Thursday, June 30, 2011

ACCE Field Trip: Anapji, Royal Tombs, Ssambap

Following the vegetarian lunch at Gyeongju, we moved on to our next destination, Anapji, a man-made pond area in Gyeongju National Park.

Part of the Silla dynasty's palace complex, the pond was constructed by the rulers for leisure purposes and to receive important guests. It was also said that towards the end of the dynasty, many citizens were too heartbroken to see their country die and instead chose to end their lives by plunging into the water here.

However, you don't really see much building structures remaining, leaving mostly pillars marks on the ground. This was due to the Japanese invasion where the intruders burned down pretty much of their historical monuments. A great pity, no doubt.

Next, we visited the park belt where most of the royal tombs were located. Shaped like domes, I personally couldn't tell them apart and reckoned that the bigger the dome was, the more important the person inside was. Conceptually similar to the pyramids in Egypt, I suppose.

We were not supposed to climb onto the tombs, of course, but I was told that naughty kids would use them as slides. Oh well, pardoned!

One of the king's tombs was excavated and reconstructed within to show what was found buried alongside the king, while the entire belt was certainly a good place for school excursion trips, as we spotted a teacher giving a live lesson to students in the park.

We also visited the Gyeongju National Museum to learn more about the Silla Dynasty. Frankly, I'm not a history person so there wasn't really much to say about the exhibits inside.

As for dinner, we made our way to a restaurant that served Gyeongju's speciality, Ssambap.

Literally translated to "Wrapped Rice", rice was served with vegetables leaves and many, many banchan (Side snacks). These banchan were refillable for free throughout the meal.

So much that I forgot what I ate already, really! Generally, they were more towards the salty side and went very well with rice. Somewhat reminded me of our Teochew Porridge.

The more memorable ones was like this stirred fried sliced pork in barbecue sauce. Despite using lean meat, it was very tender and flavourful. We also learnt that Kimchi could also steamed, so I was slightly more tolerant towards this version.

For desserts, we were served packets of Gyeongju Bread, which was really a kind of red-bean pancake that was soft and chewy, similar to Japanese Dorayaki (the ones Doraemon loved to eat).

And with that, we concluded all the field trips of ACCE! I'm sure there is so much more to beautiful Daegu as we had limited time to explore. If you want to see a different side of South Korea that is more laid-back and less city-bustling, Daegu might be a good choice!

Taken with Nikon D70
Monday, June 27, 2011

ACCE Field Trip: Bulguksa Temple, Vegetarian Lunch

For our last ACCE field trip, we travelled to Gyeongju City, ancient capital of the Silla kingdom. And with such rich historical value, it is no wonder that the Bulguksa Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Again, I'm not going to list down the history of the temple, but just keep in mind that its grounds were huge with an air of serenity and had very pretty landscaping.

Being a Buddhist temple, there were plenty of customs and structures that the Chinese could identify with. Just wondering, would the gods hear you if you said your prayers in Mandarin?

There was this area were many mini stone towers were constructed. Legend has it goes that the higher you stack, the more likely your wish will come true. But beware, if it topples in the process you will suffer bad luck for god-knows-how-long. Thankfully, my tower (left, 2nd picture) was as steady as I had left it.

Lush greenery on frozen lakes. Told you it was pretty already.

Before we head for lunch, we made a pit stop at a local souvenir shop. Too touristy for my taste, but what interested me was this row of bungalows opposite the road beside a lake. The Koreans told us that during summer, these houses are rented out to students for drinking parties, completed with barbecues and dips in the lake. I almost felt sad thinking of our chalets.

And then our tour bus stopped in the middle of nowhere (to me, at least) for lunch! We were told that this tiny restaurant was popular for their traditional spread of vegetarian food. My stomach groaned a little at the word "vegetarian" but oh well, why not?

I don't usually describe food as pretty, but the word aptly says what they served here!

The colourful, chewy rice cakes had vegetables encased into them, while the wobbly rice pudding was appetising with a splash of their red bean paste. Both are firsts for me!

Nothing better than a hot pot of Kimchi Soup in the cold weather, while the Lotus Leaf Rice bore much resemblance to the Chinese version, albeit lighter and more earthy-tasting.

Dessert was a simple affair of fresh fruits and Green Tea Red Bean Cake, though we were a little puzzled about why crunchy garlic toasts were served last. Made really good snacks though.

If Singapore had a restaurant located in such wilderness, it would just die out within a week (with Sunset Grill being an exception, I think). But the business here was certainly more than brisk. Food over location!

Taken with Nikon D70
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yeungnam University: Awesome Campus!

For one of the ACCE field trips, we visited the main campus of our host university, Yeungnam University (YU)!

Team Singapore and our Korean friend, Carrie, in front of YU's mascot, the blazing Pegasus

Being one of the largest university outside of Seoul, the campus size was certainly vast and wide as faculties were located independently from each other. Their main library, by the way, was already over 20 storeys! However, with so much land space, there really was no need to build upwards as most buildings were merely a couple of levels tall.

The winter scenery was definitely picture-perfect. I could imagine lovebirds strolling down that lake after the last class ends. Not that NTU don't have a Nanyang Lake, but with our irritating weather, pesky mosquitoes and odd belongings of undergrads-thrown-in-the-lake floating around, there really wasn't much romance to speak of.

We first attended a welcome talk by YU's president, Dr Lee Hyo Soo, who told us more about YU's vision. This was followed by a series of mini-talks by other exchange and master students, who shared with us their experience in YU. The university also conducts a summer exchange camp in English, so go poke around their website for more details!

We also had a tour of their museum, housing many artifacts from different ancient Korean dynasties. I'm still darn amazed by how real the painting of the elder looked.

Besides the museum, another amazing attraction on campus was their folklore village. A exact replica of what could be found in the olden days, it bore much resemblance to Yangdong Village.

Unlike Yangdong, these are merely for display with no occupants, though we saw some Koreans bringing their kids here to play.

Play what? You ask.

Play this kick-ass, giant swing! There were several playground amenities for children, and this definitely brought out the kid in us. A might push and hold on tight!

Crispy Minced Chicken Cutlet with Rice, Corn Soup

We also ate lunch in one of their cafeterias, where the lack of Kimchi and appearance of Western-looking food were most welcomed after 4 days in Korea. Just a little upset that the lady poured cutlet gravy over my very sweet orange slices!

Singaporeans could never leave a place without a jump shot eh? If you are wondering about my friend's amusing arms-fold pose, in his own words: "That's how Magneto flies!"

Pity we didn't have enough time to crash their lectures, especially the ones in their business school. With seemingly borderless land, YU's campus feel was exactly what I have imagined a overseas university to be; spacious with gasps of fresh, cold air. Easier to score As eh!

Yeungnam University
Gyeongsan City, South Korea
Check out their English Website!

Taken with Nikon D70