Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 274: Hey everybody! It's been a few weeks since our epic weekend trip down to Gyeongju but the memories are still pretty fresh in our minds. A big group of us went down there to celebrate our friend Jenny's birthday and it was a nice chance to hop on the train and see some of Korea's beautiful countryside. The city was once the capital of Korea and has a rich thousand-year long history full of King's tombs, temples, and tons of interesting places to see. Our first stop was a very famous temple called Bulguksa. We brought our tripod too, so we could get great group shots without harassing any Koreans or monks to take our photo.After we finished hamming it up for some group shots, we made friends with this really nice monk, who was actually acting as an ambassador and guide for visiting foreigners. He let us sit in on his sunset prayer and chanting, as well as an amazing drumming performance by a whole group of monks. After this it was getting late and we went to look for a motel close by.
We found a place close by and settled in. The girls were beat but me (Brandon), Patrick, Byung Chul, and Kara were still up for a little adventure. We tried to get a Taxi to take us to this place where the kings and royalty used to throw parties and banquets but we couldn't get a taxi in that area. That's when the owner of the motel unexpectedly offered us the keys to his SUV and said we could take it for the night. We were blown away by the kindness and trusting nature of this absolute stranger. We got in the car and headed to the King's party palace pretty pumped up by the turn of events.

The lighting and reflections off the lake were stunning, and it was fun to imagine what it must have been like to party there hundreds of years ago. This was also the first time Shay let me take her camera out alone so the pressure was on, but I think I was able to rise to the occasion :)
The next morning we headed off to a famous Buddhist Grotto and then on to the Tombs of the Kings.This was an ancient astronomical observatory. Total number of slabs used for construction 361, total number of days of a lunar year 361. Coincidence? I think not. In this group shot below, the tomb we are standing in front of was open to the public and had many interesting artifacts from the Silla dynasty.After leaving the tombs we decided to go to an old Confucious school, when we had a chance encounter with this older man in the picture below. We were peaking our head into his front yard because he had all these cool rock sculptures that caught our eyes. He invited us in and showed us his life's work, and it turned out he was a world famous sculptor who has had many exhibitions throughout Asia. He explained that his art work was done in the same spirit of Bonzai and that the beautiful mountains in Korea were his greatest inspiration. It was all very Zen.
He seemed genuinely glad to have met us, and invited us to stay for tea with his wife, but unfortunately we had a bus to catch. We took this photo and he gave us his address so we could mail it to him. It always amazes us the interesting people you meet when you are open to new experiences.

Well that's our trip, we had a blast celebrating Jenny's birthday, and I think we were all glad to get out of Bucheon for the weekend. We just started a new semester, with all new kids, so its been pretty hectic, but both of us are enjoying getting to know a whole new batch of kids. Hope everyone's enjoying the warmer weather, we'll update you again soon.

With love from South Korea,
Brandon & Shayna xo