On one of our busiest days of the trip we excurted from Gyeongju to Bulguksa Temple where we first visited Seokguram Grotto before walking down to the main temple grounds. Seokguram Grotto was underwhelming if not disappointing with a glass partition between us and masterpiece of art and engineering.
A few weeks later at the National Museum in Seoul we watched a terrific digital video that showed a 3D reconstruction and visualization of Seokguram Grotto. Wow! We were mesmerized and watched the video twice. Hopefully it's on youtube somewhere and I can find it when we get out from behind the Great Firewall. [In realtime we are in Shanghai,]
Bulguksa Temple was teaming with tourists and nearly underwhelming; however, the park below was full of folks enjoying the cherry blossoms. The best parts of our visit to Bulguksa and Seokguram were the 3km walk from the Grotto down to the temple, and viewing the cherry blossoms in the park.
We arrived at Boram Lake a bit behind schedule so we got off the bus near the dam, walked a short way around the lake, and then back along the river to the historic sites, i.e. the free Wolseong Palace and the Cheonmachong Tomb that requires a ticket.
We paid our 2000 won each to enter the Cheonmachong Tomb complex. Not having completely done our homework, we were surprised and wowed with the presentation of the excavated Tomb of the Gold Crown and Belt, a burial mound unearthed in 1973 & created in the 5th or 6th century, with its cutaway view of the mound, wooden room & artifacts.
Bus No. 10 dropped us off in front on Bulguksa Temple and we immediately jumped on the No. 12 shuttle bus to take us up to Seokguram Grotto. After visiting the grotto, we'll walk down the 3 km trail to Bulguksa. Oh, and it's 600 meters from the bus dropoff to the grotto temple.
In the photo below - yes this small mound is the famous Seokguram Grotto Temple - you can see both the original stone and earth mound, and the recent wooden addition.
A sign says "No Photo" but others were snapping so....It's shame visitors cannot go inside the dome where the Buddha sits with its amazing carvings and stonework. The folks in the photo that are bowing paid extra to have a Buddhist service of some kind (see the monk below the Buddha image).
The view due east from the front veranda of Seokguram where you can barely make out the East Sea (Sea of Japan).
A very robust trail used to be the only way up and down to Bulguksa Temple. We took the shuttle bus up and walked down.
Typical Korean garden at the entrance to Bulguksa with a small island in the middle of a manmade pond.
Heavenly Kings guard the temple entrance.
The main stairs are closed to visitors.
The temple is covered in and out with color and images.
There are 2 iconic pagodas. My attempt to capture both in one shot failed. So here they are in separate pics.
The temple has one of the coolest fish drums I've ever seen. Antlers!
Bulguksa is photogenic. Rooftops.
The long front facade.
The park below the temple was filled with blooming cherry trees.
Bomun Lake is Gyeongju's fun and recreation spot with restaurants, amusements, parks, hotels, and more. Here is the conservatory below the dam.
A view from the dam towards the amusement park.
Walking back to the historic sites.
Closer to town there was a mini, but not miniature, golf course and soccer fields in the flood plain. Nice.
Being a former archaeological excavator, I really slowed us down as we walked through the site of the excavation of the Wolseong Palace and fortress. And moat! Wow! The excavation of the palace on top of the hill looked to be pretty much over and done as seen the first 2 pics below; but the moat excavation, while looking to be 90 percent done, still had an army of excavators pushing wheelbarrows around, and a spoil heap that was truly huge. When you think about it, excavating an entire moat is just like digging the moat in the first place; lots of earth to be moved.
Oh, and there was this woman taking selfies.
The spoil heap; that is, the excavated dirt, is under the green tarps.
The path down from the top of the former palace cuts right through the moat with good views of the excavation on both sides. For me it's real treat to see the mostly excavated moat.
We pay our 2000 won, less than 2 USD, each and enter the tomb area. Really happening place.
The entrance to the tomb is normal.
But inside the wood coffin and its contents presented in a cutaway of the mound is amazing.
Gold crown and belt display.
And home as the sun goes down behind the mounds.
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