Gyeongju (or Kyongju) is a small city in the southeast
portion of Korea, north of Busan (Pusan). [I'm trying to use both the
old and new Romanization here, confusing as it may be.] It is the premier area for
historical sites in Korea. Why? Because this area was the capital of
Korea for about 1000 years. Korean history goes back about
5000 years but the significance of Gyeonju starts in 57 B.C. when 6 villages
were united to form Silla (Shilla), an upstart rival to the established kingdoms
of Koguryo and Paekche. In A.D. 674 Silla finally conquered the other
kingdoms, resulting in the first unification of the Korean peninsula. The
Silla Dynasty resulted in the first major culture which left extensive
The Silla Dynasty fell in A.D. 935, but Gyeongju remained an important city under the succeeding Goryeo (Koryo) and Joseon (Chosun) Dynasties. Much of the Silla Dynasty artifacts were preserved.
We took a short vacation to Gyeongju at Spring Break in 2003 when our original plans to travel outside Korea were canceled due to SARS travel restrictions. With a new expressway, Gyeongju is only about 4 to 5 hours from Seoul (not considering holiday traffic). However, we decided to travel by train. The time is about the same as driving but it's relaxing and takes the worries about traffic jams away.
The train allows you to see some of the more traditional Korean countryside. These are typical old style dwellings in a farming area. Korea is well known to be densely populated. The total population is over 45 million in a country the size of the state of Indiana. Since Korea is very mountainous, little space remains available for people. However, Seoul, with a population of almost 12 million is the center of a metropolitan area with twice that population. Since almost half the Koreans live in or near Seoul and the others live primarily in a few other large cities, the countryside is not as crowded as you might expect.
In Gyeongju, we stayed at the Hilton at Borun Lake. This is a large man-made lake which has been developed into a resort area. The hotel was certainly up to standards and the area is well developed with attractions and facilities like an amusement park, boat rides on the lake and bike paths around the lake and through the area. We were fortunate to be there at the very end of the spring blossom season, so the area was covered with blooming trees.