Well, there is lots to do in Gyeongju! We spent our Labor Day weekend learning about Korean history, camping, and hiking.
Our first stop on the way was an army base in Daegu, which ended up taking way longer to get to than we expected. But, gas was cheap and I was finally able to find the second curtain panel at the PX that I’ve been shelf-checking for at our BX since we arrived. From there we continued our drive
just past Gyeongju to the Mt. Tohamsan Recreational Forest. This was our campground for the night. Whene we first arrived it seemed that they had no spots open, but some discussion occurred, a phone call was made and we were assigned spot 14. The campground is not like American ones. All the spots are fairly close together and are raised wooden platforms for you to pitch a tent on. It has the feel of a group campsite with everyone so close. Koreans also LOVE their fancy gear, so all the other campers had what appears to be brand new clean equipment, tables, grills, and every little camping gadget created (like camper folks, but in tents). The campground is also up a hill, so the drainage down the center added to the fun for the gaggle of kids running around. While we setup Zoe and Avi played around in the ditch, dug in the dirt, and made friends with some of the kids. Our spot was oddly placed on the other side of the ditch – the only one. Segregated. hmmmm.
After setup we drove back up over the twisty turny moutain road to visit Seokguram Grotto, a thousand year old buddha statue carved out of granite, lugged up the mountain, and perched within a cave. There was a nice wandering walk back to the grotto, and Zoe and Avi ran the entire way. Avi was especially daring running along the edge of the trail near the drop-off and scaring Korean mothers who shrieked no less than 20 times. After that there were a lot of stone steps up into the grotto which impressed me and Bryan, but the kids simply loved the adventure of going.
Back at the campground that night we had an unimpressive meal of canned soup and beans. All the Koreans, on the other hand, were creating delicious meals with their fancy camp stoves, coolers, tables, and stuff. Eating is such a social thing here….even when hiking and camping they bring food to prepare and spend time together eating and socializing. We just cook, eat, and then messed around. Zoe had a blast with some other kids doing an organized craft session in a little hut. They were recycling things – she made a barrett out of a food label, and a pinwheel from straws, and a pin with a pinecone. After that she joined another boy and girl playing and learning that dragonflies are fun to catch. The Korean girl showed her how to catch them with your hand or net, and then how to hold them by the wings so the dragonfly will pick stuff up. Zoe carried around her dragonfly for hours making it pick up little stones, flowers, and trash. I don’t think it made it. Avi, on the other hand was content to play in the mud bank with his tiny mighty machines. He and I also went on a hike along the boardwalk trail that goes from the campground up to a view point. As evening approached we got into the tent for bed around 10, but the rest of the campground seemed to be STILL enjoying their dinner and soju until around midnight. They really weren’t that loud, its just the closeness made it seem loud. I slept super well after everyone went to bed. It was a beautifully cool night up on the misty mountain. Perfect to camp.