|So our short-lived love affair with Busan was over after a morning tour and before we knew it, we were back on the tour bus heading toward the ancient city of Gyeongju. Gyeongju is the cultural epicenter of Korea, and was the home of royal palaces and buddhist temples for thousands of years.
After waking up from a rocky, one hour nap on our bus, Cyndi and I both woke up to see...nothing. We were officially in the country and there were no sky scrapers, no hustle-and-bustle of traffic and no more endless business signs. We were out of the concrete jungle and into the open vastness of S. Korea.
For the first time on our trip we saw country homes built the old way, with curved roofs like in all the pictures you've seen. Mountains surrounded us on all sides, and the valley stretched for as far as we could see with yellow rice fields. Although it was a stark contrast from what we've seen, the valley and the mountains were absolutely gorgeous.
We couldn't figure out though why there was no buildings and no royal palaces to admire? Come to find out later in our museum tour that like many of the ancient structures in other cultures, they were burned in fires of invasion.
The highlights of our day were the Buddhist temples. We visited two and they never get old with us. There's something special about walking up a mountainside to a sacred place where people worship. There's something special about seeing devout monks who live in poverty, wear humble clothing and shave their heads for what they believe in.
We ended our day by visiting a cemetary. I love Korean graves btw. I first noticed them in Jeju when I would see huge grass-covered mounds on the distant hilltops. These graves look like a pregnant woman's belly and have a black marble headstone with an engraving on it. I think the pregnant woman look is deliberate because it represents "returning to the mother, mother earth". Oftentimes, the mound is surrounded by a square stone wall. The ones we visited today, were royal graves, so the mounds were of course as high a Mt. Brighton.