I feel a flood coming on. I tried picking just 3 or 4 of these, but I just can't do it ... These are all taken with my phone camera at Gyeong Ju, Korea in June, 2013. My noonas wanted to make sure we had a good time, and this day, they took us about an hour outside of Busan to the big Buddhist Temple at Gyeong Ju. (Noona is a respectful term a man uses for an elder sister.) If you look it up, this place is sometimes called "Bulguksa" as if that's a name, but "Bulguksa" literally means "Buddhist temple." This is a truly ancient site and served as the spiritual center for the Shilla Kingdom in Korea during the Three Kingdom's period. Gyongju was actually the Shilla capital from the 7th through the 9th centuries AD. (The Shilla kingdom conquered the other two kingdoms, and that is how Korea was united as one kingdom and one nation up until post WWII).
We started out with lunch at a traditional Korea restaurant where you sit on the floor, and eat the Soon Dubu. What a great meal! This picture has my Chaggun Noona (little elder sister, Mrs. Shy_guy, and my son ... we don't know the other people, but in these restaurants, you may sit next to someone you don't know
. This is where it shows that it's my phone camera - it can't capture motion well in low light.
The gate to the outer court to the temple.
With my kun noona (big elder sister) in front of the old gate to the inner court.
The old gate - you can't go into the inner court by this gate anymore. You have to walk up to another gate.
The stone pagoda in the inner court.
The big Buddha is in that hall. These temples are both a tourist attraction and a working place of worship. My wife and I are not Buddhists, but my kun Noona is. The truth is, Korea is majority Christian these days, but many families are like ours where some members are Christian, and others are Buddhists. I love the history here. I used to not like to go to the temples, but now, I'm interested as part of my intense interest in history and culture. I'm a tourist here, but I'm mindful to not be disrespectful of people who regard this place as something more. I can grant that respect to the people.
It was rainy season when we were there ... and the weather was actually wonderful - almost Seattle like - on this particular day.
The big bell in the main temple.
The next pictures are not in the main temple, but if you go on up the mountain, there is an enormous Granite Buddha carved out of a cave wall in the Seokguram Grotto. You can drive most of the way up, but this is where the road ends, and you have to hoof it on up a couple of miles from here to get to the grotto. They asked us to not take pictures inside any of the buildings, and I complied, so I don't have pictures of any of the Buddhas, but you can find pictures inside if you search for Gyongju Temple or Seokguram Grotto online.
The big structure in the above picture houses this big bell. Here, they let you ring the bell for about $1.25 USD. The proceeds go to their world peace efforts.
The building at the mouth of the grotto is what you can see up on the hill. At this point, we're pretty high up on the mountain, and the temperatures are a bit cooler than at the temple near the base ... I loved the brightly colored silk lanterns, too. If you look at the base of the part of the hill here, you can see a granite fountain. The water coming out is spring water from the mountain, and there are drinking pitchers where you can drink the water if you'd like. Of course, we all had to taste it.
The doorway to Seokguram Grotto. I caught the back side of my Chaggun Noona there, too.
I love my wife's family a lot. Whenever we're there, they ALWAYS go WAY out of their way to try to make sure we get to do special things. This trip was planned and executed entirely by my noonas. It may have been my favorite of the things we did on this particular trip.