got off the bus too soon for the Gyeongju Folk Craft Village (a lady on the bus was yelling at the bus driver--I'm sure she was telling him not to let me off because as a tourist it was obvious where I was headed), so I had to walk about a mile. No big deal, but a hot day even under my umbrella. I wasn't sure what to make of it. I checked out the shop at the entrance, then wandered up the road and into a couple of the open shops, but quickly decided to return to the bus and an air conditioned hotel room.

I only rode the bus through the Bomun area, but it looked jam-packed with tourist diversions.
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Aug 17th, 2018, 10:19 AM
  #2
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Jeju Island

Last visit I was on the south side of the Island, so this time I explored some other areas with my local hosts. The heat wave dampened our spirits for outdoor activities, so we didn't do as much as we would have liked.

I stayed at a hotel on the water in Jeju City. It was nice to have easy access to the walk along the seawall after dark when it cooled a bit. I could see lots of fishing boat lights dotting the horizon. In the morning I found a few fish markets to browse. I'm unsure how much came from the boats I saw at night, but it made for a nice continuum. I also found the E-mart, which was packed with weekend shoppers. I browsed the clothes in case I needed to purchase a pair of shorts during the trip and found sizes to fit an American!

A highlight was a visit to the Haenyeo museum. It was small, but informative. One of my host's grandmother was one of the divers, so that added special significance.

We visited the Art Museum to see a special exhibit. The museum was fine, but is probably of greatest interest to artists or those with special interest in Korean artists.

The tea museum was a small promotional facility with good desserts in the cafe (most people seemed to go there to eat). We thought there would be more elaborate presentations to teach us about growing, harvesting, processing, and preparing tea. So, I would pass on this one unless you want to eat.

I asked why there are so many strange museums (teddy bear, Hello Kitty, etc.) and a local told me there had been some type of tax incentive for museums so lots of folks created "museums". That explains a lot.

We ate lots of good food, many times in hole in the wall places I would never have chosen on my own. Before this visit, I didn't realize how many bakeries there are in Korea. Great if you have a sweet tooth!
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Aug 17th, 2018, 01:40 PM
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Thanks for the report. Not too much on South Korea here.
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Aug 17th, 2018, 06:06 PM
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Oooh, Korean bakeries are dangerous places!
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Aug 24th, 2018, 07:12 AM
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Thanks for sharing your experience in Jeju Island. I might have an opportunity to go there in few months.
Tell me about food choices there. Not sure how much I will like Korean food, so is western food available easily.
Also, what is something special to buy in the area. I was told Korean peals are really beautiful. But I have heard the same about Chinese and Japanese pearls. Thus, would love to hear your opinion.
Have a great weekend.
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Sep 1st, 2018, 02:07 PM
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food and souveniers

Food--There are definitely more Korean food restaurants than others. The black pork barbecue is a specialty--I have seen it in other countries named just Korean barbecue--they bring meat for a group to the table where you cook over coals, then place in lettuce leaf with toppings. Quite good and you choose what to add. We ate at the Indian Kitchen, a quite good Indian restaurant of which my hosts were very proud. We also went to a small restaurant in a house that is known for Western brunch. There are Western chains around (fast food, coffee shops, bakeries) where you can get sandwiches and salads. So non-Korean food is around, but you may have to hunt. You might have luck at Western chain hotels. My Korean hotel had a breakfast buffet that was 80% Asian, but 20% Western. I didn't eat there for lunch or dinner.
If you have a Korean restaurant in your area, you might explore some foods there before you travel.

Jeju is known for tangerines, so there are chocolates with tangerine filling and many other food stuffs and cosmetic products with tangerine. Also green tea ingredients. The symbol of the island is the hareubangs statues. You can buy these in many sizes.
Throughout Korea you will find boxes made out of mother of pearl. These are the most common gift I have received from Korean visitors. They can be very simple to elaborate from black/white to multicolor.
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Sep 3rd, 2018, 05:47 AM
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Forgot to say the name you will find is Bulgogi beef dishes in many Korean restaurants.
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