Spring is in the air!! The weather has been warming up and beautiful flowers have been blossoming all over Korea, so I decided to go bike riding trip through the cherry blossoms in Gyeongju! For those of you that don’t know, Gyeonju was the capital of the Silla Kingdom for almost 1000 years, and holds the record of being the oldest surviving kingdom in Korea. It was ruled by 56 kings over its 992 years as a capital city, and continues to be a place brimming with history, art, and culture. In fact, the entire city of Gyeongju is registered as a UNESCO World Culture Heritage site under the title ‘Gyeongju Historic Areas.’
I went to Gyeongju with a group called When In Korea (WINK) and we left Seoul on Friday evening so that we could travel without much traffic, as well as check-in to our pension and prepare for the next day full of bike riding. I hadn’t ridden a bike in at least 6 years, so I must have had an adventurous streak when I decided to go on this trip LMAO.
Saturday morning, we headed off to the bike rental shop to rent bikes and go on our bike riding adventure around the Gyeongju Downtown area. We could venture off on our own but because I’m directionally challenged, I decided to bike with the group leaders. The plan was to stop at a few spots in the downtown area, then head to a food village for lunch, and then bike our way back to the hostel.
Ya’ll, the cherry blossoms were so pretty!! They weren’t as pink as I’d expected, but they were still GORGEOUS!!! There were so many streets that were lined with the cherry blossom trees, and it gave the city a super bright and cheery feel. I tried to take a video of the scenery as I rode on my bike, but then I almost broke my damn phone!! Lol, so yall will just have to settle for these beautiful pictures instead!!
The first stop we made was to the Cheomseongdae Observatory, which is the oldest observatory in Asia. Every stone in the structure has a meaning and even the shape of the conservatory is symbolic. The curvy shape represents the image of the sky, and square shapes represent the flatness of the ground.
Next, we rode to the Seokbinggo Ice Storage, which stored ice during the reign of King Jijeong, but it is the only ice storage room from the Joseon dynasty that remains today.
Our next stop was the Daereungwon Tomb Park, a beautiful park and one of the largest of the ancient tomb sites in Gyeongju, containing 30 ancient tombs. The cherry blossoms in the park were so amazing!
One of the most famous tombs in the park is The Cheonmachong Tomb, which means literally means “Heavenly Horse Tomb.” This is actually the only tomb in the park that people are allowed to enter. It’s believed that this tomb was built around the 5th or 6th century and beautiful golden relics, like the Cheonmachong gold crown, were excavated from this tomb.
After visiting the park, we began the journey to the food village for lunch, which was perfect because all that cycling was tiring me out and I needed to refuel. We’d been biking for about a half an hour, when all of a sudden, MY DAMN BIKE BREAKS DOWN! Now, I’m no bike mechanic, but I know that when you pedal, the shit is supposed to move, and that suddenky stopped happening. After about a half an hour, we figured out that not only was the rear tire loose, but it had shifted so that it was rubbing against the outer part of the bike, causing it to act like a brake. So instead of going to the food village, I had to go ALL the way back to the bike shop get a new bike (they tried to give me the same bike back but I wasn’t having it), and then bike ALL the way to the food village, and then to the hostel.
By the time I got back to the hostel, I was exhausted as hell and never wanted to see another bike for the rest of my life. On top of that, my ass hurt like crazy!! Honestly, I don’t know how people do it, riding bikes all day everyday. I’m not even going to lie, after all of that biking, sitting down was uncomfortable for the rest of the weekend LMAO. After a quick rest, I decided to take a stroll through the park that was down the street from our hostel. I don’t know the name of the park, but I’m glad I spent some time there because it was so pretty!
Later that evening, we were on our way to take a night hike to see some of the city sights in the nighttime, but then the skies opened up and it started raining!! BOOO!! Unfortunately, that meant that we couldn’t do our night hike but we got some soju and headed to the noraebang instead!!
The next day, we visited the Bulguksa Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Mt. Tohamsan. Although this temple was built during the Silla Kingdom, it was burned down by the Japanese during the Imjinwaeran War. Reconstruction on the temple soon began, and the temple has been renovated almost 40 times before many broken sites were repaored by the Bulguksa Temple Restoration Committee in 1973.
After the Temple, we went to the Gyeongju Choe Clan Family Residence to learn more about the Choe family and their contributions to society. The Choe family was one of the wealthiest families in the region for about 12 generations. Our English speaking guide discussed the principles of the Choe family, which promoted education and a dedication to improving the society.
So, despite my bike breaking down and the rain ruining the night hike, I still had a really good time on this trip. I rode a bike for the first time in ages, got to see some beautiful cherry blossoms, and met some REALLY cool people!! Here’s to more adventures around Korea!!
Talk to you later!!!