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.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
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. Read more about this site.