Sunday, December 06, 2009

What We Did in Gyeung Ju

The first weekend after we arrived in Korea, my Eemo and Eemoboo (aunt and uncle) took us on a road trip to GyeungJu. It's where Koreans go on holiday to sightsee, a main attraction being all the royal tombs from the Silla dynasty.

These tombs, large humps of grass that rise out of the land, are up to 1600 years old, surviving centuries of clashes and wars and occupation and dynastic change.

They buried royalty by placing each king, along with precious items like jewelry and weapons, into a wooden coffin in the ground. Then, it was covered with a giant mound of rocks, then a layer of dirt. It becomes a grassy hill. Some of them still have tombstones, statues of tortoises or carved Chinese zodiac animals, but lots of them are now anonymous tombs.

Isaac and I wandered all day, chauffered by Eemoboo and his nephew. Eemobo was on a crutch because of a bad bike accident he was in this summer (we saw the x-ray of the giant hunk of metal he has screwed into his thigh bone!) but he still managed to lead the charge at every location. Even with a hobble, he's really fast.

Isaac and I went by ourselves to visit an ancient temple named Bulguksa, and then a newer temple with a Buddhist restaurant on site. Eemoboo and his nephew had scoped it out as the best restaurant in town and swooped in to pick us up and take us for lunch. All the food revolved around the lotus root and was delicate and delicious. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

At night, on our own, we wandered into a fish market, with long corridors lined with tanks filled to overflowing, silver fish on ice, whitish pink squids hanging like glistening mopheads, and the most disturbing bowl of sea creatures I have ever seen (we later Googled it and found that the way to look it up is to Google "Korean penis fish" - really, try it).

At the market, we had a very modest dinner of ddeokbokgi and kimbap and pumpkin juk. We'd been having delish dinners with our family around the clock and having escaped for a few hours on our own, eating a cheap little meal in a fluorescent-lit corner of a fish market with wet floors was really nice and cozy, actually. The soju helped.

As we left Gyeung Ju, we stopped by a farm for the real reason why Eemo tagged along on our trip - to pick up 30 washed cabbages to take home and make into kimchi. The farmers were quite taken by Isaac's charm, even without any language in common, and insisted we have some baechu jun (cabbage lightly breaded and fried) with maeshil (umeboshi) moonshine. Actually, we took a bottle home and I'm drinking it right now. It's really fruity, syrupy and thick. Tastes like the Korean countryside!


Anonymous jose said...

I totally Googled "Korean penis fish".

Holy shit.

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