Day 2 9/9( Sat): Seoul - Gongju - Daejeon (B,L,D) After breakfast, meet your tour guide in the hotel lobby. Leave for Gongju, the ancient capital of Baekje Kingdom. Experience a tea ceremony with a Buddhist monk at Magoksa Temple, a representative temple surrounded by a mountains and rivers in Chungcheongnam-do Province. Next, visit the Tomb of Muryeong King, known for its wall painting drawn on the number six tomb. Then continue to Gongsanseong Fortress, a mountain castle which was established during the Baekje Period. After dinner, check in at your hotel and spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Accommodation: Daejeon Interciti Hotel or Similar (5-Star)
Today, we start our tour around the South Korean Peninsula. Our tour guide's name is Mark, and our driver for just today is Mr. Lee. We are traveling in a Hyhundai Mini Bus with lots of room for the five of us. Our fellow travelers include Victoria from Illinois, Ole from Denmark, and Gary from Canada. It is a three hour drive from Seoul to our first destination of Gongju.
Our bus travels quickly in the southbound carpool lane of five. It is foggy as we leave Seoul passing through commercial and residential areas into more open areas where there are greenhouses and light industry. Most of the land around the freeway is developed.
When we exit the freeway, we take a road through the lush countryide, through farm fields, greenhouses, rivers, and wooded hillsides up to the the Temple Magoska in Chungcheongnam-do Province. The original temple was built about 1100 CE, but has been restored and rebuilt during periods when the Japanese wanted to rule over Korea and because time takes its toll. Today is no exception, the work goes on.
Replication of traditional mud and brick construction
We pass through the gates from the secular world. First is protected by guards, second gate by Kings of North, East, West and South who stomp on the demons that try to enter.
|Demon is being crushed and killed by King's Boot|
The traditional pagoda architecture with carved wood work and paintings are impressive.
We learn that this sight will become a World Heritage site in the near future. Unlike the silent temple we visited yesterday there is a monk chanting and beating a single drum through a loud speaker system in the lower temple. There are few people bowing in the lower temple.
In the upper temple, the monk is sitting on the floor beating methodically on a drum. The only other person besides a monk and our group is a single woman who is a volunteer assistant.
|Lotus Flower Lanterns with Donation Pledges Hang From Ceiling|
|Only symbolic bag of rice on this sideboard.|
After our visitation of the temple, we are hosted by a monk to a tea ceremony, conversation, and the making of a wood bead bracelet.
Our monk wears grey, and the reason because it is in the middle, center of the white black spectrum. According to the monk and our guide, it is balanced strength.
This was a very enjoyable and calming experience. We leave refreshed, ready for lunch, and the rest of the day's adventures.
|Rice with side dishes to add to the rice - Loved the Lotus Root & Mashed Pumpkin|
bust of what has been imagined as his likeness, is a compilation of facial features from 10 people from his birth place. He was extremely tall, close to seven feet and shoe size comparable to contemporary basketball players. His crown has intricate side-wings, made of gold.
Unlike many of the royal tombs in this province, that were ransacked by invaders, King Mureyong and his Queen's tomb was undiscovered until 1971 when it was accidentally found while fixing drainage in the area to the other tombs. Some 4,600 artifacts were excavated from the tomb. The National Gongju National Museum is now home to these artifacts. The organic materials in the tomb including coffin and remains had deteriorated and almost perished, but the metals remained in tact.
|Looking into tomb: Memorial tablets, auspicious animal, Kings coffin on the right, Queens on the Left.|
|Kings golden wing crown pieces|
|Artifacts inside the tomb, positions as they were found. Foot rest to the left, head rest tot he right.|
From the Museum, we move on to the burial grounds where the tomb was found. There is a museum here as well that replicates the interior of the tombs, as the actual tombs are closed for preservation purposes.
But before we start the climb up to the tombs, we join the audience for a dramatic production of a Romeo and Juliette type love story, but not with the sad ending. It is more of a comedy. Russ is selected to play the part of a decoy.
When the performance was over we investigated the replicated tomb:
|Mark explains the numeric patterning in the tomb's brick structure.|
|Lotus flower motif indicates Buddhism Belief|
We climb to the mountain top and view the sites of the tombs.
The tombs are the rounded mounds looking down the mountainside. We descend from the mountain just in time to climb another mountain into the Gongsanseong Fortress that overlooks the Gongeumgang River that runs through the province. The Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Baekje were fine archers and this was their main means of protection. We try our hand at archery. The kingdom would have fallen much sooner had we been the archers.
|Russ takes aim|
|I manage one hit in the yellow.|
I could say that this family coming down from the top of the fortress wall were appalled at our archery attempt, but in fact big brother grabs little brother's hand and moves him away from an excavation tractor that has just fired up.
Because of the size and proximity of the river to the sea, the Baekje were mighty sailors. Looking down from atop the mountain, the protectors of the province could spot enemy invaders easily. On September 22, there is a lantern festival on the river. Some of the props for this festival are being readied for the festival.
|100,000 people live in Gongju, today.|
We ended our day with a Korean BBQ, Pork Belly with side dishes. The wait server/chef makes sure that the pork is well done.