three of us gals decided to head out to gyeongju for the weekend. gyeongju is the town we visited on our faculty retreat back in august. it's a gorgeous area, only a 50 minute busride away and most importantly, we just couldn't get enough of the kings' tombs, so we went back for more! but this time, in looking more closely at these burial mounds, i came to the conclusion that they are a complete scandal....these aren't dead men's tombs, these are korea's own paps of anu!! my dear friend, nicole, who just returned from a nine month pilgrimage to ireland will surely agree!
once we made it to gyeongju, we met up with three more of sarah's friends from canada who just arrived to korea two weeks ago and are teaching in busan. here we all are by a sweet lotus pond....
we walked by this tourist stand near the scandalous kings' tombs....you've gotta love the sign: "everything is not expensive!" (just a reminder: you can double click on any picture to make it larger)
we visited the gyeongju market....every town has it's own and they are each a wonder for all of the senses to behold.
you can buy octopus on a string! these creatures look so otherworldly....
kimbap! (means: rice wrapped in seaweed filled with all kinds of yummies!!) great fast food!
a lovely array of beans and grain for sale
this tuesday is the korean thanksgiving holiday known as "chusoek." this celebration entails traveling to one's hometown (if you are married, the wife travels to the husband's hometown) to gather and pay homage to the family ancestors, exchange gifts and eat piles of food. the director of our department at the university gave each of us a HUGE box filled with traditional korean rice cookies (we are talking about 60 cookies!). if you walk into any grocery store right now there are GIANT gift boxes on display to be purchased and given as chusoek gifts. the hottest sale item right now is a SPAM gift box - filled with 10 cans of SPAM! also everywhere you look there are platters and platters of traditional korean rice cakes for sale (see below).
after the market, we took a cab out to the folkcraft village in the mountains which is the best place to buy traditional korean pottery. as soon as we got there i felt like i'd landed myself in the heavenly realm! it was all i could do not to drool all over the tea sets, the little cups, the gorgeously crafted pots....the beautiful celadon (cracked glaze) pottery.....aaaahhhh.....it's going to be harder than i thought to save money!
we made a unanimous decision that pizza and beer was a must for the drizzly night before us. it was delicious, although you have to get used to the fact that all tomato sauce in korea is heavily sweetened. sarah, being the eldest of the group, poured the beer (as is korean tradition) and we respectfully held our glasses with two hands and bowed upon receiving our libation. this is important etiquette to know! and when you drink your beer, you must turn AWAY from the elder at the table!
last, but not least, our hostel.....one of the most rustic accommodations i have had in quite awhile. it was 13,000 won for the night (about $14). the sleeping was traditional korean style, so no beds. we slept on a padding of two blankets on the floor and had one blanket to cover up with. there were a couple of memory foam pillows, bolsters and little square throw pillows to choose from. i managed to scrounge a memory foam pillow which felt like luxury on that rock hard floor. after having a korean stout on the roof of the hostel with about 30 other foreigners (averaging around the age of 19), most of whom were getting sloshed on soju, a couple of us moseyed on back to our room. before crawling into my blankets on the floor, i turned off the lights and then, in the pitch black dark, went to close the door (which i had forgotten was only 3 feet tall)....and slammed my face (and my new glasses) into the solid wall, taking a patch of skin off the bridge of my nose. i thought i had surely broken my entire face and my glasses, but luckily, the damage was minimal. my glasses survived, as did most of my face. i went to bed feeling like a bit of a fool, but mostly just relieved that i didn't have to make a trip to the gyeongju emergency room that night to get a nose splint. however, i did have to roll over from side to side every half hour or so throughout the night because my bones were digging into the floor. i woke up feeling rather bruised and battered and my nose a mite bit tender.