South Korea – Day 6 – Bulguksa temple, bendy bus ride and brownie

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Useful info <Editor’s note – don’t worry there is fun stuff after this> :

The Gyeongju national museum only took around an hour to walk through although we only looked around the main exhibition about the history.

Bus from Gyeongju national museum to Bulguksa temple is number 11, this is on the main road and only took about 30 minutes. It wasn’t clear how often the buses were, we waited 15 minutes for it to turn up. It was KRW 1,250 using the T-money pass. The stop was called out in Korean and English so it was pretty obvious when to get off.

For lunch, eat at the restaurant if it’s a weekday as there won’t be street food options <EN – on the road up to the temple> apart from a sad hot dog.

There is a shuttle bus from Bulguksa temple to Seokguram grotto, it was only about 15 minutes although beware, it was an extremely bendy road. James and I aren’t used to being in cars so it did make us feel a bit queasy. See pic below for times.

From Seokguram back to the city centre, we took the number 10 bus which was smooth and easy.

Entry price to Bulguksa and Seokguram was KRW 5k for each person.

Fun stuff

The day started off with putting a wash on and of course being South Korea, our host’s washing machine was a Samsung one. She was very friendly and made breakfast for us which I forgot to photograph, essentially french toast, cabbage salad (with a variety of dressings to choose from) and some frankfurter sausages. This was served up with just one fork so we tried to eat it as gracefully as we could. James even got coffee from freshly hand ground beans <EN – It was pretty tasty>.

With our stomachs full, we headed out to the Gyeongju National Museum. We wandered around as it turned out the museum exhibitions didn’t open until 10am and we got there at 9.40am.

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The divine bell of King Seongdeok weighs 18.9 tonnes +/- 2kg

Whilst waiting, we were amused by the large ordering queue of school children. Of course, when we were inside we were less amused by the amount of noise they made.

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There were many many school children visiting and they did form an orderly queue

The main exhibition had information in Korean, Chinese and English. It may have had Japanese as well.

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The mini figurines looks primitive however they were from 500 CE.v<EN – They reminded me of the figurines we saw in Jeju>

There were many artifacts to look at, we didn’t manage to get pictures of the spearheads, daggers of jewellery. We learnt about the three kingdoms being ‘united’ under one dynasty (once Silla had conquered the other two) and how the Silla capital of Gyeongju became known as the golden city, famous for the gold ornaments adorning the nobility (or Bone Caste). This all came from the local mines that also provided the iron to outfit their armies to invade their neighbours (and once allies).

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James practising the Asian squat but not succeeding.

Once we were facted up, we went to Bulguksa temple. From our planning, we knew this involved a bus and then on arrival we were sure to check the bus timetable for Seokguram.

Of course when we arrived it was lunch time. There weren’t many options and we looked at a coffee shop and walked away when it only appeared to be selling beverages. We then walked back to check for any buns it might be selling to find out on the other side was a self service restaurant. Luckily there was a sign in English saying you had to pay first (KRW 6k), so we did this and started to help ourselves. We decided to go for the make your own bibimbap and had some soup as well. It was a pretty good selection given the price and we were surprised by how alright the food actually was given the restaurants in these areas know they have a captive market.

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The self service lunch was actually quite satisfying and meant we could add what we wanted. <EN – It even had noodles and a different soup you could combine for variety>

We headed off up the hill to the world heritage site and wandered past lots of stalls which weren’t open that day, the ones that were open looked a bit sad so we were happy we made the decision to eat in the restaurant rather than go looking for stall food.

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There were many unoccupied chairs up to Bulguksa temple, we assume they would normally be busier during the weekends.

Once we got into the grounds it was clear why this is a must see for the area. The scenary is so pretty and the buildings had been well maintained.

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The whole of the area at Bulguksa temple was beautiful and the sunny weather enhanced the surroundings.

The temples were rebuilt after being destroyed (several hundred years ago) but the stone foundations are original as are some of the stairs.

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As usual, the temple had been burned down and rebuilt on it’s original stone foundations.

Given the beating heat of the sun, we treated ourselves to an icy snack, we were expecting ice lollies and got some delicious frozen slushie instead. Not bad for KRW 1,200 each.

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We assumed these were ice lollies and were pleasantly surprised it was like a slushie when it got warmed up.

We came across the standard stones on stones so I managed to build a tower of five which James was carefully photographing.

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Stones upon stones upon stones, also James’s second attempt at Asian squatting, he was still unsuccessful.

From the top of the temple we could see lot’s of people taking selfies. It was amusing people watching and it inspired us to take some of our own.

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We thought we’d better try and blend in by taking selfies.

James is admiring one the pagodas. He also wanted to stroke the golden pig.

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I told James to rub the gold pig for luck, it’s not clear why he decided to do it so seductively.

We wandered around and really enjoyed the sites, it was a sunny day and we must have spent 2 hours walking around.

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The Gyeongju bread was filled with red bean paste, it was nice but it didn’t blow us away.

We got the 3.40pm bus to Seokguram and we were not expecting such a crazy bus journey to the top. The driver certainly didn’t slow down for the corners and as we aren’t used to cars/buses, we didn’t feel great when we got to the top.

The view was pretty nice, it definitely felt much cooler at the top. We made our way to the grotto to see the Buddha at the top, it was in great condition because it was sealed off. It didn’t feel like we had got as much value for money compared with Bulguksa temple.

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Seokgurum itself was near the top of a mountain so it had some lovely views. <EN – No photos were allowed in the grotto itself however. There was a stern old lady enforcing this and as we know … we can not outrun them> 

Given our feelings towards the bus, when we saw there was a 2.2km walk from Seokguram to Bulguksa, we decided to take it down. It was down all the way and wasn’t easy on the knees but at least it was shaded. I certainly admired the people taking the walk up.

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We took the 2.2 km walk from Seokguram to Bulguksa as we wanted to avoid another bus journey with so many bends.

Feeling abused, I wanted a simple dinner. Unfortunately most of the options for the area would be full banquets. James did however find a noodle place called Gyeongju Wonjo Kongguk  at 113 Cheomseong-ro, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do according to Google maps. We approached and there was no English on the outside, it also looked like it was full of locals on the inside. James hesitated and said we could still seek out Korean BBQ but I wanted something less meaty so we headed in.

We got to sit down Korean style (aka on the floor) and were glad to be handed an English menu. We both went for a soybean soup with glutinous rice doughnuts. We wanted to order a seafood pancake as well but the lady snatch the menus away from us so quickly that we took it as a sign that we had ordered the correct amount. The food arrived quickly and we tried the soup, it didn’t have much taste and I saw a small pot on the table so gave that a sniff. It wasn’t clear what it was but the lady turned up again and informed us it was sugar, she also made it clear we needed to stir our soups as there were all the flavours sitting at the bottom. This made it much nicer. For KRW 11k for both soups, it felt like good value and a completely different type of meal. It was sweet so might not be to everyones taste.

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Dinner was surprisingly sweet. Essentially a soybean soup with glutinous rice doughtnut cut up.

We went for an evening stroll and then headed back to our room with some sneaky snacks. Of course James couldn’t resist the chocolate brownie, he chose poorly as he was interesting in my ‘boring’ biscuits later on which I kindly shared with him.

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Our choice of snacks for dessert, James got sucked in by the brownie and I went for some plain biscuits which turned out to be just the right sweetness.

 

 

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Brown bananas becomes banana bread

IMG_20170611_164404For once it was a sunny weekend in London and after spending the previous day having pimms and duck confit at a friend’s fancy flat in Fulham Broadway, we decided to have a lazy Sunday at home. Also, James was on-call so it’s not like we could have done anything out and about.

We did go to Tesco’s to do our weekly shop, we got round the supermarket to the till point in 9 minutes due to a combination of meal planning at home and adding ingredients to keep notes in the order in which we would go round the supermarket. This was essential as James needs to respond to any alarn within 15 minutes.

We had some very ripe bananas from when I went home the previous week and my mum insisted I take them back so we decided to make banana bread. Well we decided and I made it.

Ingredients (makes 8 thick slices)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 115g butter (room temperature)
  • 115g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 500g mashed over-ripe bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
  • 100g chocolate chips
  • optional spicing: cinnamon, nutmeg

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4.
  2. Line a 23x13cm loaf tin with baking parchment.
  3. Mash the bananas.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar.
  5. Then stir in eggs and mashed bananas to until well blended.
  6. In a large bowl, combine flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  7. Stir banana mixture and chocolate chips into flour mixture (add optional spicing); stir just to moisten. Pour mixture into prepared loaf tin.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until a nice crust forms and knife inserted into centre of the loaf comes out clean.
  9. Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack.
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