One of my favorite memories from my first year in Korea involved riding my new scooter to Gyeongju to see the cherry blossoms with my friends. This year, I rode my motorcycle along the same winding, rural road from Pohang to Gyeongju–the cool breeze of early spring whipping the falling cherry petals in swirls and eddies of color. Luckily, this time, my helmet covered my entire face; no more choking on falling blossoms for me!
The route we took made its way through farmland, trading the main thoroughfare for narrow roads passing through villages and concrete paths through fields. At times, the boughs of cherry trees formed a canopy over the road, the blossoms trembling in the wind as we flew past.
Our destination was Bomun Lake Resort (보문관광단지), one of the main tourist centers of Gyeongju. After parking our bikes, we came upon a giant mill, which dwarfed the other buildings in the plaza around it. A horde of people milled about the grounds while children on mini ATVs and motorcycles cruised around haphazardly at knee-level.
Gyeongju was the original capital of the Silla Dynasty–a dynasty which, having existed for nearly a millenium, has the distinction of being one of the longest sustained dynasties in history. Being such an important historical site, Gyeongju has many examples of Silla architecture on prominent display.
As one might expect, the crowds around the lake were nearly ubiquitous, people jostling and leaning precariously for the perfect picture. The press of humanity didn’t deter us from enjoying the tranquility of the nature surrounding us, however!
We walked along the path towards the end of the lake, crossing a picturesque bridge to the other side. Over a small rise, we came upon a pathway made with massive stepping stones, the kind which require little people to hop. Beyond, roller coasters and a Ferris wheel marked the location of Gyeongju Land–the local theme park.
After crossing the stepping stones, we made an amazing discovery. The crowds had disappeared! As with many places, going just a little off the beaten path in Korea can yield very pleasant results. We walked a bit more, enjoying the quiet and soaking in the beauty of our surroundings.
Before long, it was time for us to head back. As we walked, I thought about Korea and how lucky I’ve been to spend nearly two years of my life here. I’m moving on this September, but I know I’ll miss a lot of things about this place–including the beautiful springtime.
An interesting tidbit for fellow history nuts. The present-day Mongolian word for ‘Korea’ is Solongos (Солонгос), which is derived from their name for the Silla Dynasty. That name is a derivation of solongo (солонго) the Mongolian word for ‘rainbow’. I talked about Solongos often when I was in Mongolia and had been curious about the origins of the term. Now I know. Yay for research!
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I found your post after I had a customer at my work come in named Solongo. I’d never heard of such a name! Beautiful, and almost as good as my neighbor in Germany, whose last name was “schmetterling”- butterfly.
Can you imagine? ” hi Mrs. Butterfly.”
Sounds like she needs an opera lol.
Anyways safe travels!
That’s really cool! Was the customer from Mongolia? I didn’t know that was a name there either!
And yes, give that woman an opera. Haha.
Great photos Nathan. It looks beautiful!
Donna Amis Davis
Wow! How amazing to see all those blossoms. I didn’t realize Korea had so many, too. Everyone has heard of Japan’s cherry blossoms, but not Korea’s.
Beautiful post! The town where I grew up in Ohio has a sister city in Japan (can’t remember where…) and at some point that city gifted my town about 40 of these cherry trees. They bloom spectacularly every spring…it’s gorgeous.
Beautiful photos! I’m headed to Gyeongju for the first time over Buddha’s Birthday so this was really nice to read, and learn a lil history too!
I didn’t make it here when I was in Gyeongju. Looks like I was missing out! I agree with Evan and Rachel: I learn so much history from your posts. Thanks!
We were here last weekend! What a stunning place. I definitely recommend seeing Gyeongju by bike… it was fantastic!
Oh wow, we might have seen each other in passing! I didn’t get a chance to use the bikes, that would have been a lot of fun! Next time…
Evan and Rachel
I love how informative your posts are! I have to admit not knowing or reading up about a place when I visit. I’m one of those people that just likes to be in the moment, so I usually don’t know what I’m looking at but enjoy it all the same! That’s why I like traveling with people not like me actually, so I can hear tidbits of info. while we travel! hehe
Fantastic post, and I love linguistics so that part at the end was super interesting!
Yay, I’m glad you liked it! I was a sucker for world history in middle/high school, but kind of lost that for a while. It’s been fun to explore places that I never learned about (seems a shame, right? We hardly learned anything about Asia) and see the remnants of history firsthand 🙂
Steve Miller (@qiranger)
Loved that last little bit at the end. I’m always fascinated by how countries refer to one another.
Same here! It’s a great insight to the shared history between them.
Man all these cherry blossom posts are making me regret not going somewhere special to check them out.
I did enjoy them when I saw them in random places here and there, and by the river in my city.
Miss you Nathan!
Another beautiful post! I love the photo with the path beneath the blossom trees…
And yes, yay for random facts & research ( :
Nice shots and good writing. Great post!
You write very well and the write-up is well-illustrated. You are living a very fulfilled life.