We went off to Gyeongju, where Ma treated us to a room at the Hilton. The accommodations were far better than a sleazy love motel, that’s for sure. Almost immediately after settling in, we went to the Folkcraft Village. Korea is famous for its pottery, so this was a great place to see and buy works of art, not to mention, experiment with the camera and the different textures and colors I would pick up through the lens.
That night, we went to a traditional Korean multi-course meal that included more side dishes than you could count, much less name. The service was perfect. and the conversation was stimulated by the exotic and unknown foods and flavors.
The next day we went to Bulguksa (Temple) and Seokguram (Grotto), both of which are a must-see for this area. The temple had some original remaining pieces despite that it, like many other treasures here in Korea, had once upon a time been destroyed or damaged by foreign invaders. I think Ma liked the grotto the best: high in the mountains above the city sits an almost wholly preserved relic that is over 500 years old, if not much more. There are no photos allowed of this white Buddha that sits in a cave serenely as people visit and take a picture in their minds.
We rounded out the day with a visit to the royal tombs of Daereoungwon. I had visited this and the other sites before, but the amazing contrast between fall and summer visits is stark. If you look back to one of my first photo spreads here on this webpage, you can observe the differences yourself. The tombs were no exception: all the lush greenery covering the numerous burial mounds (not unlike miniature pyramids in their purpose). At the very same time we were entering the grounds, a group of 200 or so ROK soldiers also were coming through the gates. I suppose that the purpose behind their visit is to give a sense of history and heritage to those who are asked to defend said history and heritage. Let’s hope there very presence can deter any foolhardy attack by the North. On July 4, Kim Jong Il fired a group of rockets into the East Sea/Sea of Japan. It’s a strange thing. I was so busy thinking of the next thing to do with Ma that I didn’t read the news for a couple days. No one here seems to be terribly concerned and it has been that way for all DPRKs saber rattling ever since I got here. Though I reacted the same way my dad and many others did when I heard back in October 2006, I don’t find myself terribly concerned, having faith that Kim Jong Il knows how terribly miscalculated an attack would be, especially if we are to believe the reports of a starving people in that reclusive country. Nicole has likened him to a spoiled child, kicking and screaming for attention.