An ancient Capital and a Footbath

After spending the day at Maisan and Jeonju, I planned to wake up early that Saturday and head out to Gongju, the ancient capital of Baekje. Time permitting, I also hoped to make it to Buyeo, a nearby small town that was Baekje’s last capital.

Gyeongju is well-known as an ancient capital in Korea, and it was the capital of the Silla dynasty, which eventually conquered the Baekje and Goguryeo kingdoms. Gongju, on the other hand, is far less advertised to foreign tourists, despite being closer to Seoul.

Getting there from Jeonju turned out to not be as convenient as I hoped. I assumed there would be a bus from Jeonju, but there actually is no direct service to Gongju. There is a train from Jeonju to Gongju, but I missed the train at 6:30 am and the next one didn’t leave until 11:05. Then I learned that the Gongju train station is about an hour outside of the city, so I decided to take the bus to Daejeon and then on to Gongju from there.

I really should have started earlier or just taken the train since I didn’t end up making it to Gongju until about 2:30 pm, which didn’t leave time for Buyeo at all and I felt a bit rushed in Gongju. The Gongju bus terminal is located away from the city center, but it was only about a 10 minute taxi ride from there to the National Museum. The Gongju National Museum contains relics from King Muryeong and his queen of Baekje. The actual royal tomb interior is closed to visitors, but the museum contains an exact replica of the tomb. There’s also their jewlery, shoes, and various other items on display from the Baekje era. Admission is free. The museum was pretty full but that’s expected on a Saturday afternoon.

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Some burial tombs on the museum grounds.
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Many Buddhist relics from all historical periods are on display at the outdoor exhibit.

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After the museum I planned to go to Magoksa, a historic temple located somewhat outside the city. I knew there was a bus from Gongju but the bus that services the museum doesn’t go there. So I walked out past the parking lot and hailed a taxi to save time. The taxi ride from the museum to Magoksa parking lot cost 19,000 won.

I didn’t regret paying for taxi fare at all. Magoksa turned out to be one of my favorite temples I’ve visited in Korea, although it is similar to other Korean temples in many ways. It could be because of the colorful lanterns on the bridge. It could be the peaceful stream that surrounds the temple. Or maybe it was the perfect fall foliage that harmonizes so well with temple colors. Either way, I recommend a visit to anyone in the Daejeon area. It’s one of the few temples in Korea that wasn’t destroyed during the Japanese invasion in the 1500’s, or even harmed by any major war.

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Not sure what the purpose of the dwarf is though. I guess it’s for the kids.

From the Magoksa parking lot, it can be reached by walking past the restaurants and shops and following the lanterns. Entrance fee is cheap, only 2,000 won.

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The stream that runs around the temple.
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Then cross the lantern bridge.

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I headed back to the parking lot and the bus stop, where there is a schedule of the buses coming to and from Magoksa. The next bus departed around 6:30 when it started to get dark, so I had to finish in Gongju then. I booked accommodation in Daejeon, and conveniently the bus leaving Magoksa stopped at the Gongju bus terminal.

From there it was back to Daejeon Bokhap terminal. There are a few bus terminals in the city, but most buses seemed to leave from Bokhap, a large terminal complex with an Emart and CGV. To get to my guesthouse, I had to get to the Junangno subway station. Daejeon has one subway line thus far and the Bokhap terminal isn’t connected to the metro, but I took a taxi to the nearest stop, Daejeon Station, for about 5,000 won. My Cashbee card was rejected on the subway — turns out Daejeon only accepts T-money cards. Luckily I have both.

The guesthouse I stayed in, Sanho Guesthouse, isn’t available on any booking websites, and it’s the only guesthouse in the city that I know of. Daejeon has plenty of motels however, but given that I was alone and trying to budget I decided to opt for the guesthouse especially since motel prices can get jacked up on weekends. The price for a 6 bed dorm with shared bath is only 18,000 won. The place isn’t super crowded so I only had one roommate.

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Sanho has an English guide for booking on their website. More information about the guesthouse and location can be found on this blog. The woman that runs it speaks pretty good English. The rooms are clean and it’s right near a subway station in the middle of Daejeon, near a bunch of restaurants and bars. However, it’s not the best place to stay if you want to actually experience that nightlife since the gate closes at 12 am. The bathroom and kitchen could have been a bit cleaner but they aren’t bad.

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Guesthouse sign.

The only thing I was really interested in doing in Daejeon city was the Yuseong footbath spa. The Yuseong district is known for its hot springs and there are many hotels and motels with spa bath facilities. But it isn’t necessary to stay in one of them to experience the mineral water. Not far from the Yuseong metro station, there is a small footbath park right in the middle of two streets, and it’s completely free.

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After two days on the move this felt really good.

Just wash your feet before going in. The bath is mostly used by older people and the water is hot and the rocks can be used for a foot massage. Perfect way to pamper the feet after a lot of walking around.

I’ve recently decided that after this year I’m going to be returning to the U.S. for the time being. I have mixed feelings since I really like living in Korea/Asia but I think it’s time I move on. While I like teaching I’m want to try something else. I hope to explore more of the country and make the most of the rest of my time here before I leave.

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