I’m sorry Korea. It’s not you, It’s me.
I need to snap out of my negativity and remember the reasons why I came to Korea in the first place. I love history. At least I think I do. Gyeong-ju is Korea’s open air museum with lots of history. So I should be loving this experience. I picked Korea because Korean pop is very popular in the Philippines. Korean songs make it to the top of the weekly countdowns on the radio although nobody understands them. I love Korean movies. I love their type of humor. They can make you laugh without being rude and obscene. I’d hate to be one of those prissy tourists who always complain so I’ll put on my happy face.
That the landscape is not as stunning is not a problem. You don’t get to choose where you’re born and the topography that you get there. It’s not fair for me to bash Korea for not having vast lands left on its own for the forest to grow because this is a small country. Every acre of land needs to be productive. And there’s still so much that the west has that they need to catch up on.
I found out that the smog comes from China coupled with the yellow dust from Mongolia. Happens March to April every year. Much of the smog is caused by the use of heaters during winter. I can’t blame them for using heaters. But how come Canada isn’t polluted when they use heaters too? Right, there’s 1.3 billion people in China. Korea did not choose to be situated right next to China. It’s not fair that they get the smog that makes China rich and all powerful. I guess we’re all partly to blame because of our need for the latest gadgets at the cheapest possible price. China should be paying Korea for the damage their smog is causing. I wonder if all the neighbors of China suffer the same fate. I’ve always wanted to go to Mongolia and Kyrgyztan. I didn’t know that aside from the weather I also have to consider smog and yellow dust season. Now I know spring is not a good time to visit north east Asia.
In planning my trip I had a hard time choosing between Mt. Seorak and Gyeong-ju. I like both nature and history. I consulted a camel who is very popular here on Travel Blog and he suggested Gyeong-ju so Gyeong-ju it is. Now I’m glad I picked the latter because the farther up north you go the more smog you’ll get. Here the sky is blue.
I think it was also the jet lag that made me so harsh on Korea on my first day. 14 hours on a plane, a few hours of sleep then back to the airport for a five hour flight then another five hours on a bus does not make a happy man. I was more exhausted than I thought I was.
Also I think I already set myself up to hate Korea even before I left Canada. I remember tweeting “I don’t wanna go to Korea! I wanna stay here! FOREVER!” Hence Korea became the target of my frustration. Like when you come home upset from work and you take it out on your dog. (I don’t do that)
I woke up early the next morning because I was so tired last night I was in bed by 7PM. I walked around and the air felt cool. The weather was perfect. You can walk around with just a cardigan or a light jacket. The streets were deserted save for the men in suits on their way to work. There were vendors on the main street selling fruits, vegetables and seafood in the early hours before the establishments open. I went to one of the banks to draw money and was surprised that one of the language options is Filipino. I haven’t seen any Filipinos though. But I assume that there’s quite a lot since it’s one of the language options. Non of the shops were open at 8AM, not even Starbucks. I did find Paris Baguette that one of the bloggers here liked so much so I tried it. I was still confused about the exchange rate so everything looked expensive. I bought two. One had the label potato curry something. It was so good until I tasted something chewy and meaty. It was meat. So gross. I had to throw it. If they put potato and curry on the label why don’t they put beef! I hate it when that happens. I somehow feel that it defiles me.
I started my tour after preparing my breakfast of fries and eggs which I myself had to prepare.
The Tumulis were not too far from my hostel so that’s where I went first. There might be an entrance fee in that park but I did not see an attendant in the booth so I just went in. The Tumulis are burial sites for the ancient rulers of Shilla, the old capital of Korea. One of the Tumulis is open for viewing. I started late and the sun was up and I had no shades or baseball cap to protect me from the heat. Basically the park was a garden with small hills. I felt lonely walking around alone. I was glad I’d be home soon. I went inside the one open tumuli and saw some of the treasures that they found there. Jewelry, swords, and a golden crown with lots of jade shaped like cashew nuts. They were supposed to be shaped like moon but they looked a lot more like cashew nuts.
I walked towards the Anapji pond. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site. There were three pagodas and a pond. I failed to see why it is a world heritage site. A pond with three pagodas is what it is. I know it’s historical significance but it wasn’t really impressive.
Walked through the Banwolseong Fortress on my way back. It’s another UNESCO site. All that’s left of the Fortress is the place where they used to store ice. It looks like a dungeon. I did not even take a photo. Most of the Fortress is just an empty lot with some of those burial mounds. This is where Queen Seon Dok was buried. I know her because I watched that Korean series in Manila but I was too tired from walking by then so I didn’t bother. I knew that Cheomseongdae is not too far so I decided to see it before I go back to my hostel. Compared to the Tumulis, Anapji pond and Banwolseong Fortress, I thought it was pretty cool. Yes its just a pile of rocks but I like the lighting that they did. There was a group of Korean photographers with their uber high tech cameras taking photos of the thing. I thought that was weird. They were all in one corner taking photos of the same thing. Maybe it was a photography class. Lot’s of young people in Korea. I think I heard somewhere that they have an ageing population but it certainly did not look like it in Gyeong-ju. I came across very few foreign tourists. Maybe because they know about the smog?
On my way back to the hostel a lady dragged me into her restaurant. I was famished from all the walking so I went with her. She didn’t speak English but I had my app in my phone that had the ability to ask if they had vegetarian food. She said yes, I think. Then she proceeded to give me a platter of leaves and three dips for the leaves. Then more little plates came with different kinds of food. Then even more came. I had 27 different kinds of food in front of me by the time the table was set. Incredible! I had to send back the meats, fish and seafood that was included. I should have showed her the “I’m vegetarian, I don’t eat meat” phrase instead of the “Do you have vegetarian food”. It’s so cool to have 27 kinds of dishes served in front of you. I felt like a king. The best part is it only costs 10,000 KRW! That’s like $9.5! I was ready to pay at least 25$ but when I asked how much she said it’s 10,000. That is too little for the effort of preparing and serving all of those then having to wash all the plates. Too much work in that 10,000 KRW meal. I am now officially in love with Korean food. My favorite is the red strips on the front row next to the garlic. Although now I realize that that might be crab! Tipping is not a thing in Korea. I felt kinda guilty for not leaving a tip but I don’t know if they will be offended if I leave a tip. The floor was heated! It felt so good on my tired legs.