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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Manila, baby!

This Thursday, I'll be heading to the GLoCALL 2011 conference in the Philippines.

This will be my first time to the Philippines and I'm going via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific airlines; I expect to be returning on Sunday.

I don't expect to have a lot of free time while I'm there, but I'm hoping to at least get a chance to walk around the stone-paved streets of Intramuros, the old walled section. It's rainy about a third of the time there in October, so I think I'll need to be pretty lucky if I'm going to run-into good weather.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Journey to Gyeongju

On the Sunday of my weekend in Busan, I grabbed a chance to take a van trip to visit the town of Gyeongju, which is about an hour to the north.

The city contains a cluster of worthwhile UNESCO World Heritage Sites connected to the Silla Kingdom-- a political entity which lasted in southern Korea (and eventually the entire peninsula) for slightly under 1,000 years.

To make a long story short, the Korean peninsula was once divided into three kingdoms: Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla... along with some teeny place called the Gaya confederacy which historians don't know very much about. In what turned into a long regional war which sucked-in forces from both China and Japan, Silla eventually took-over the whole peninsula by the year 663. This came on top of centuries of hard fighting, diplomatic intrigue and a massive intervention from it's ally, the local superpower, Tang China, in what some historians think was one of the largest combined land and sea military operations in world history up until then. Almost immediately following the unification, Silla managed to beat-back Chinese attempts to make Korea into a vassal.

So in the grand scheme of things, Silla is important because it turned Korea into a unified state for the first time.

In Gyeongju, one can see the royal burial mounds...

They don't really know who's buried in any of them; they're called 'royal' tombs because one of 'em contained a gold crown

...and Bulguksa Temple, which was founded in roughly 751. It was built to declare Buddhism as Silla's official state religion; there was some bizarre back-story on how it was built on the site where a monk had a cryptic verbal exchange with some kind of talking bear.

LinkAnyway, I would really like to become a more regular visitor to Korea in the future if can somehow manage to squeeze it in.