East Asia 2015 travel blog

The bus to Gyeong-ju is immaculate

The driver even wears white gloves

A pleasant stop along the freeway

Mowing a tumuli (royal Joseon tomb)

Market/personal gardens are common

Palace lake and pavilion

No photos inside the grotto

Another chance to do some good

Ritual of piling up stones is common at shrines

Yangdong Traditional Village (WHS)

Yangdong Village - Trees are venerated

Yangdong Traditional Village (WHS)

Oksan Seowon - Confucian Academy

Oksan Seowon - Confucian Academy

Oksan Seowon - Confucian Academy

National Museum - Gyeong-ju

National Museum - Exhibit

National Museum - Exhibit

National Museum - Exhibit ( A National Treasure)

National Museum - A tie to Nashville

National Museum - Exterior

Ongoing excavations

Food trucks have reached Korea - Good coffee is common

Confucian recommendations for a good life


I leave Seoul for a less modern Korea. An express bus whisks me 400 kilometers south and east to Gyeong-ju, capital of an unified Korea for a thousand years until Genghis Khan ... you know the rest.

The bus is inexpensive and luxurious. The wide screen tv features a show on Korean antiques. The bus has noticeably few passengers. MERS has spooked the tourism industry as well as the locals. Taiwan has cancelled flights, two hospitals have closed, over a thousand schools have suspended classes.

In Gyeong-ju I visit three World heritage sites - Seokoram Grotto, Bulguska temple, Yangdong village and a general downtown area of temples, pavilions, tombs, monuments, and the oldest surviving observatory in Asia, all spread out over miles.

But my favorite site is Oksan Seowan - an abandoned Confucian academy founded in 1572. It stands at the end of bus line 203 amidst pines, a stream. I am the only one there. so peaceful. My reading is helping me understand the Koreans better. Korea is the most Confucian society in Asia. That helps explain some of the characteristics I've noticed - politeness, hospitality, modesty, humility. It also explains their respect for the elderly, a cultural norm I deeply appreciate.

Another major cultural influence is Buddhism. The National Museum branch here is filled with interesting objects - many of them designated as Korean National Treasures. My favorite is a stunning bronze Buddha. Greater than life-size. You'll have to wait a few weeks before I can add photos. The museum itself is quite modern. Touch screens allow the chance to examine objects in close-up and 360 degrees. Makes a difference.

Long days, lots of walking but nothing too stressful. I get to celebrate Happy Father's Day twice via Skype given the workings of the dateline.

The restaurants aren't as accessible here as in Seoul. No English on the signs, just photos that look pretty much alike. Finally I get over myself and just walk into one with tables. Sitting on the floor to eat with knees like mine is not the preferred option.

The meal is delicious - a beef bulgogi set with six different small plates - various kimchees, bamboo shoots, hot peppers with dried fish - that accompany most meals here. But each restaurant has their own versions so each is an adventure. The cook is an ancient Korean woman who checks with me, pats me on the back, every bit a classic diner waitress. Wouldn't have been surprised if she's called me "honey" or "darlin".

On the walk back to my room I stop in at a coffee shop that I've noticed has good sounds emanating for it. Turns out the owner is an audiophile with a huge collection of LPs, CDs - all good stuff from my perspective. Mostly classical. I sip an espresso, listen to Beethoven, and am just very, very content.

Now is later. Get out there.

The Geezer

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