Friday, December 14, 2012

"Meeting" Buddha at Seokguram Grotto, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do - Day 7 in South Korea

After our fail KTX train the other day, me and my friend have finally settled in at Gyeongju. Even though we only have one day to visit all the must-see sites of this city, I wanted to make sure it will be very memorable.

Gyeongju is one of South Korea’s most popular cities that attract not just Korean tourists, but also lots of foreigners as this city is rich with culture and history being the former capital of the kingdom of Silla dynasty that lasted for almost thousand years . Gyeongju will allow you to step back in time with its picturesque architecture from the Silla Kingdom. Some of the famous sites (that also includes some that are even UNESCO-recognized) are Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto, Daereungwon Royal Burial Grounds, Bunhwangsa Temple, Cheongseongdae Observatory, Ahnapji Pond, Namsan Mountain, and Bomun Lake Resort.

I am now regretting the one day we have missed because we could have used this to go around – but anyway, there’s no use crying over spilt milk.  Our host has work in the afternoon but he went with us to Seokguram Grotto as he has never been there yet.

We took a cab to Gyeonju station (downtown) and inquired at the tourist station regarding the bus station and schedule to Seokguram Grotto and the nearby temple, Bulguksa. While there, also get a map of the city as it will be very helpful on planning your next destinations.

We took Bus 10 (you may also take Bus 11) from the bus stop near the station. The trip took about 30 minutes. We got off at Bulguksa bus station then took another bus going to Seokguram Grotto. The bus from here comes every 30 minutes.

Seokguram Grotto Mt. Tohamsan
The beautiful pavilion near at the foot of Mt. Tohamsan

We were greeted with amazing blue skies when we arrived at the entrance to Mt. Tohamsan. From there, you can see a large pavilion and inside it, a very humungous bell which is called “The Bell for Peace.” You have to pay 1000 Won to be able to enter here and ring it yourself, we all took the challenge and rang the bell for experience. It's fun to see (or hear) who can ring it the loudest!

Seokguram Grotto bell
Bell for Peace

From the entrance, you will have to walk around 15-20 minutes to reach Seokguram. Yes people, just walk and not hike :) Entrance to Seokguram is 8000 Won.

Seokguram Grotto gyeongju

Seokguram Grotto

Seokguram Grotto
You may also drink the water coming from the mountains here

Seokguram Grotto is a temple in Mt. Tohamsan that houses a giant Buddha stone and is protected by two sets of 12 attendant guardians. It is strictly forbidden to enter inside Buddha’s chamber and there are also no photos allowed so you can see to statue only for appreciation. It was still worth seeing just so you can say that you’ve seen it and I did not think our host appreciated it as much as we did. I thought the entrance fee was a bit pricey to what you will be able to see inside though I am not just sure if the religious significance of the statue would make it worthwhile for Buddhists.

Seokguram Grotto
The plan insde Seokguram
Seokguram Grotto
The grotto

Seokguram Grotto
Buddha - picture is not mine, credits to the owner

After we have returned to the entrance/exit station, you may opt to either take a bus (that only passes by every 30-40 minutes) back to Bulguksa bus station or hike your way down. You can also hike up to Seokguram from Bulguksa – I am thanking Buddha that we did not take this route as I could have probably be a bit disappointed if I made lots of effort going up to the grotto just to see the overprotected statue.

Seokguram Grotto
miniature Buddha
Seokguram Grotto
stones for your wishes
Seokguram Grotto
colorful displays

It was a 3km hike and if you’re going down it will probably take you 20-30 minutes. I was wearing flats this time (and not rubber shoes or boots) so it took me almost 30 minutes, I was probably the slowest of us three that time.

Seokguram Grotto

Seokguram Grotto
snake - and later did we know that it was poisonous

It was a pretty interesting walk as you could take in lots of fresh air and see lots of nature. I would recommend going to Seokguram Grotto if you are interested with Buddhism and artworks during the Silla dynasty, but if not, you could pass on this one.

Let me know your opinions about the grotto and your inputs about Gyeongju :) Next posts will be more about this beautiful city, so please stay tuned!

Day 1: Gangwon-do
Chuncheon and Nami Island

Day 2: Gangwon-do
Mt.Seorak (Seoraksan)

Day 3: Gyeonggi-do
Yongin and Food Tour

Day 4: Gyeonggi-do
Suwon: Hwaseong Fortress, Korean Folk Village

Day 5: Gyeonggi-do

Day 6: Gyeongju
Food Tour

Day 7: Gyeongju
Seokguram Grotto

Bulguksa Temple

Cheomseongdae and Anapji Pond

Day 8: Busan
Railway Train in Korea

Day 9: Busan
Igidae Coast

Busan Fireworks Festival

Day 10: Busan
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Flying with Jeju Air

Day 11: Jeju (E)
Food Tour- Altang

Dragon Rock

Jusangjeolli Cliff

Teddy Bear Museum

The Seaes Resort

Day 12: Jeju (W)
Sunrise Peak


Trick Art

Folk Village

Sangamburi Crater, Mt.Halla

Manjanggul Cave, Maze Park


Day 13: Seoul
Flying with T'way Airlines

Couchsurfing in Korea

Day 14: Seoul
Palaces and Bukchon Village

Day 15&16: Seoul
Myeongdong and Ewha University

N Seoul Tower

Booking Flights
via T'way Airlines

Travel Report for South Korea
16 days travel itinerary and tips

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