The city itself is nice enough, but I'm not sure I'd plan a special trip here. Our preference would have been more time in the southern coastal area.
This area attracts tourists because it has a lot of history dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries. The main temple, called Bulguksa was restored between 1969 and 1973 and even though it's one of the largest temple properties that we've visited, we can only figure that they charge admission because of the Unesco designation.
Compared to some attractions around the world, the admission price is a very reasonable 4,000 won ($4.40), but compared to other Korean attractions (free!), this one is overpriced.
Colors on the trees.
We took the local bus from town for 1,200 won ($1.32). It took over a half an hour, and when we got there we had to hike up from the parking lot to the temple gates. There, we paid the 4,000 won each, and we did so hesitantly because we saw how many tourist buses were there.
The first thing that turned us off, is a huge modern structure inside the temple grounds. After reading what was going on, we understood why this is there, but I think we wouldn't have even gone if we had known ahead of time. And, it's a three year project which is nearing completion.
This temporary structure will be torn down in the next few months after the pagoda inside is rebuilt.
Here they are, rebuilding the pagoda. It's a three year project initiated because of a "crack" in one of the stones.
This smaller pagoda has already been rebuilt.
Cool fish carving.
Pretty spot, but over run with tourists.
Woodwork, and stonework.
Looking up to the mountain we were about to climb.
Beautiful stone bridge.
From Bulguksa, there are three ways to get up to the Seokguram Grotto. You can either drive, take a bus, or do a 2.5 km (1 mile) uphill all of the way hike.
We did the hike!
Pretty fall colors.
Up at the parking lot, we found out that we had to pay another 4,000 won ($4.40) each to view the Buddha in the Grotto. We were a little miffed at this because we were used to Korean monuments being free, and we had only just paid the same amount to view the temple which, to be honest, wasn't any better than the temple where we had done our Templestay last weekend, and it was free for anybody to visit.
We had to hike another half a km or so, which is fine...but when we arrived there we saw this...
This monstrosity was in the midst of being torn down.
Here, you can see the renovated temple building that houses the grotto. Amidst the rubbish.
But even worse, was that they had at some point installed a glass or plexiglas box preventing any decent viewing of the statues. It was honestly the worst display of a Unesco site that we have ever seen. Absolutely terrible, and a waste of anybody's time.
I checked tripadvisor reviews and found than most people are saying the same thing. Wish I would have read the reviews first. Lesson learned!
Here's what we should have been able to see...
Obviously taken well before the Mickey Mouse glass enclosure they built. Oh, and we weren't allowed to take any photos, so I can't show you what a poor job they've done.
So, to make up for our disappointment, we decided to hike another half an hour to the top of the mountain. A nice view on a beautiful day always makes us feel good!
Almost at the top!
The view looking towards the Sea of Japan.
We hiked back down, and took the bus back in to town. We needed to find something to eat, and we had seen a market near the train station that looked interesting. Sure enough, a woman eventually pulled us into her stall where we ordered kimbap...a rice roll snack. She gave us a couple of other treats to go with it, and the bill was 3,000 won ($3.30).
Where we had a late afternoon snack.
Veggies in the market. Personally, we prefer Mexican markets!
This is an ancient observatory.
It was around sunset! I love getting a good sunset pic!
We purposely planned to get to the Anapji Pond after sunset. This man made pond, (man made back before the 10th century!) has been restored along with three of the buildings that existed back then. It's a really pretty spot, and well worth a visit after dark. Don't leave it too late though because it closes at 8:00pm!
Beautiful spot at Anapji Pond.