Mt. Namsan comprises Mt. Geumo ( 468m high ), Mt.Gowi ( 494m high ), including over 40 mountain valleys. located to the south of Seorabeol, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom. Namsan is often referred to as an open air museum, it has 122 temple sites, 57 stone Buddhas, 64 stone Pagodas, and 19 stone lamps. There are the ideal Buddhist land of the Silla people. Mt.Namsan was convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage by the UNESCO on December 2, 2000.
This little museum is a great place to get a close, detailed look at some of the great monuments around Gyongju. The museum is located in the Folkcraft Village near Bulguksa Temple.
Inside the museum, there are recreations of the Astronomy Tower in downtown Gyongju, as well as of Seokguram Grotto. The Grotto display is particularly extensive, with recreations of all parts of the Grotto so that you can see it from every angle. There are also some other great artifacts in the museum like a very old wood block printing press, one of the oldest in the world, as well as other neat things that the Koreans thought up or created.
The cost to enter is about $2.
Outside of the city, there is a nice resort area around Bomun Lake. There are several nice hotels, although most were out of our price range. Even so, you can go and walk around the lake on a really great walking/bike path. There are lots of bike rental shops, so you can go for a great ride, or you can just walk along the tree-lined path.
Bomun Lake is home to Gyongju World, as well as several restaurants, cafes and galleries. The whole area is easily accessed by the Gyongju bus system.
Between Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto, there is a very well-marked mountain trail. The trail is just over 3 km in length and is quite a nice hike. The trail is clear, and there is a bathroom facility along the way.
We hiked down instead of up! For those fit souls who want a bit of a workout, uphill is good too, I'm sure.
To get to the trailhead, go to the southern ticket booth at Bulguksa or look for the sign just next to the ticket booth at Seokguram.
These are amongst the largest tumuli to be found. The Bonghwadea is some 22 m high and 250 m at it's circumference. These tombs date from the 4th and 5th centuries AD about the middle period of the Silla Dynasty.
Legend has it that a seer predicted that the perfect bell could be made if a child who was pure and free from this corrupt world was thrown into the molten metal in the furnace before casting. The king's ministers could not figure out how to find such a child. It so happened that a monk, who was collecting money for the bell, went to the house of a poor woman, asking for a donation.
The woman said she was so poor that she had nothing to offer to the temple. What she had, she said, was only her little child. She joked that if the monk wanted the child, he could have her. The monk laughed at the joke and went away.
The monk returned to his temple and recounted to his temple the story of the poor woman joking about giving her child as an offering. When this story reached the ears of the government officials, they couldn't believe their good fortune. That very night, they rode on horseback to the poor woman's house and demanded the child
The woman protested that she was only joking when she told the monk that she would give her child as an offering. But the officials told her such an offer was not a joke. A promise is a promise, they said. They kidnapped the screaming child from the arms of her distraught mother and took the child to the palace.
Now, everything was all set for the casting of the bell. When the officials tried to put the little girl into the hot liquid metal in the furnace, she kicked and screamed. But they threw that unfortunate little child into the red hot furnace. Her screams of terror shattered the air. And then silence fell as her little body melted.
Finally, the bell was cast, and the time came to test the sound. The king, his ministers and the monks all waited with bated breath at Pongdok temple. When the bell was hit, a soft and clear sound filled the air. The sound swelled until something distinct could be heard. It was the unmistakable eerie wailing of a child calling her mother: "Emille, Emille, Emille."
In observing Gyeongju from a distance, probably the most distinctive feature is the huge tombs that seem to pop up from between the houses. The tombs of those who lived over 1,000 years ago and contemporary citizens share the same space, as it where, giving city a mysterious aura of having conquered both time and space.
It is recommended not to climb these tumuli, however there is a well worn path leading to a dramaticly standing tree on the north eastern side of the Bonghwadae.