This morning I left Ulsan for Gyeongju. I took the slow train from Namchang. It took 1 hour to arrive to Gyeongju. The view on the road was amazing. Everything was green, the mountains were in the background and the houses were built in traditional hanok style.
I arrived to Gyeongju station and fortunately my hostel wasn’t far from the station. It was around 10-15 minutes walk. On the road people sold fruits, vegetables and some stuff using in everyday life. As my checking time was still away I asked the host where to change more money. They showed me a bank near there. I couldn’t pay by card so I had to change more cash. It was strange to me that there wasn’t a currency exchange place only the bank. Everytime I only change 100 euros as the rates can always be varied depending on the cities and places.
Then I went out to eat bibimbap in a nearby local restaurant. The owner kept talking to me, asking questions including privacy ones as this was typical from the Koreans. I also took the chance to practice some Korean so I asked back. After eating on the way back I saw the bubble tea shop. As it’s been a long time I hadn’t drunk it, I bought one. So the bibimbap was 6000 won and the bubble tea was 3900 won.
I met a halmeoni (grandmother) on the street who pushed a big cart carrying many cartoon papers. I met her twice. Each time I was thinking if I should help her. Since I bumped into her twice I guess this was a sign. I offered her a help but she kindly refused it. She told me to sit down next to her. I asked if she wanted to eat or drink something I would buy it to her, but she refused. She asked me how much the bubble tea was and when I told her 3900 won she said it was too expensive. She even shared that if she sold all of the cartoon papers on the cart she would only get 2000 won. I was dumbfounded. With 2000 won in Korea you cannot eat anything. She was living on the money she gathered the cartoon paper. Moreover she had to push it to a very far place. I didn’t know how to help her so I gave her 10.000 won.
This is not to blast about how generous I am. But what shocked me was that people passed by her but no one offered to help her pushing the cart. Also I got to know she had a son. I didn’t ask anything about him, but I couldn’t imagine why a mum at age of around 70 had to work so hard like that everyday for 2000 won. Maybe because it was a destiny that I met her twice, maybe because I felt sorry for her or maybe because I wanted to do something that I can feel better, I felt I needed to help her somehow.
Getting to know my roommate
After talking to her I went back to my hostel. It was 3pm so I got my room. I shared it with 3 other people. For instance it was a man and a woman. I didn’t expect this but we could talk to each other very freely even if we didn’t know each other beforehand. We were curious about each other’s day, what they did, where they went and how they went. They shared their experience without hesitation. I felt travelling like this made everything so easy. When we help each other.
The man wanted to see the Anapji at night and I asked if I could join him. It felt so nice that I didn’t have to find a way going there. It was a whole new experience to me. Connecting with unknown people sharing the same room with a simple intention to have a company.
The Anapji (aka Wolji) pond was very beautiful and calm at night. I asked the man to take a picture for me. Then we visited the Woljeonggyo bridge, Near to it there was stones putting next to each other to make it possible to cross the river. From there it was cool to take a picture of the bridge with its reflection on the water.
Most of the tourist attractions were near my hostel. All were in walking distance. We arrived back around 9:30pm and we decided to climb the Namsan mountain the next day. I didn’t plan my days in Gyeongju like this, but I guess it turned out well as I didn’t have to climb the mountain alone.
Gyeongju made a great impression on me. Though it’s a city it gives an impression of a village. You can see the green field where people do agriculture with the traditional style of house especially the roof. The city has no subway only bus. The bus system is pretty convenient so there is no problem with getting around.
I will share with you how hiking is in Gyeongju in the next post.