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A Trip to Gyeongju

Budget Accommadations in Gyeongju

Gyeongju is a small city 50 miles north of Busan, known as the “Museum Without Walls” due to its incredible wealth of historic treasures. This was the capital of the powerful Silla Kingdom which ruled most of the Korean peninsula for nearly 1000 years (57 BC – 935 AD) and is without a doubt the most rewarding excursion you can make from Busan.

Gyeongju-South-Korea

We took the KTX bullet train from Busan Station and arrived in Gyeongju in 28 minutes. Less than a half-hour. That’s significantly less time than it even took for us to reach the train station from our apartment. I’ve taken showers that last longer. The train cost ₩10,000 ($9) per person, and was unbelievably smooth and fast. It was mostly through tunnels, though, so you couldn’t see the countryside whipping past.

The Silla Kingdom is among the most long-lived and powerful dynasties in Asian history. They started in the Gyeongju/Busan area, and were the first to successfully unite most of the peninsula. It was a strict monarchy, with a hereditary royalty and aristocracy, and no chance of social advancement for the great majority of people. Sillans spoke Korean, wrote in Chinese characters, practiced both Confucianism and Buddhism, and battled with the Korean-speaking Goguryeo Dynasty for control of the North.

Although Gyeongju’s period of prominence lies over a thousand years in the past, the sense of history is still present in the modern-day city. The most conspicuous remnants of its rich heritage are the amazing royal tombs where kings and nobility were buried. These large, perfectly rounded hills covered in bright green grass pop up all over Gyeongju, like miniature replicas of the mountains that are always visible in the distance. There are 35 royal tombs and over 150 smaller mounds in the city itself, with many more found in the surrounding environs.

In the Daeneungwon Park, tourists have the chance to peek inside Cheonmachong, the Heavenly Horse Tomb, which is one of the most important of the burial sites. When it was excavated in 1973, over 10,000 artifacts were found inside, including a golden crown and a saddle engraved with a winged horse, which gave the tomb its name.

We had two days in Gyeongju, and had just enough time to hit most of the major highlights. Over the next couple posts, we’ll focus on this historic and gorgeous mountain city.

Location on our Korea Map

- Book you Gyeongju Hotel here

Bizarre-Korea
Gyeongju-Travel
Gyeongju-Altar
Inside-A-Gyeongju-Royal-Tomb
Dead-King-Gyeongju
Gyeongju

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July 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm Comment (1)

Busan’s Very Own Madame Tussauds

Korean Pop Music aka K-Pop

Is there anything more thrilling than standing next to a wax figure of a celebrity? Say, Lady Gaga? Of course not, what a stupid question! Wax museums are among humanity’s most transcendent achievements, allowing us to indulge in fawning celebrity worship without the actual physical presence of the celebrity! There’s nothing the least bit ridiculous about that. Nothing; right, Gaga?

Isn’t that right, m’lady? … Gaga? [poke] Oh that’s right, you’re wax, hahahahahahhahaha!! You just look so realistic, hahahah! Hah. Hehm.

Lady-Gaga-in-Seoul-Korea-Busan

We were among the first to visit the new Madame Tussauds, which just opened on the sixth floor of the Shinsegae Department Store. Because we love wax figures so much that we simply must be the first ones to see them… or because we just happened to be walking by and noticed it. This is a temporary exhibit, though there’s a chance it will become permanent. Madame Tussauds’ website threatens the good people of Busan, thusly:

Even though this is a temporary attraction, if South Korean residents and international visitors enjoy it as much as the other 13 Madame Tussauds attractions around the world, then we will look at making it a permanent feature in the future.

Hear that, South Korea? You better get to worshipping wax figures of Western celebrities or the huffy Madame will take her toys away! Entrance to the rather small exhibit costs a whopping ₩9000 ($8.10), which is about the same price you pay for four hours at Spa Land (also in Shinsegae).

Location on our Busan Map
-Our Published Travel Books

Obama-in-Korea
Barack-Obama-in-Korea
Elvis in Korea
Elvis-Chest-Hair
Brad-Pitt-Eyes
Madonna-Lips
Madonna in Korea
Bruce Willis
George-Clooney-Korea
david-beckham
Jackie-Chan-Busan
Michael-Jackson-in-Korea
Madame%20Tussauds/Breakfast-at-tiffany-s
Madame-tussauds-Busan
Hollywood-Couple-Number-1
Johnny-Depp-in-Busan
Korean-President

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July 9, 2012 at 9:05 am Comments (3)

The Olympic Park and Busan’s Seoul Complex

Cheap Flights To Busan

A collection of sculptures found near BEXCO and the Museum of Art, Busan’s Olympic Sculpture Park pays homage to the city’s involvement in the 1988 Summer Olympics and provides a place to check out some bizarre modern artwork. We paid a short visit to the park after a day of shopping at Shinsegae.

Shape of Beauty

The massively successful 1988 Olympics were held in Seoul, but Busan’s Yachting Center hosted the sailing events. The Olympic Park commemorates the Games with an array of weird sculptures sporting names like “Organic Shelter” and “Life of Excrement” (seriously). It’s an interesting place and we enjoyed our walk through it, but what any of these works have to do with the Olympics is beyond me.

While trying to admire/understand the sculptures, I kept thinking of the inferiority complex that Busan suffers from. The second-biggest city in South Korea is constantly measuring itself against its big brother up north, and that’s a battle it’s always going to lose. I’m not sure why I was thinking about it here — maybe it was the environment; Shinsegae (the World’s Biggest Department Store, Guinness Certified!) and the Busan Cinema Center (the World’s Biggest Roof, Guinness Certified!) are right across the street from the Olympic Park, which itself is full of artwork that seems to be trying too hard.

I’ve lost track of how many bewildered Koreans have asked us why on Earth we would choose to stay in Busan for 91 days, as opposed to Seoul. “It makes no sense”. “This city is dull”. “91 days here?! You’ll be bored in a week.” And these are the people from Busan, some of whom have lived here their whole life. Never have we visited a place with such little pride. There’s a real sense among the people, and even somehow exuded by the city itself, that Busan isn’t good enough, because it’s not Seoul.

I feel like we have to keep cheering Busan up. “Come on, buddy, you’re a great city on your own! Look at all the incredible things we’ve done here! Do you think Münich wrings its hands because it’s not Berlin? No, Münich certainly does not! Does Chicago look wistfully at New York and think, ‘gosh, I’m no good’? Ha!”

“Now look at the mirror, and keep telling yourself that you’re beautiful until you believe it. Soon, you’ll see the amazing Busan that we’re witness to every single day.”

Location of the Olympic Park on our Map
-Learn Korean

Korea Busan
Busan Parks
Cracked Egg Statue
Fast Food Sculpture
Hamburger Statue
Horse Busan
Modern Art Sculptures
Motorcycle-Art
Mushroom Heads
Naked in The City
Nudes Are Free
Oh My
One Sad Face
Tilted-Buddha-Head
Travel Blog Korea

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July 5, 2012 at 2:09 am Comments (0)

Busan’s Trick Eye Museum

Books On Optical Illusion

The only thing which Koreans love more than taking pictures is having their picture taken. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find in Busan an entire museum dedicated to the art of posing for funny photos. But still… I was surprised. The Trick Eye Museum, underneath the Heosimcheong Spa, is one of the most bizarre places we’ve been in a long time.

Trapped By Snake

If you don’t like having your picture taken, stay far away from the Trick Eye Museum, which is also not recommended for anyone who’s overly serious, or those who have any semblance of pride. Basically, if you’re not willing to act like an idiot in front of the camera, you won’t have any fun here. But everyone else, and especially kids, should prepare for a good time.

The entire point of this “museum” is to provide setups for funny pictures. An upside-down room makes it look like you’re standing on the ceiling. Stand in front of Mona Lisa with a paintbrush. Lay down on the floor and hang on for dear life to the painting of a cliff. Peer into a gentleman’s briefs. Wrap yourself in the coils of a serpent. Crawl into bed with a surprisingly buxom Mike. Will the hilarity ever stop?! No, it won’t… it goes on and on, for room after room after room. This place is huge and if you haven’t had your fill of funny-posing pictures by the end of it, then you, my friend, have some issues.

Juergen and I visited right after a three-hour session in the Heosimcheong Spa, and were loosened up enough to throw ourselves into the picture-taking with abandon. After all, we’d just spent hours prancing around naked in front of other men, so screwing up our faces for a silly photo wasn’t exactly a tall order. Please enjoy our photos … if you can stomach the sad spectacle of two grown men acting without dignity.

Location on our Busan Map
-Hotels in Busan

Strone Like Hercules
Korean Cliff Hanger
Naked and Stinky
Roman King
Eating Human Flesh
Best Friends
Blown Wind
Bubble Boy
Fun in Busan
FUUU Korean Drivers
Grabbing TITS
Hello Friends
Horny for Beer
Korean Circus Clown
Mike to the Rescue
Naked in Busan FKK
Sneak Peak
Perverted Photographer
Piss on Me
Yoga in Busan
Angry Bird

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June 28, 2012 at 8:46 am Comments (36)

South American Flair in Gamcheon

Our Travel Books

A trip to the Gamcheon Culture Village was one of the stranger excursions we’ve undertaken during our time in South Korea. This neighborhood in the west of Busan has dedicated itself to art, with murals, sculptures and installations that occupy entire houses. Visitors are taken on a tour which snakes through narrow alleys and ends at an observation deck with an amazing view over the city.

Machu-Picchu--Busan

During our day in Gamcheon, we felt transported back to our months in South America. Walking through this section of town, which is set high on a hill overlooking the city, reminded us of exploring La Paz, in Bolivia. The steep inclines, humble housing, complicated and constricted alleys, and gangs of noisy kids monitoring us… yeah, this could have been the La Paz neighborhood of J’acha Kollo.

One big difference between Gamcheon and La Paz was the colorfully painted houses and community emphasis on art. In this aspect, it was reminiscent of La Boca, in Buenos Aires: another rough-and-tumble neighborhood which turned itself into a sort of open-air art installation. La Boca was a heavily immigrant community, while Gamcheon was populated with refugees from the Korean War. In both cases, historically marginalized groups came together to improve their lot through art.

Furthering the South American connection, Gamcheon Culture Village has decided to refer to itself as the Machu Picchu of Busan. The similarities to La Paz and Boca were clear enough, but Machu Picchu? I didn’t see that at all.

Korea is Awesome

The artwork in Gamcheon interesting, if a little too modern… the rooms of the Light House, for example, are full of stuffed animals which represent (I’m paraphrasing from memory, here) “the birth of man and his continuing journey surrounded by family, and dreams”. Something like that. But I really liked the Mirror Wall, which is a mural that reflects the other side of the street. When you stand in the right spot, it’s like holding a mirror up to the city.

Upon arriving, we were met by a neighborhood representative who provided us with a map and a mission: collect seven stamps from the various installations, to win a couple free postcards. Arrows painted on the sides of the houses led us through Gamcheon, past embankments which boasted incredible views over the port, and into the art houses. Honestly, the artwork was secondary; we had a blast just walking around.

If you’re looking for something different to do in Busan, you can’t go wrong with Gamcheon Culture Village. To get there, take the Orange Line to Toseong-Dong, then grab Bus 1-1, 2, or 2-1 in front of the Busan Cancer Clinic. Regardless of how much you appreciate modern art, the neighborhood is worth a look.

Location on our Busan Map
-Travel Insurance For Korea

Korean Stud
Mirror Wall
This Is Art
Dog Busan
Bolivia in Kroea
Tree of Life
Little Stonkers
Korea Super Star
Busan Street Lights
Busan Art
Clip Busan
Fine Art Photography
Take Out Food Krea
Street Art Korea
Word Art
Sculpture-Korea
Show-Me-The-Money-Korea
Secret-Wolf
Spin Flowers
Smurf House
Photographer-Busan
Off The Beaten Path Busan
Escaping Korea
Gamcheon-Church
Housing-Korea
Hello-Kitty-Korea
Grass Steps
Crazy Busan
Busan Blog
Korean Photography
Lost-in-Translation-Busan
Korean Pose
Trash Picker
Korean Messy
Cute Doggy
Art-Photography
Art For Sale
Korean Fitness
Art Kroea
Painting-House-Busan
Visit Korea
Schumi in Korea

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June 19, 2012 at 11:36 pm Comment (1)

The Busan Museum of Art

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We visited the Busan Museum of Art the day after our bizarre excursion to the Snow Castle indoor ski hall. And here, again, was a cavernous building of steel, completely devoid of people. But whereas the Snow Castle has shuttered its doors forever, the art museum was open for business. Just… there was no business.

Korean Artist

The BMA is found in a busy section of town, near the Shinsegae department store and the BEXCO convention hall. It’s free and even has its own subway stop. The rooms are spacious and filled with interesting modern art. But for reasons known only to the finicky hive-mind of Korea, there wasn’t a soul when we visited, on an early Friday evening. Amazing. And kind of disquieting.

The Busan Museum of Art should really call itself a Museum of Modern Art, because all of its works are from the mid 1900s and on. I had been hoping for a primer on the history of Korean art, but these were very abstract, modern works — mostly Korean, but not entirely. There was even a portrait of Andy Warhol, a man whose presence in an art museum almost always sends me screaming for the exits.

While I was checking out the paintings and sculptures, Jürgen was engrossed with the shapes and angles of the building itself. A lot of thought and skill obviously went into the architectural design of the BMA, which is perhaps its own best work of art.

Despite our relative indifference to modern art, we had a good time in the museum, possibly because it felt like we had the run of the place. It’s a great spot to get a little culture before heading out for more shopping, or sunning on the beach.

Busan Museum of Art – Website (English)
Location on our Busan Map
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Art Space
Modern Art Busan
Weird Art Korea
Sculpture Art
Parrot Art
Busan Art 2012
Art Museum Busan
City Scape Korea
Korea Blog
Tower Of Terror
Modern Garden Busan
Modern Photography Busan
Dynamic Busan
Modern-Art-Photography
Space Tunnel Korea

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June 12, 2012 at 9:01 am Comments (2)