Monday, August 6, 2012

[Tour/Press Article] Day trip to Gyeongju, Namsan hiking!

Day trip to Gyeongju,
Namsan hiking!

As far as places to live in Korea, Daegu appealed to me most of all because it is so easy to get around, in and out of. The city’s transportation system is excellent and easy to use. I have taken full advantage of this by traveling to nearby places, and recommend others do the same.

I often tell visiting friends and family that Gyeongju is the absolute best day trip from Daegu. The layout of the city allows for easy walking or bicycling through the historic sites, and there are sprawling gardens around the city to make the walk just as enjoyable as the temples themselves. The city is often referred to as a “museum without walls,” since there are so many historically significant statues, buildings, and burial mounds around the city. This is primarily because it was the capital of the Shilla Empire, which ruled for almost one thousand years. Since then, Gyeongju has been an excellent place for tourists to come and familiarize themselves with Korea’s history. It is a fantastic place to visit from Daegu, because they are so close and (since Daegu was also a part of the Shilla Empire) historically connected.

Most people have seen Gyeongju’s popular attractions, like Seokguram, and Bulguksa Temple, however, Namsan Mountain is my favorite. It is just south of the city and fairly easy to get to. The trail is stunning, cutting a path through these twisting trees and covered with large rocks to scamper over, and uneven steps cut out of stones. The trail is short – taking about 2 or 2.5 hours round trip, but there is plenty to do on the way.

There are over 100 Buddhist statues placed around the mountain. The biggest and most memorable ones have signs posted on the trail with the statues names and the distance it lies away from the primary path. Keep an eye out though; there are plenty of other, unmarked ones that are worth checking out as well.

Several points on the hike stop at look out points. There are large rocks to sit and have a snack or just relax and appreciate the view. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks, as there are no marts or restaurants along the way, as there is with more crowded trails.

The view from the summit is a bit disappointing, because the peak is entirely surrounded by trees. If you’re attempting to collect the peak marker pictures, I suggest stopping at the point when the trail runs around (on both sides) a small grassy circle in front of a set of stairs. It is a rather steep and ungratifying hike up to the top.

On your way back to Gyeongju, stop at Anapji Pond at night to see the building lit up. The view is at its best after dark, it seems almost unreal.

* Getting there: 

Take a train into Gyeongju. Take one of these buses – 500, 505, 506, 507, 508. If you are standing at the train station with your back to the entrance and looking at the main road that dead-ends into the train station, you need to be on the left-hand side of that street. Get off at Samnueng, and then walk to the right. You will see a bathroom and an unmarked tourist information center. They were very helpful and can give out trail maps. From there, cross the street and enter the trail, it is clearly marked and easy to find. 

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