After a good night's sleep, I check out of the hotel (yes, I'm a 'premium backpacker': I do carry a backpack and use public transportation or walk - I don't hitchhike, by the way - but when it comes to sleeping, I'd like a comfy place and am willing to pay for the privilege).
I decide to first check out the market. Markets are always interesting places, and sure enough this one does not disappoint me!
As I peer over the red basin (middle pic), I'm somehow reminded of kari kepala ikan. :-)
The place is full of noisy children on school outings. While the kid on the left is engrossed with his flip handphone (seems everyone of them carries one), the others are playing soccer, kicking a bottle of mineral water around (yes, still with water inside).
What do you do when you do not have a fridge, but wish to enjoy a cool iced drink on hot summer days? You build an ice store, to keep ice/snow collected in winter! Pure Korean technology, vintage 18th century.
After spending much time admiring the royal mounds in the hot sun, I enter the Gyerim Forest, and come face to face with a bunch of old geezers sitting in the shade. I have no friggin' clue what they are doing and how they got the chairs. It is in the middle of nowhere!
The main reason I come to Gyeongju, 370km from Seoul, is its cultural heritage. The place is like Athen is for Greece and Rome is for Italy. It is the capital of the Silla Kingdom, founded before the birth of Prophet Isa, and lasted for a thousand years. There were then two other ancient Korean kingdoms, which Silla conquered in 676 AD, thus unifying the Korean peninsula.
The Koreans claim it was they who exported culture and technology to Japan. But they were influenced by the Chinese who regarded the Korean peninsula as part of China too. Which is still apparent in modern day politics (there's a mural I saw at Tian'anmen Square which showed Koreans as Chinese). The Koreans must be very cunning people to be able to handle two aggressive neighbours - China and Japan.
The town is littered with small rounded 'hills' which are actually tombs of the Silla royals. A large patch of the town containing the historical sites has been entered into the Unesco World Heritage List (http://whc.unesco.org/), and is a major tourist attraction.
It may look a tad tacky, but it's a very cosy place. An old hotel, quite comfy, with free broadband internet via a PC in the lobby. But what the heck, it's within walking distance of the ancient stuff I'm after.
I go shopping for some foodstuff and after half an hour of rest in the room, I'm off for a walkabout.