A man-made pond in the middle of Gyeongju, Anapji has been impressing people for over thirteen centuries. We strolled along the pond while the sun was setting, when the park is at its most gorgeous.
Anapji was built in 674 by the great King Munmu of Silla, who used it as a pleasure retreat from his nearby palace. The lake fell into disrepair after the fall of Silla, but was completely recovered and restored to its original state during the 1970s.
Five traditional pavilions surround the pond, which is now enclosed by stone walls. At night, the lights come on, bathing the woods, water and pavilions in beautiful color. This is the most popular spot in Gyeongju for a nighttime stroll; we were shocked by the line of people waiting to get into the park. Definitely worth penciling into your evening plans when you’re in the city.
Set at the foot of the Baegyangsan Mountain in central Busan, Samgwangsa is a massive temple with enough room for 10,000 worshipers. And there were approximately that many present when we visited on a balmy May evening shortly before Buddha’s birthday.
We had initially toured Samgwangsa a few weeks earlier, while the lanterns were still being set up. It was the first Buddhist temple we’d been to in Korea and impressed us with both its size and location. As was the case in Sri Lanka, Korean temples seem to be set in places of extreme natural beauty. Samgwangsa boasts an incredible view over Busan, and hiking trails can be found in the mountain forest behind it.
Built in 1969, Samgwangsa is not the most ancient or traditional of temples, but that doesn’t make it any less inspiring. The main prayer hall is stunning; large and intricately decorated with hundreds of small Buddha statues lining the walls. There’s a nine-story pagoda dedicated to the future reunification of Korea, and a giant bell in the courtyard. Within the complex’s various buildings, men and women were either worshiping or working. I’m not sure if this is true, but Samgwangsa seems to house a large number of senior citizens; we passed a few rooms with older women sitting cross-legged on the floor watching TV.
I’m glad we had the initial visit, because the temple was unrecognizable when we returned during the lantern festival, buried under a blanket of light. The lanterns, strung up in unbroken lines throughout the complex are each paid for by a family, who get to write their names and wishes on them. This practice dates back centuries; in Korea, lighting a lantern symbolizes a dedication to committing good deeds, and shining a light on the world’s darkness. Whatever the reasoning, the glow emitted from thousands of colorful lanterns is majestic.
We're Jürgen and Mike, from Germany and the USA. Born wanderers, we love learning about new cultures and have decided to see the world... slowly. Always being tourists might get lame, but eternal newcomers? We can live with that. So, our plan is to move to an interesting new city, once every three months. About 91 days.