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Full Circle

Day 47: Kyongju

Kyongju, South Korea 
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Learning their culture. South Korean schoolchildren at Pulguksa Temple.
Michael Palin - Full CircleCultural day in Kyongju, which has such a rich concentration of visible history that UNESCO has named it one of their ten largest world heritage sites. First stop is a modest equivalent of the Egyptian pyramids called Tumuli Park, consisting of twenty low, gracefully-rounded burial mounds rising from the earth like giant bubbles. They have been found to contain a haul of artefacts from the Shilla kingdom, which dominated southern Korea for a thousand years.

The treasures from the tombs are on display at the nearby National Museum, which also contains a twenty-ton bell cast in ad 770, said to have within it the body of a young girl sacrificed during the casting. The museum complex is awash with school groups. The boys race about, pulling lemons off the trees, taking swipes at each other and evading the wrath of the attendants. The girls, most of whom seem to be wearing identical oval gold-rimmed glasses and Korean Doc Martens, are quite direct in their curiosity. Foreign tourists are obviously something of a rarity here and any glance you give them is met with a mixture of eye-rolling flirtatiousness or hoots of laughter.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 47
  • Country/sea: South Korea
  • Place: Kyongju
  • Book page no: 72

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