Saturday, July 30, 2016

YummY! - Traditional Gyeongju Korean Dinner @ Gyodong Ssambap (교동쌈밥)

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Traditional Gyeongju Korean Dinner @ Gyodong Ssambap (교동쌈밥)
Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea - June 2016
On a cycling tour of Korea, we were looking for good Korean food while we where at Gyeongju. Our kind host of the Hanok Sodamjeong, Kim Eun-hee, gave us one of the best recommendations - Gyodong Ssambap that served authentic Gyeongju food with a strong touch of the subtle local flavours.


Like most buildings in GyeongjuGyodong Ssambap is housed in a very traditional looking building, one of pinewood walls and floors and curved roofs with prominent round rafters.


Inside, it was cosy with seating on regular chairs or on the timber floors around low tables. The prime location would be those at the front of the restaurant, with large windows that gave a good view of the tumuli across the road.


Gyodong Ssambap serves very localised Gyeongju fare with three main recommended dishes; we went for all three.
First off was the Tosok-Sshanjeongsik, yes the name is a mouthful to get out. Fortunately the menu have the written equivalent in English, so there was no problem in ordering. This dish comes with raw meat that is either barbecued or dip into a hot soup. The meat available are pork, duck and beef all marinated with bulgogi sauce. The minimum order is for two, which we went for as we would be ordering the other of their recommendations for the five of us. Having had had barbecue meat in several of our earlier Korean meals, we decided to go for the soup version.


We went for the beef and it had a very distinct name of "Gyeongju Millennium Hanwoo Bulgogi". We dipped it into the hot soup for and appropriate short while an started walloping! The meat was tender as expected of Hanwoo beef, and juicy too. The Bulgogi seasoning was very light, so light that it's flavour was just a tinge on the tips of our tongues. It was very good, as good as its distinct name.


Other than the usual kimchi side-dishes; this order came with some other interesting extras that had subtle and strong flavours ...


... like this Green Perilla Leaf salad. The leaves can be taken by itself, or wrapped around some meat or kimchi the ssam style; whichever way, it is a healthy food.


And this Smoked Pork Belly garnished with sprinklings of finely shredded chilli and parsley. It was flavourful with a fairly strong smoked flavour.


Another strong flavoured side-dish - Sardine & Radish Kimchi. The radish came in a huge chunk and the fishy taste balanced off the mild radish taste.


 Well, this is a first for me in a Korean restaurant - mashed potatoes that came with a touch of sprinklings of black sesame; another balance dish of soft and strong flavours.


This dish called Yukbuchon-Yukgaejang has an interesting history. A bit of history lesson here - Yukbuchon refers to the six tribal villages in Seorabeol (that's the historic name of Gyeongju) which laid the foundations of the Korean Silla Empire. Yukbuchon-Yukgaejang means Six Tribal Villages Hot Shredded Beef Soup is a delicious royal style dish using six ingredients including Gyeongju Millennium Hanwoo beef, bracken ferns, gondalbi leafs (Ligularia Stenocephala) and beef intestines. The set came with very light side-dishes and a bowl of rice.


This is a close up look of the vegetable mix together with a bit of the beef. It looks like chop suey with kimchi (my apologies to the Six Tribal Villages); the looks does not seem appetising but it was really a good soup with a fair beef flavour and those healthy vegetables/herbs blend should do one good.


Next was a bibimbap of a different kind; it's called Gondalbi Bibimbap. This colourful dish consisted of friendly wild herbs, gondalbi leafs, button mushrooms and water parsley. Instead of Gochujang (red chilli powder), a condiment of powdered anchovies in soy-bean paste is used to flavour the dish. It's not the usual bibimbap and I liked it very much as its soft flavours contrasted the hot beef soup. The set came with light side-dishes, rice and a bowl of vegetable soup.

It was a good dinner, one that is off-the-beaten track with localised authentic dishes of contrasting flavours... and healthy too!
For the five of us, the bill came to 54,000KRW; reasonable for what can be considered as Korean fine dining.
Gyodong Ssambap (교동쌈밥)
328-1 Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea.
Tel: +82 54-773-3322     |     Mobile: +82 010-9351-5726





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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sites : Tumuli Park Tomb Complex Gyeongju (대릉원)

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps Korea 2016 Sites / Tumuli Park Tomb Complex Gyeongju (대릉원)
                        Footsteps - Jotaro's Travels                       

Tumuli Park Tomb Complex Gyeongju (대릉원)

Gyeongju, South Korea - June 2016
(An UNESCO Heritage Site)
As we approached Gyeongju on the intercity bus from Daegu, a beautiful and curious sight awed us - mounds of bright green little hills met our eyes. Within this city old centre were these mounds which were symmetrically shaped, turfed with grass and without any trees on them.
I was wondering what they were, but no worries we will be visiting some of them later.


After checking in to our stay in Gyeongju, the Hanok Sodamjeong, we went out straight to the Tumuli Park where the more renown of these mounds were. The park is walled up and we went in via the northern entrance at Taejong-ro where there is a stately roofed gateway. There is another entrance on the east at Gyerim-ro.


A side view of Tumuli Park east entrance gateway, showing some details of the roof eaves and detail painted roof members.
Oh ya... notice the bicycles at the right, those are ours - we were on a short cycling tour of South Korea!


Here's a map of the park to help orientate the locations of some of the photos shown later.
This map shows several tombs within the park; yes Tumuli is not just a park, it is also known as the Daereungwon Tomb Complex. The tombs are those of the kings of the Korean Silla Dyanasty which existed form 57BC to 935AD; and were built during the Maribgan Period of the the dynasty (between the 5th & 6th century).


On entry to the park a pond full of Hyacinths greeted us, behind it were two large connected mounds. These mounds are actually tumulus (plural of which is tumuli) i.e. a mound of earth with raised over a tomb, but there were nothing scary about them. In fact the place really did have a serene and quiet park atmosphere with landscaping all around.
The two mounds seen above was called the Hwangnam Daechong. (the great tomb of Hwangnam). The northern one was burial ground of a man and the southern one that of a woman.


We walked through the park, enjoying the shaded paths with peeks of the mounds through the trees...


... every once in a while, we sat down at benches in the shades of the tree, taking the quiet atmosphere.


The pathways goes through groves of old crooked pine trees ...


... and also bamboo clumps.


With its reedy stems and lush green canopy, the bamboo clumps are a favourite spot for photography.


Let's have a look at the tumuli themselves; the larger ones stood between 10 to 15 metres tall and with a base diameter of up to 30 to 50 metres. Within these larger mounds were burial chambers, we will have a look at the inside one of them later. Some were so large that they could not fit in to a single frame of my photo unless standing from quite a distance away (which sometimes was not possible as trees get in the way).


Some of tumuli were small ones, without any chamber inside.


Most of the larger mounds stand alone...


... while others are connected mounds, like this one which contained the burial chambers of a king & queen.


Some tumuli, although standing individually, were grouped closely together. I am not sure of the significance of these; perhaps this was a family plot.


Some of the smaller ones without any chamber inside had pine trees growing atop.


Through archaeological excavation and research, a couple of these tumuli have been identified. One of this is the Cheonmachong, which was excavated in 1973, it is 47 metres in diameter, 157 metres in circumference, and 12.7 metres in height. The above photo shows the entrance to the inside of the mound.


The tomb is named after the Cheonma, a Korean Pegasus, which was seen in a famous painting of a white horse drawn on a birch bark saddle flap recovered from the tomb.


Like most of the larger tumuli, the inside of the Cheonmachong was hollow. A central stone rubble wall held up a timber-domed roof,above which a thick layer of soil were piled - that is why the larger mounds do not have trees growing on top. Within the wall was a wooden chamber where the coffin of the king was placed. At the perimeter walls were artefacts from Korea's Three Kingdoms era on display, these artefacts and the burial coffin were actually replicas; the real items were on display at the Gyeongju National Museum.

Some of the replica items (originals found during archaeological excavation) on display:
A golden crown.

Brass pots.

A golden wing-shaped diadem.

Separate entrance gateway to King Michu's tomb.
Further in was another important tomb, the Michuwangneung (신라미추왕릉); this was the grave of King Michu, who reigned from 262-284AD. He was the 13th ruler of the Silla Kingdom, the first of the Kim clan to sit on the throne.

His tomb here was separately walled up, and the entrance gate was lock. Peeping through a gap in the door, showed an a stone altar in front of the mound. This tumulu was also known as the Jukjangneung, "the Bamboo Chief Tomb", as according legends from the Samgungnyusa (the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms -삼국유사), King Michu had his soldiers camouflaged with bamboo leaves to surprise attack his enemy. Later his tomb was stacked with bamboo leaves, to remind the people of this ploy.

The park is serene, at a rear section a hanuk hotel borders one of the walls, these past kings of Korea will guard them well.

TUMULI PARK TOMB COMPLEX
Also know as: Daereungwon Tomb Complex (Cheonmachong Tomb) (대릉원 - 천마총)
19, Gyerim-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea.
• 1330 Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330 (English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese)
• For more info: +82-54-779-8796, +82-54-743-1925
Hours: 9:00am to 10:00pm
Entrance fee: Adults - 2,000KRW, Teenagers (13-18yrs) - 1.200KRW, Children (7-12yrs) - 600KRW. Discount available for groups of 30 or more people.
GPS: 35.839577, 129.210866
(Click here for Google Street View)




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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps Korea 2016 Sites / Tumuli Park Tomb Complex Gyeongju (대릉원)

If you like this, view my other blogs at Jotaro's Blog
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