Category Archives: tips for tourists

history Korean culture Ruins & remains tips for tourists

The Juryeonggu (주령구): Party Dice of the Silla Royalty

Replica of Juryeonggu Dice (image from Yonhap News Agency)

Replica of Juryeonggu Dice (image from Yonhap News Agency)

Although I fancy myself a history buff, I can sometimes find the long halls of pottery shards and bronze daggers at the Gyeongju National Museuma to be bit repetitive and boring.  However, the Museum is also home to one iconic Silla artifact that is sure to squeeze a smile from any visitor, especially former frat boys or D & D enthusiasts.  During the excavation of Anapji Pond (안압지)  in the 1970’s, amidst all the roof tiles and gilt bronze Buddhas archeologists unearthed a wooden dice with 6 square and 8 hexagonal sides.  On each side of this curious object were inscribed in Chinese what appear to be instructions for a drinking game, earning the object the name Juryeonggu (주령구), or literally “drink command tool.” read more »

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Hotels and housing Noseo-dong tips for tourists

Housing: Love Hotels (러브호텔) in Noseo-dong

Hotel Show, Noseo-dong, Gyeongju

Hotel Show, Noseo-dong, Gyeongju

I think the question I get asked most often on this blog is where to find good hotels in Gyeongju and people usually act like I’m joking or crazy when I point them to the dozens of “Love Hotels” in Noseo-dong, the neighborhood just behind hind the Inter-city and Express Bus Terminals.  Now it’s true that “Love Hotels” (러브호텔) get their name for  hosting secret trysts between unmarried college students and cheating spouses from out of town.  And if you’ve never stayed in one before, you might think they’re nothing more than seedy dives with peeling wall paper, cigarette-stained sheets and broken head-boards.  But really, the rooms at the newest “Love Hotels” in Gyeongju can sometimes rival the accommodations at local pensions and the hotels at Bomun Resort, for only a fraction of the cost. read more »

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Buddhist culture photography Temples & shrines tips for tourists Ulsan Yangsan Yeongnam Alps

Photos: Fall “Maple Tripping” (단풍 구경) in the Yeongnam Alps (영남알프스)

Tongdosa Temple in the Fall

Tongdosa Temple in the Fall

The fall leaves are already a big deal in Korea and I don’t know if it’s due to global warming or radioactive rain from Japan, but the autumn colors have been especially vibrant this year. Gyeongju is a pretty popular destination for hikers and weekend visitors out on their yearly “Maple Trip” (단풍 구경) and I’ve already posted on a few good spots to check out the fall leaves around Gyeongju. However, this year I’ve been exploring the area south-west of town known as the Yeongnam-Alps a bit more, as it’s only about a 30 minutes drive out of town. I’ve taken the family here twice for a “Maple Trip” (단풍 구경) over the last few weeks, so I thought I share a some of my photos here on the blog. read more »

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Bomun Resort East Sea Gyeongju tips for tourists Wierd Gyeongju

Wierd Gyeongju: Dinosaur Village Herb Land (허브랜드공룡마을) and Gyeongju Herb Land (경주허브랜드)

Dinosaur Village Herb Land, Gyeongju

Dinosaur Village Herb Land, Gyeongju

Just like Teddy Bear Museums, “Herb Lands” have been of popping up around Korea lately in all the tourist hotspots.  And somehow, also just like Teddy Bear Museums, Gyeongju is blessed with not just one but two of these so-called Herb Lands. If you aren’t quite sure what a Herb Land is, its kind of like a cross between your local garden center and a miniature golf course. Or better yet, try imagining an amusement park without any actual roller coasters or rides. If that sounds kind of lame, then you’ve probably already guessed that Gyeongju’s Herb Lands are not really on my list of must-see local highlights and I wouldn’t really recommend them to anyone visiting just for a short weekend. However, for visitors who possess a warped appreciation of cheesy tourist traps, or have children under 10 years old, Gyeongju’s Herb Lands are a perfect fit.  Luckily for me, I have both, so it was only natural that we would eventually pay them a visit. read more »

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Gyeongju Hotels and housing Korean culture tips for tourists

Housing: Stay Overnight in One of Gyeongju’s “Goteak” Traditional Houses (경주 고턕체험)

Seoak Seowon, Seondo-dong, Gyeongju

Seoak Seowon, Seondo-dong, Gyeongju

If you’re one of those intrepid travelers who enjoy staying in unique or unusual accommodations, then I definitely recommend spending the night in one of the “Gyeongju Goteak” traditional houses during your visit.  The Gyeonjgu Goteak program was established a few years ago by the Ministry of Employment and Labor as a creative effort to help pay for the upkeep of a number of local historical buildings by renting them out as housing for visiting tourists.   Currently run by the Silla Cultural Institute (신라문화원), Gyeognju Goteak offers housing at five or six different historical “hanuk” style houses in the Gyeongju area, most of which are several hundred years old.  Although, I’ve not actually stayed in any of these places myself, I visit a number of them frequently as they’re quite scenic and are worth visiting even if you’re not staying the night.  In addition to providing unique and photogenic lodgings, a stay in one of the Gyeognju Goteak also includes complementary cultural activities, such as a tea ceremony and traditional arts and crafts. read more »

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Gyeongju tips for tourists

Gyeongju Google Maps Finally Go High-Resolution


View Larger Map

I may be the only person in Korea to get excited over this, but as I was finishing up my last post, I noticed that Google Maps has finally upgraded the quality of their maps and satellite images of Gyeongju.    For years I have been muttering curses over Google’s pitifully lousy low-resolution satellite images of Gyeongju and I’d like to think that somebody in the offices of Google Korea finally realized that a major tourist destination like Gyeongju deserved better.  But in reality, it looks like the improvements are part of a broader, and long overdue, overhaul of Google Maps.    Google’s satellite views of Gyeongju are now way sharper than before and you can actually make out the details of important historical landmarks, like Cheongmacheong Observatory and Anapji Pond.  It also looks like Google has given their actual maps an upgrade and now lists street names in both Hangul and Romanized Korean, which is handy.  These upgrades should be a huge help to foreign visitors as well as Google’s lagging market-share in S. Korea….. maybe. read more »

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Downtown Food & drink restaurants tips for tourists

Restaurant Review #23: Pyeongyang Naengmyeon (평양냉면)

Pyeongyang Naengmyeon Restaurant, Downtown Gyeongju

Pyeongyang Naengmyeon Restaurant, Downtown Gyeongju

I’ve probably use the phrase “hidden gem” on this blog way more often than any decent writer should.  However with Pyeongyang Naengmyeon (평양냉면) the phrase doesn’t fit any better, as I’ve literally walked by the place for years without realizing it was even there. The restaurant sits at the end of long, narrow corridor leading into the courtyard of a traditional “Hanuk” style traditional house; a hidden oasis in the middle of one of downtown Gyeongju’s busiest blocks.  But just because it’s is hard to find doesn’t mean that Pyeongyang Naengmyeon isn’t popular.  In fact the restaurant’s been open for over 65 years, which is probably a record in these parts, and is actually quite famous among locals and Korean tourists alike. read more »

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hiking Outside Gyeongju Sites to see tips for tourists Ulsan

Going to the River: Mt. Shinbulsan’s Hongnyu Waterfall (홍류폭포) and Eonyang’s Jakcheon-jeong (작천정) Pavilion

Jakcheon-jeong Pavilion, outside Eonyang, Ulsan

Jakcheon-jeong Pavilion, outside Eonyang, Ulsan

One way Koreans like to beat the oppressive heat and humidity of the summer is by “going to the river.” Although it never got past the first post, one of my projects for the blog last summer was to share some of the rivers near Gyeongju where locals like to picnic and swim. One popular area for “going to the river” is just outside of Eonyang (언양), 30 minutes south of Gyeongju on Highway 1. Technically within the Ulsan city limits, Eonyang is traditional market town in the mountains 15 minutes west of Ulsan city. Over the last few decades Eonyang has also become famous as the gateway for tourists and hikers exploring the surrounding the Yeongnam Alps.  Just outside of Eonyang in secluded valley at the foot of Mt. Shinbulsan (신불산) are a couple great places for spending the day picnicking and splashing around by the cool of Jaksujeong River. read more »

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Bomun Resort Museums Sites to see tips for tourists videos Wierd Gyeongju

Wierd Gyeongju: The Teddy Bear Museum (테디베어박물관) and Teseum (테지움) of Bomun Resort

Entrance to the Teddy Bear Museum, Bomun Resort, Gyeongju

Entrance to the Teddy Bear Museum, Bomun Resort, Gyeongju

After spending an afternoon at Bomun Resort recently, I had an epiphany: teddy bear museums are to Korea what wax museums are to the U.S.  Both are cheesy as hell, prey on bored tourists and are not places you’d want to accidentally get locked in overnight.  Not to mention, both spring up around resorts and tourist traps like mushrooms in a Virginia cow pasture after the rain.   From Jeju Island to Mt. Seoraksan, teddy bear museums are currently the rage at all the major tourist destinations in South Korea. Of course Gyeongju’s Bomun Resort, being possibly the biggest tourist trap in the whole country, is blessed with not one, but two teddy bear museums, and they so happen to be just down the block from each other. read more »

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Buddhist culture East Sea Gyeongju hiking history Stories, legends & people Temples & shrines tips for tourists

Going to the River: Girimsa Temple (기림사) and Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls (용연폭포)

Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls, Girimsa Temple, Gyeongju

Yongyeonpokpo Waterfalls, Girimsa Temple, Gyeongju

About a month ago a friend on on Facebook asked where around Gyeongju you can “go to the river.”  Unfortunately I’ve been a bit distracted with writing my Master’s thesis over the last month, but I hope to post on a few places to “go to the river” around here while there’s still some of the summer left. There are actually a number of nice swimming holes and lovely picnicking spots by the rivers around Gyeongju which we go to almost every weekend, if the weather’s nice. read more »

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