Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Birthday Weekend

a quick update first: last weekend we went to the DMZ and JSA, stepped into north korea, toured the third tunnel, and had a slightly awe-inspiring time.  the signs warning of land mines everywhere were pretty sobering.  it's a spooky place, but the dozens of bird species that have made the undeveloped land home help liven it up a little bit.

now on to the good news:

monday is my birthday, and conveniently enough our private school has monday and tuesday off, so we get a four day birthday vacation.  we wanted to go somewhere in korea that was not a big city, that showed us a part of korea's history, and that had actual green growing things.  so to celebrate we are going to gyeongju.

gyeongju was the seat of the Silla dynasty, and home to dozens of kings' burial mounds, among other things. there is also a law that no tall buildings can be built here, and the city remains very small, so it is very easy to get around and there are supposed to be lots of parks and resting places -- though there is apparently very little shade and the sun can be intense, according to Juli-hee, our school manager.  there is also an incredible final resting place for king munmu: a small island off the coast is bisected by two perpendicular lines, at the crossing point of which is laid an enormous granite slab.  his remains lie underneath.  he stipulated that this be done upon his death so that he could become a dragon and protect Silla (the southern part of the korean peninula) from the Japanese.  he was pretty effective until last century.  perhaps after 1,300 years even a guardian dragon is allowed some time off.

to travel there we found a bus service that is free for all non-koreans (i wonder if they would let japanese travel for free as well?).  it was a lucky find, and we got return tickets absolutely free of charge.  we're staying in a hostel for three nights as well, in a private double room that may or may not have a bathroom, for a little under 120,000 won total.  so all in all, a pretty inexpensive long weekend away.

while in gyeongju i hope to tour the burial mounds, see king munmu's tomb, visit a nearby temple and take part in their sunday service and share food with the monks, walk along the beach, read a lot, write a little, and enjoy myself immensely. i hope you all enjoy my birthday as much as we will.

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