Back in the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries, Korea was ruled by a kingdom called Silla. Its capital was Gyeongju–a city northeast of Busan and an hour and a half by train. It’s loaded with history: hilly tombs called Tumuli, a royal pond called Anapji, and a temple called Bulguksa are just a few of the sites that draw crowds in the thousands to explore.
So a couple weeks back, Joe and I and our friends Kent and Amanda hopped a Sunday-morning train to the Silla Kingdom capital, looking forward to kicking back with some snacks and taking in the coastal scenery along the way. This would be Kent and Amanda’s first train trip in Korea, and Joe and I had talked up the views, mentioning its route along the sea. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the station, all the seats were sold out, with only standing-room tickets available. We hoped we’d be able to snag a sit-down for at least part of the ride, but as soon as we settled into a cozy grouping of four, a Korean family appeared in the aisle beside us pointing to, well, their seats.
But who needs chairs when you can crouch on the floor of the train’s hallway beside the bathrooms? And who needs big windows when you can wedge your body into the narrow space between cars and jam your nose up against the glass for a glimpse of track and sky? And who needs anything else when Amanda’s homemade chocolate chip cookies are along for the ride?
It was good times.
Our plan was to spend the day cruising around the city on bikes. Kent and Amanda brought theirs along, and Joe and I rented a couple from a shop just outside the station in Gyeongju. First stop: a forest that belongs in some sort of fairy tale. Seriously, these trees were mystical-gorgeous.
More Gyeongju highlights to come!