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Buddha’s Birthday at Sinseonsa (신선사) Temple on Mt. Danseoksan (단석산)

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Miruk Grotto at Sinseonsa Temple, Mt. Danseoksan, Gyeongju

Like many things in Gyeongju, I’ve been meaning to write about Mt. Danseoksan for a while, but I’ve been too busy to get around to it.  However, celebrating Buddha’s Birthday, or Seokga Tansinil (석가탄신일), yesterday at the ancient stone grotto of Mirukgul (미룩굴) on Mt. Danseokan has given me the best reason I’m probably going to get.  Located about 10 km south-west of Gyeongju City, Mt. Danseoksan is officially part of Gyeongju National Park and is famous for its history, legends and natural beauty.  Literally meaning “Split Rock Mountain,” Mt. Danseoksan is, in fact, named after one such ancient story involving the famed Silla general Kim Yu-sin. read more »

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Photos: Cherry Blossom (벚꽃) Tunnel 2012

Cherry Blossom Tunnel, Gyeongju 2012

Cherry Blossom Tunnel, Gyeongju 2012

It seems the long awaited blooming of the cherry blossoms (벚꽃) is starting to reach its peak.  Of course, this means next weekend Gyeongju and Bomun Resort will be flooded with tourists, so I’d suggest staying off the roads around here, if at all possible.  However, one stretch of road worth braving the traffic jams for is the lane leading up to General Kim Yu-shin’s tomb.    I’ve heard locals refer to this road as the “cherry blossom tunnel,” for reasons that I hope are obvious.  Thankfully a few years back the city managed to widen this road, which takes pressure off the traffic and leaves a lot more room for a street vendors and strolling tourists. (It was kind of hard to enjoy the cherry blossoms while worrying about losing a limb to passing cars at the same time.)  I had some spare time between classes this afternoon and decided to check out the scene before it got too crazy with the weekend tourists.  Of course, I had my new Nikon DSLR along to play with, so here are some of the better photos I shot.  The weather was perfect, but for the wind, and there were still enough folks around to give the place quite a festive atmosphere.  The cross-dressing, trote-singing clown from Incheon helped to spice up the atmosphere a bit too (pictures not included.)  Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the photos and if you’re looking for suggestions on other places around town to frolic amongst the cherry flowers, I’ve posted tips previously both here and here.

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2012 Spring Events: Cherry Blossoms, Miso II, Concerts and More

Cherry Blossoms at Night, Gyeongju

Cherry Blossoms at Night, Gyeongju

I’ll skip my usually apologies to my regular readers for not posting in over almost month.  Suffice to say, I’ve been swept up in the usual start-of-semester whirlwind lately.  Thankfully things are finally settling into a routine and with spring at our door step, there are a few things to catch up on. For starters, cherry blossom season is close upon us again. If you’re planning to frolic among the flowers this year, the Korean Tourism Organization has recently released its predictions for the blossoming dates and peak times for 2012. It looks like the cherries here in Gyeongju will begin blooming around April 2nd and will be at their peak between April 11th and the 20th, so mark your calendars.  And if you’re looking tips on places in town to check out the cherry blossoms,  I’ve posted suggestions in years past on the best spots for the blossoms. read more »

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Fall Events in Gyeongju: Temple Food, Hallyu Dreams, Liquor and Rice Cake, Marathons and more

Gyeongju Liquor and Rice Cake Festival, 2010

Gyeongju Liquor and Rice Cake Festival, 2010

The official start of fall is less than a week away, meaning it’s time again for some of the best weather in Korea and its accompanying  frenzy of festivals.   Here in Gyeongju we can look forward to a few old favorites plus some changes and special events.  First off, both vegetarians and Buddhist culture aficionados will want to check out the first annual Sachal Eumshik (사찰 음식), or Temple Food, Festival out at Deoksungsa Temple (덕숭사) next Saturday, Sept. 24th.   Contrary to popular belief (of many Koreans, in fact) Korea has a rich and delicious tradition of vegetarian cuisine rooted in the country’s numerous Buddhist temples.  Sachal Eumshik can be savored at several restaurants around Gyeongju, like Baru in Seondo-dong or Ssukbujaengi near Bomun.

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Summer News: World Culture Expo, Blue One Water Park and More

Laser Show, 2011 Gyeongju World Expo (image from http://au.ibtimes.co)

Laser Show, 2011 Gyeongju World Expo (image from http://au.ibtimes.co)

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. read more »

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Buddha’s Birthday (석가탄신일) at Yeongheungsa Temple (영흥사), May 2010

Buddha's Birthday at Yeongheungsa Temple, Gyeongju

Buddha's Birthday at Yeongheungsa Temple, Gyeongju

In case you missed it the last few dozen times I’ve said it, let me just say again:  Buddha’s Birthday is my favorite holiday in Korea.  On Buddha’s Birthday, or “Seokgatanshinil” (석가탄신일) as it’s called in Korean, the Buddhist faithful hang lanterns bearing prayers and wishes all around the temples, which serve free vegetarian Bibimbap for lunch or dinner.   The larger temples often host free concerts and cultural performances in the afternoon, but what really makes Buddha’s Birthday special for me is the Lantern Parade held after sundown at historical temples like Bulguksa and Tongdosa. read more »

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2011 Gyeongju Ceramics Festival Photos

Gyeongju Ceramics Festival

Gyeongju Ceramics Festival

Somehow I always forget about the annual Gyeongju Shilla Ceramics Festival. It’s not that I hate Korean pottery or anything. (In fact, I’m a proud owner of several Korean tea sets). Rather, the fine folks over at Gyeongju’s City Hall always double book the Ceramics Festival along side other big events (which actually isn’t as daft as it might seem since it helps draw in the crowds). In years past it ran literally next to the Liquor and Rice Cake Festival in Hwanseong Park. This year however it’s providing a nice cultural courter point to the adrenaline fueled Taekwondo Championships next door in Hwangseong Gymnasium. There seem to be a lot more artists at the Ceramics Festival then in years past and they’ve got a few hands on activities for the youngsters, as well as other types of traditional crafts for sale. The Ceramics Festival runs through this weekend and finishes up on Sunday the May 8th, a few days longer then the WTF Championships. If your around, check it out as it’s a great opportunity for some early Christmas (or belated Mother’s Day) shopping. read more »

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2011 WTF Taekwondo Championship Photos

2011 WTF Taekwondo Championships, Gyeongju

2011 WTF Taekwondo Championships, Gyeongju

Last Sunday we decided to brave the yellow sand and head down to Hwangseong Park to check out the first day of the World Teakwondo Championships.  The atmosphere was festive and park was packed with  locals and visiting athletes.  There were hundreds of tents strewn about hawking everything from teakwondo gear, sports jerseys and Nike trainers to regional cultural products like dried fish and amethyst jewelry. Traditional Korean concerts ran along side arts and craft demo.  Plus at the soju tents down by the river a troupe cross dressing clowns were gearing up to perform as we strolled by.  Even the annual Gyeongju Pottery Festival was running literally next to the Gymnasium (but more on that later) which provided a nice break for a bit window shopping. read more »

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More Spring News: Traditional Korean Opera, Free Taekwondo Tickets, New Gyeongju Website and More

Bomun Opera Performance Poster (click to enlarge)

Bomun Opera Performance Poster (click to enlarge)

Spring is a busy time in Gyeongju, so there are few more things happening around town that I thought I’d mention.   May 5th – 7th (Thursday through Saturday) the Gyeongju City Government is hosting a free opera performance out at Bomun Lake titled “The River Flows to the Sea.”  The opera is a drama based on the relationship between two legendary figures from the Shilla Dynasty; Queen Seondeok and General Kim Yu-shin.  The opera will be accompanied by a Korean classical symphony and features some pretty heavy hitters from the world of Korean theater and classical music, like conductor Park Sang-jin.  The opera will run from 7:00 to 9:30 pm and will be held at the out-door theater on the north shore of Bomun Lake.  If you’re in town that weekend, definitely check it out as it sounds pretty cool.  I mentioned it was free, right? read more »

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Gyeongju Cherry Blossoms (벚꽃) 2011

Cherry Blossoms, Road to Kim Yu-shin's Tomb, Gyeongju

Cherry Blossoms, Road to Kim Yu-shin's Tomb, Gyeongju

I have to apologize to the regular readers of this blog (if indeed they exist beyond my lovely wife ;-)) for being slack in posting lately.  I had not one, but two, presentations to prepare for my masters program this last week.  As my creative efforts have been going elsewhere, I don’t actually have any articles ready to post atm.  However this year’s cherry blossoms are in full bloom and I did get out recently for some family photos among the blossoms. read more »

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