They say that you have not seen Gyeongju if you have not climbed Namsan, or South Mountain, south of the city. In fact, before exploring the city itself, I directly headed to Namsan on my first morning in Gyeongju. The weather was very nice: a clear sky, in which the sun proved so strong still that even on this December morning, the temperature was getting pleasant. At the foot of Namsan, I saw Baeri Tombs, in which royals of the Silla kingdom are buried. From here, the path went directly up the mountain. I quickly warmed up and had to take off coat and sweater, even though some small streams of Namsan were frozen. Following English signs as well as Koreans walking up, I discovered some of the Buddha images carved out in the rocks of Namsan and statues. Most of them are on small paths leading off the main path.
I thus saw small sacred places, where a statue of a standing Buddha was on a rocky platform in the middle of the pine forest, or a rock completely covered by Buddha figures carved out in its surface. At Gwaneumbosal, on a small, flat rock facing a Buddha image and a small glass container with candles and religious items, surrounded by the pine forest and in complete silence, a woman was fully immersed in her prayers, never noticing me cautiously scrambling around. A very peaceful scene indeed. Some other sites, like the 7-metre tall seated Buddha of Seokgayeorae, are more obvious places for prayer, where more people gather. I was touched when an old Korean woman offered me her prayer mat so I would not have to sit directly on the rock. Just before reaching the summit of Geumosan I had a pick-nick with a marvelous view over the valleys of Namsan below me.
I walked down Namsan mountain further south, always enjoying the very pleasant smell of the pine forest. I reached Yongjangsa site; at the top, I saw a three-storey stone pagoda on a ledge. This offered beautiful views into the valleys below me, as well as the mountains further south. I could also see the path I was to follow, which took me to another Buddha image carved out in a rock, as well as a three-wheeled pedestal on which a Buddha image without head was seated. I noticed that this part of Namsan was much quieter than the other side of the mountain, and I just sat in the sun enjoying this peaceful place, enjoying and letting my thoughts go. Eventually, I descended the mountain and took a bus back to Gyeongju from Yongjang-ri.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Namsan (South Korea). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Namsan.
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