My apologies for being a bit slow in getting caught up from our vacation. As always, there have been some cool things happening in Gyeongju this summer, so here’s a belated rundown of some of the highlights: The time has come around again for the triennial Gyeongju World Culture ExpoZ. The fun kicked off on August 12th and runs for 60 days until October 20th. The World Culture Expo features performances and exhibitions from around the world (which you’ve probably already guessed). To give you a better idea of what the Expo’s about, the 2008 Expo featured everything from traditional Thai dancing, a Russian Ice Ballet, and a retrospective of Korean video artist Baik Nam Jun to Chinese acrobats and an exhibition of Korean cartoon characters for the kids. Like a lot of expats in Korea, my wife and I have already traveled a bit internationally so we found a few of the exhibits to be a mite cheesy and overdone. Even so, it was still a fun day out and definitely worth the price of admission.
From what I can gather online, the 2011 Expo’s highlights include “Flying”, a Korean martial arts performance directed by the creator of “Jump” and “Nanta,” as well as the 20 minute 3-D animated film “Byeongnucheon” (The Bracelet of Blue Tears) depicting the local legend of King Munmu the Great. And again, there’s the multimedia laser show held after dark at the replica of the 9-story Golden Dragon Pagoda of Hwanyeongsa Temple. In addition there are ongoing B-boy and street performances along with puppet shows and a world dance festival. To top off all the fun, there’s even a special visiting exhibition from the World Fossil Museum (???). Of course, local expats tired of Korean cuisine will also want to check out the world food court.
Expo tickets are sold onsite at the entrance; adults cost 15,000 won and children are 10,000 (ages 13 to 18) and 8,000 won (ages 4 to 12). Tickets also get you up to 40% discounts on other attractions at Bomun Resort, like the entrance fees to Gyeongju World and the Teddy Bear Museum, as well as significant savings on local hotels, such as the Concord Hotel and Hanhwa Resort. I plan on visiting the Expo soon with my family, so I’ll be sure to throw a post up here when I do with lots of nifty photos. The World Culture Expo only makes it Gyeongju once every three years, so check it out while you can. As for getting to the Expo, you can catch Bus 10 or 11 across from the Shiwae Bus Terminal, or pay roughly 10,000 won for a cab. The expo grounds are on the South -west side of Bomun Lake across from the Shilla Millennium, Park.
The next item on the list is literally up the block from the World Culture Expo. Back in June, Bomun Resort saw the long awaited opening of Blue One. Blue One is actually a massive resort complex built on a hill overlooking Bomun Lake and includes everything from a water park and spa to a golf course and private condominiums. I’ve not been yet myself, but word on the street is that its Water Park gives California Beach a serious run for its money. The photos make the Blue One Water Park look like a complete blast and it’s ”Storm” Wave Pool and “Tornado” water slides look freaking awesome (though, these days a hot soak in the spa looks more my speed, to be honest). There’s only a month or two more of good swimming weather left this season, so again, check it out while you can. However, a good section of the water park is indoors and is open year round, so it’s still worth a visit even in the dead of winter.
The Blue One Water Park is open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm and prices vary depending on whether you go in High Season (6.1 to 7.15 and 8.22 to 8.31, 48,000 won / adult, 37,000 won / child), Gold Season (7.16 to 8.21, 60,000 won /adult, 46,000 won / child), or Low Season(9.1 to 5.31, 42,000 won / adult, , 32,000 won / child). Prices drop about 25% if you go after 3:00 pm, though the best deal seems to be the 10,000 won evening pass for those entering after 5:00 pm. There are also life jackets, swimsuits and other swimming amenities for rent if you are in need.
Finally, I just wanted to remind folks that the wildflowers are in bloom down by Cheomseongdae as well as the lotus flowers in the ponds by Anapji. If you’re visiting Gyeongju in the next few weeks, or if you live in the area, make a point of getting down there for at least an hour or two. Not only is the area quite lovely these days, it also make for great family photo opportunities, weather permitting. The throngs of frolicking children festive Korean tourists are proof of that. My friend Hyun Jeong over at the Gyeongjulove blog posted some nice photos of the lotus blossoms a few weeks ago. I hope she doesn’t mind if I share one of them here below.