Into the moonlit night of Silla – Silla Moonlight History Tour

Into the moonlit night of Silla – Silla Moonlight History Tour

It’s time to let loose and enjoy the weekend. How is everyone spending it?
Yesterday, a Saturday, I [GyeongjuLove] set off to the East Sea, in the company of about a hundred other wanderers.
Every month around the time the moon reaches its full phase, the Silla Cultural Center offers the Silla Moonlight History Tour.
As I write this, the next full moon is July 22, 2013.
The Saturday closest to that full moon was the day of the Silla Moonlight History Tour.
Leaving for a moonlit tour on a Saturday.
What was lacking in moonlight (it was precisely three days shy of the boreum [full] moon) was filled by the light of one hundred lanterns below the Gameunsa temple site.

The feeling of this moonlit Silla night started to mellow, and so did the smiles of my fellow travelers, intoxicated by the mood.

The Silla Moonlight History Tour that comes around every full moon

As the winner of a 2011 Korea Tourism Award in the “Tourism Frontier” category, the Silla Moonlight History Tour lives up to its reputation with engaging content.
Starting in 1994 with the 1st “Chilburam Moonlight Tour,” the program has remained a perennial favorite, amid continuous enhancements and innovations. Every year, during the best seasons for sightseeing outings--spring, summer, and autumn--the Silla Moonlight History Tour carries on without fail when the full moon rises.

Last month, they offered the Chilburam Moonlight History Tour. This month, it is the East Coast Moonlight History Tour. And next month will be the Downtown Gyeongju Moonlight Tour. As you can see, the Silla Moonlight History Tour offers different courses and themes from month to month.

July 20 - Silla Moonlight History Tour on summer’s night

| Setting off, giddy with expectation!

After the 100 registered tour members gathered at the Silla Culture Experience Hall and were divided into three busloads, we headed for our first destination, a temple site in Janghang-ri. Each busload of sightseers was accompanied by a cultural heritage guide, and a tour conductor also joined in, riding on board Bus No. 2—my [GyeongjuLove’s] bus. Throughout the journey, interesting stories of Silla were told by this lady with a winning sense of humor. 

1. A crowded day at the temple site in Janghang-ri, at the foot of Mt. Tohamsan

“This pagoda is like a young, fresh maiden from a remote mountain getting all gussied up in the colorful Seoul style of others, but try as she might to be stylish, the urban slickness just doesn’t seem to suit her…. The reason this pagoda is so touching may be because its essential base is clear and pure.”
- Excerpt from <천년고도를 걷는 즐거움> = [The Pleasures of Walking the Millennium Capital] by Lee Jae-ho
During the winter, when I last visited this five-story stone pagoda at the temple site in Janghang-ri, it looked so solitary, standing alone on the slopes of a barren hillside. So, my memory of it is wistful.
Yesterday, this melancholy image vanished, and the temple site was warm, energetic, and picturesque. Maybe it was because of the lush, verdant July scenery. Or maybe it was the fact that a throng of one hundred jolly visitors was parading around the five-story stone pagoda.

Anyhow, after my second visit to the temple site in Janghang-ri, I left with a whole new image of it. 

2. Munmudaewangneung (Underwater Tomb of King Munmu) -- an even more welcome view thanks to the ocean setting

With temple site in Janghang-ri behind us, the bus traveled about ten minutes till we reached the sea.
Even though I have visited the sea many times, including a few times just this summer, every time I stand on the shore I find myself taking long, deep breath as I gaze out at the endless ocean.

The whole group was likewise thrilled with the seascape before us. After the tour guide got us settled down, we heard the story of King Munmu. Of all the 56 kings of Silla, he was the one who left behind the most accomplishments. He wanted to aid the nation even after his death.

After the tour guide was finished talking, the grown-ups watched over the kids playing in the water from a distance, looking half-envious and half-pleased. Moms and Dads may have been worried about not having brought any extra dry clothes. But during this interlude, the children splashed brightly in the water, free of cares and concerns.   

3. Walking Pado-sori-gil coastal trail

A ten-minute drive from Munmudaewangneung  (the Underwater Tomb of King Munmu) takes you to a walking course featuring columnar joints, volcanic rock that has solidified in geometric forms. This site has legitimately become a leading tourist attraction of Gyeongju. Even on such a hot day, the Pado-sori-gil coastal trail had many sightseers.

When ‘GyeongjuLove’ first visited the Pado-sori-gil coastal trail, right after it was opened, it required a bit of hard work to see the fan-shaped columnar joints that are a key feature of the trail. Now, nearly all traces of the military base that formerly occupied this site have vanished, and a new observation deck is in place, offering a clear view of the fan-shaped columnar joints. 

New observation deck overlooking the fan-shaped columnar joints

Construction is in full swing at this area. Plans are underway to create a scenic park to view the local columnar joints. 

4. Seaside concert at Eupcheon harbor

Departing from Haseo port, our procession went through Pado-sori-gil coastal trail, and headed to our final destination of the harbor village of Eupcheon.

Eupcheon is well-known for its artwork and mural paintings, and we all had our own individual experiences, gathering memories. But we also had a collective group experience that was a lot of fun.

Dinner time
The highlight of the moonlight tour was coming up, tapdori (circling around a pagoda carrying lanterns). But first, we enjoyed a concert in the moonlight arranged by the-Silla Cultural Center, along with dinner in Eupcheon.

After receiving the dosirak meals provided by the Silla Cultural Center, we broke up into small groups and enjoyed our scrumptious dinners, sitting comfortably in the park around the lighthouse and looking out at the sea. 

Darkness falls upon the pretty harbor, and the seaside concert seems about to begin.
The seaside concert featured Andong “popera” singer Chung Min Cho, acoustic guitar ensemble Haneulho from the Gyeongju region, and Gonggan, a band made up of office workers.
With Eupcheon’s lighthouse and seawall as the backdrop, and the sunset glow serving as stage lighting, the atmosphere of the concert was flawless, perfectly accentuated by the beach.

It was impossible not to be intoxicated by that atmosphere.

5. Lantern tapdori at Gameunsa temple site

With the nearly-full moon growing brighter, we departed for the Gameunsa temple site for the highlight of the Silla Moonlight History Tour. The east and the west pagodas were illuminated by with subtle landscape lighting, the only spots of brightness in darkness. I’ve always heard there is nothing more breathtaking than seeing the Gameunsa temple site under a full moon. 
On this night, I finally got to see it. 

We entrusted our white lanterns with our wishes and circled around the three-storied east and the west pagodas three times.

In the hopes that all of our wishes would come true, we pray under the full moon. 

So with the white lantern tapdori at Gameunsa temple site, the Silla Moonlight History Tour comes to an end.
As we make a final survey of the Gameunsa temple site, people’s faces seem to show a little sadness that this day is ending.

Pledging to meet again, we take photos to remember this special day. 

TIP: You’ll definitely want to try the Silla Moonlight History Tour more than once.
Silla Moonlight History Tours are offered every year from April to October. They take place once a month, on the Saturday closest to the full moon.
You can register at the Silla Cultural Center website.
It costs 22,000 KRW for adults (teenagers and above), and 20,000 KRW for children.

Click here to go to the Silla Cultural Center website.


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