Gyeongju is Korea is a big statement, it’s pasted all over the taxis in the city. It’s not an overstatement though, Gyeongju is a fantastic combination of ancient Silla king’s tombs nestled in amongst modern shopping areas and bustling markets.
This may look like just a hill, but it’s actually an ancient tomb.
To get there from Busan we headed to Dongbu Nopo-dong Bus Terminal, which is the central bus terminal in the city, by Nopo subway station on metro line 1. From here you can get Gyeongju in 2 hours.
The surrounding area around the city is absolutely laden with historic sites including temples, tombs, sacred Buddhist mountains, traditional villages, and stone pagodas. You can get to all of them on a really good bus system, although finding the right bus stop is a challenge as there are three bus station all with 100ft of each other.
A big figure for us in Gyeongju was the English speaking guide who calls himself BYC. He has an eye disorder which means he can’t focus on things properly, this means he can only see shapes of things around him without detail. Despite this he still lives by himself, walks to work, and guides people around the sites in the city, he can’t use the computer or emails, he can’t even text. This is somewhat extreme in the modern world of screen driven habits. We both think this is remarkable.
The most remarkable thing is that we initially met him at the Bulguksa temple, where he suggested that it was a coincidence that we met that day based on everything we had done up until this point, then he suggested that we should go and have some dinner, gave us his card and asked for us to call him at some point in the 3 days that we were in town. We were up for this but for one problem, our phone doesn’t work in Korea so we’d have to get our guesthouse owner to call and she wasn’t really around a lot.
BYC told us that he’d not be working at the temple tomorrow, however he would be at another place; he works at 3 or 4 tourist destinations in Gyeongju for the benefit of English speaking tourists. Disaster averted as on the second day we decided to visit Yangdong traditional village, and as we were waiting for our English speaking guide, we saw BYC amble over the road to come and meet us. Of course he didn’t recognise us until we spoke. It was a great coincidence and we managed to arrange to meet him in a certain place at a certain time the next day so we could go for dinner.
He took us to a place near his home where we had copious plates of things with kimchee in it, the best being kimcheejeon – jeon means pancake, and copious amounts of the Korean sweet rice wine called Makgeolli Which is actually pronounced ‘ma go lee’. Both are fermented so left our stomachs a bit bubbly that night! We had a great time.
How old do you think he is by the way? He’s 49. Looking pretty young BYC.