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Have you been to Gyeongju Historic Areas
? Share your experiences!
To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed by Kyongju (now spelled "Gyeongju" by the way). The historical relics are scattered around town, but most of them are not major sights. The cute Cheomsongdae Observatory is the one thing that you really must see here. So old, so delicate, and in such a good condition.
Ian Cade (England):
I found Gyongju to be a pleasant place to be based during my first few days in Korea. Some guidebooks seem to go over the top with their praise of the place which can leave people disappointed with the reality, however for me it was a great place to relax and see some of the most important sites in Korean history.
On the bus to the city I got a great introduction by listening to this episode, from the British Museum/ BBC A History of the World in 100 objects. On top of this I visited the free Gyonju museum which was very interesting although a touch over run with friendly school children practicing their English on me. These gave me a better understanding of what may otherwise just be a series of grassy hills. I have actually visited a fair few grass mounds in my pursuit of World Heritage Sites but these were the most enjoyable I have so far encountered. The central cluster are actually a very enjoyable piece of landscape design and are very well presented, also there is one tomb open for you to explore the interior, which is well worth a look.
There are two other WHS nearby and whilst the modern town is decidedly unremarkable, it has all the amenities you will need making this a great place to be based in the south of the country.
[Site 6: Experience 10*]
* A note to explain the top marks for the experience at this site, it isn’t necessarily for the wondrous things you can do in Gyongju. It is actually for the astonishingly friendly welcome I was afforded everywhere I went in Korea, but especially in this city. If you have read reviews of the Korean world heritage sites on this site and thought that perhaps Korea isn’t really the most interesting destination then I would implore you to not be put off a visit. Whilst its WHS are nice they are not perhaps in the highest order; however the people, food and atmosphere are magnificent. I have posted an example of the incredible hospitality I received here.
Date posted: December 2011 Thomas Sunam Johansen (Norway):
I have been doing an exchange program for one semester here as an archaeologist, and truly I can say: "Gyeongju is a treasure paradise to any archaeologist!"
As a student in Dongguk University's Archaeology Department, I have been able to get a good look at the current excavations being done, as well as seeing all the sites that are to be seen in and around Gyeongju. What history! There are so many stories yet to be told from this city as the excavations will be going on until 2025. We think we know it all, but no, no, there's so much yet to be learned about the lives lived in the historical era of Silla.
In my personal opinion, people who expect too much miss out the little things which truly makes Gyeongju the exciting historical site it is being advertised as. I can take a walk along the riverside, in the mountains or by the farm roads and find small pieces of artefacts all over. In walking at the edge of the wall of Banweolseong fortress I even stumbled across a near complete earthenware from around AD. 500!! (It has been, as required by law, given to the National Museum of Gyeongju.) When walking in Gyeongju, you are literally walking on historical grounds filled with artefacts from its days. It is such an amasing experience! ...well, at least for anyone with historical/archaeological interest who fare with an open mind.
It is absolutely a place worth while taking your time to look around and enjoy, feel the spirit of its great history and become a part of it :)
Date posted: June 2011 Kyle Magnuson (United States of America):
The astounding number of Silla relics in Gyeongju is what makes this ancient city outstanding. Some of the sights are rather brief visits, such as the oldest Astronomy Tower in Asia and the largely re-constructed Anapji Pond. Yet the more time you spend in Gyeongju, you begin to recognize these incredibly diverse sites are all that remain of a powerful and advanced ancient civilization. If you have the great opportunity to visit Gyeongju make sure to visit the tombs and spend some time in and around Namsan mountain. Gyeongju being the ancient capital of Silla is a wonderful glimpse into a fascinating period of Korean history and is quite different from other regions of the country.
Date posted: August 2010 Tara (USA, ESL teacher in Yeonsu):
It is now our school's vacation time, and I am looking foward to doing some traveling. As a gyopo(sp.?) who has unfortunatley been unable to experience life in Korea until now, Gyeongju seems like the perfct place to really take in what historical Korea has to offer. I am reading both positive and negative things about this area, and after going there I will have formed my own opinion about its value to me. I am married and do not frequent clubs, nor do I drink. I especially don't have the desire to travel to a beach every weekend, so I can come back to work with a repetitive re-telling of how drunk and stupid I was on my escapades Saturday night. Sadly, I think tourists in general have gradually moved away from site seeing that has no commercial appeal. It is easy to vsit a palace, temple or cultural relic if there is an amusement park, mega-mall/underground arcade, or overcrowded beach just a taxi ride away. If you are interested in pottery and art, you can visit pottery villages. If you want to see yourself in a more eastern light you can go and stay at a temple. What a great bunch of things to do and tell stories about, right? Even a temple stay has a sort of "this is the thing to do" feel about it. I don't speak for everyone when I say that I would prefer to forego places where I can build up my shopping bag collection, or eat at a Bennigan's to be reminded of how western I am, etc. One poster commented on having an open mind when you visit these types of places, and I have to agree. Travel "hot spots", or "not-so-much travel hot spots anymore" like this have merits that encompass not only its rich history, but a sort of bare-boned simpleness. Something that brings with it a deeper appreciation that cannot be bought, sold, or sun-tanned.
Date posted: July 2008 Frederik Dawson (Netherlands):
The legendary capital city of the sophisticated kingdom of Silla, the first great capital of unified ancient Korea, the forth largest cultural, economical, and political center of known ancient world, one of the oldest human living cities in the world, an open air museum are all the superlative definitions of Gyeongju stipulating all tourists to visit making this city one of the MUST destination in Korea.
For sure all clarification above make you expected something great from Gyeongju with many ruins like ancient Greek or Roman cities. But Gyeongju turn out to be quite disappointing with nothing much to see, most of historical sites are burial mounds in the park, with few outstanding buildings. Cheonseomdae, the tiny ancient planetarium, and beautiful Anapji pond are two major sights but are not so outstanding in my opinion. To flavor many bored tourists the city of Gyeongju tries their best to turn historical park into flower fields to make the park more attractive especially in the evening with the really nice set of light decoration. Another area that worth mentioned is Mount Namsan with lots of Buddhist artifacts scattered around the mountain but considering the quality of art, Seokguram Grotto is much superior.
Many tourists and reviewer praised Gyeongju by admiring Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto, but we should separate these two places from Gyeongju as they are different site in term of World Heritage. So if we cut Bulguksa out from Gyeongju, I rarely heard people mentioned the beauty of historic sites in city center or mount Namsan.
All in all, Gyeongju is a victim of overrate tourist advertisement by using too much historical fact. Gyeongju is easily compared with Nara in Japan, however the feeling after visit of these two cities are totally different, for Nara you don’t expected much from this short lived capital resulting lovely surprise and enjoy the trip, but with load of expectations for Gyeongju the outcome is upside down. I agreed that to enjoy Gyeongju may need time to appreciate its secret, but with the Korean governmental fact that the amount of tourist visit Gyeongju is decreasing compared to other regions of Korea may provide some answer to all of us.
Date posted: May 2008 Joseph Yim (South Korea):
Some twenty years ago I lived in the city known as Taegu, better known today as "Daegu",city only about fourty minutes away from Gyeongju,city of ancient Shilla Kingdom. The Gyeongju city has more than thousand years of history,which by the way makes one of the oldest human living city in the world, and certainly makes older than any other western european cities except Athens and Rome as exception,and certaintly makes order than London city. Though today city is modern and only hold only some 350,000 thousand people,please do understand at one time in it's prime days,Gyeongju city was world's forth largest cultural,economical,and political center of known ancient world followed by Constantinople,Baghdad and Changan of China with population close to a million people,so you do a math. To those who did not enjoyed city of Gyeongju I feel sorry to heard that,but like anywhere else not every can have pleasent experince where ever you go,but word of advice,when you do travel to different cities of any nationalists,do little bit of research before you travel,and travel with open mind without any prejudices, than you will truly able to understand and appreciate more where ever you visits! Enjoy your travel!
Date posted: September 2005 Michelle Arathimos (New Zealand):
I am dissappointed with the negative responses seen here! As an English teacher travelling and living in Korea, I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to see the amazing historical treasure that is Gyeongju. Gyeongju has the amazing atmosphere of a lost Asian empire, and all the history you need to make the pieces fit can be found in the great museum. The burial mounds are fantastic and the town itself is a melting pot of different times.
Marsha Lee (USA):
I had the pleasure of visiting Korea in 2003. I was not impressed with Seoul but when we went to Gyeongju, it was overwhelming. The temples are beautiful. The monks are very friendly and hospitable. You could feel the sacredness of Bulguska temple and the Seokguram Grotto.It seemed like time was at a stand still. It was a very healing experience for me and my family. We are planning on returning in 2005.
Eskii (London, UK):
Like all cities around the world, there are good and bad. I was born in Kyongju but brought up raised in UK all my life. Kyongju holds many wonderful secrets. Nevertheless to move to a city, you really must visit ths place - sorry to hear peoples disappointed experiences. But well worth a visit if you are travelling through Korea.
John Thomson (UK (living in Korea)):
Kyongju is very very overrated, I moved to the city almost 6-months ago, choosing a job there over one in Seoul because I had read about how beautiful it was meant to be. Quite frankly I am very disappointed.
The city of Kyongju is a hotchpotch of modern 1980's building which have been erected with absolutely no regulation or proper planning. In amongst this high rise hell are to be found a scattering of very unimpressive historical artifacts many of which would not be given a second glance were they to be found in Europe. OK the burial mounds are impressive, but they are not captivating in the way an old medieval town is.
Out with the city of Kyongju itself (it should be remembered that despite Kyongju being marketed as an open air museum some attractions are 20km away) things are much better. For example the temple at Bulguksa is absolutely fabulous as is Seokguram Grotto a short walk away.
Jocelyne bouilliot (France):
My father lived in Corea in 1985, for he was bilding a nuclear power plant in Uljin, and i spent 2,5 monthes there. We were living in the contry-side, in Buku, and i had time to integrate a bit of corean culture before going to Kyongju. I think it's necessary to understand what might be invisible to occidental eyes.
Being archeologist, i found great interrest in the site. The people who worked there did a real good job (excavation, and conservation)
Have you been to Gyeongju Historic Areas ? Share your experiences!