Thursday, March 8, 2012

Yeoju: Where old kings go to be buried

Astronomical clock
When I got back to Korea I was told I was not going to have to suffer through endless hours of desk-warming, so I decided I had to spend at least a day visiting my good friend Rob. We grew up probably and twenty minute walk from each other in little old Lindstrom, Minnesota and now we were just an hour by bus! Even though this has been true for over a year now, this was the first time, and probably last time, I made the trip to this little town on the outskirts of Seoul.
Right on the border of Kangwon-Do, the county of Yeoju has some 100,000 people and is known for its rice, sweet potatoes, ceramics and the tomb of the most revered king of Korea: King Sejong the Great. Buses from both Express Bus Terminal and Dong Seoul head to Yeoju and since the city is quite central it is quite easy to get around the main town. To speed up our adventure, we jumped into a taxi and headed to Sejong's tomb.
King Sejong, if you didn't know already, invented the Korean alphabet (I'm sure with the help of shit tons of yongban , or scholars). He has also been credited with inventing tons of other things, from sundials and astronomy clocks to rain gauges and, as Katy and I like to joke, mutual masturbation. All the replicas of his inventions were pretty intricate with designs that are completely superfluous but so aesthetically pleasing.
The park devoted to him is pretty cool, and I'm surprised less Koreans talk about Yeoju as a destination. It would be quite easy to do in a day and with the level of reverence and respect given to Sejong I would have thought this place would be full of tourists. Maybe it gets that way in the summer. The tomb of Sejong itself was unremarkable, being that it looked like all the other tombs in Korea; nevertheless, there was a feeling of reverence in the air.
Entrance to the park

King Sejong's Mound

Three stairways going to the altar... the middle one is for spirit-use only
 The visit to Sejong's tomb was followed by a nice walk around Silleuksa temple on the other side of the town. Silleuksa temple is known as being the only temple built on a river rather than in the middle of a mountain (or the rare case of a seaside temple). Built 1500 years ago, it has burnt down and been rebuilt many times. This seems to be the unsurprising fate of all of these temples and monuments that are built with wood. Oftentimes, dragon statues and other figures are painted or built around temples to ward off fires but this isn't a fail-safe.The most impressive parts of the temple was a stone temple from the Goryeo dynasty. Definitely a lot older than its surroundings.

Another Goryeo monument

Old pagoda

The city itself wasn't that amazing, but still looked like a fine place to live. I'm from a town of 3000, so when there are multiple coffee shops and restaurants within a small walking distance I get pretty excited. Right down from Rob's apartment were a bunch of delicious dalk galbi restaurants, and there were some interesting looking bars as well. His crew was fun and we all, after maybe too much beer, went to noraebang and sang for quite a long time. God, Korea is fun.
Delicious dalk galbi

Main street

1 comment:

  1. Baaa Mark! This post made me laugh a lot... thanks for mentioning me :) Let's not forget that King Sejong also invented particle colliders and ecstasy.