|We easily managed to find a bus the following morning bound for Gongju (an ancient capital of the Baekje kingdom in 475AD). The intercity bus system here is excellent with buses leaving dead on time to loads of different places and its also pretty cheap.
Once we arrived, to save some money Shaun decided we should walk about 1.5km to the area where the cheap motels were in 90% humidity and sunshine. After arriving drenched in sweat I think he soon decided we would be taking taxis from now on (which are also pretty cheap!)
We checked into a yeogwan for 2 nights (this is a cheaper version of a love motel and slightly older/scruffier) but you basically get the same sort of things - although this one also had a vending machine outside which sold all sorts of 'love' toys - we're still not sure what half of them were (see photo). Then after quickly dumping all our stuff it was out into the heat again to visit the sights in the area.
The first stop was some local tombs grabbing a quick fried chicken lunch. The tombs date back to 400-500AD and the most famous tomb is that of King Muryeongs. You cant actually visit the tombs themselves as they are sealed to protect them, however they have actual size replicas in a very well done exhibition hall on site. After wandering around the earth mounds (there are 7 tombs in all - all from the Baekje kingdom era) we headed back into town to Gongsanseong - a hill top fortress also from the Baekje kingdom.
This fortress has a 2.6km wall which we walked around stopping at the several pavilions along the route. I think we managed to sweat about 2 pints each on our way round before the clouds came over and we had our first experience of the Korean rainy season. The heavens really opened up and there was a torrential downpour for about an hour - we quite liked the cooling down we received from it.
The following day we decided to catch a local bus out to a nearby National Park (Gyeryongsan) as we wanted to experience a bit of the Korean countryside. The area is actually famous for chestnuts and as we entered the national park there were numerous local ladies selling roasted chestnuts so of course we had to buy a bag - which we munched on the whole time we were there. The national parks here are really well laid out and marked with sign posts and information boards (even in English) everywhere.
The first thing that shocked us were the number of people there, most of which were in their immaculate hiking gear. It seemed like the whole local population were there either hiking the numerous routes or just picnicking by the streams. We decided to get a bit of exercise and hiked from Gapsa, a temple at the park's western end up to Yongmun Popko, a small waterfall (in fact I think the sweat coming off us had more water on it) and then on to Sambulbong Peak, which at 775m offered great views over the national park. It was a great hike through forested hills, which give way to rocky cliffs towards the peaks - but the best thing for us was just to be out of the towns and cities and mingling with the local hikers.
We arrived back in town and decided to treat ourselves to some ice cream and then visited the same restaurant we had frequented the night before. This was a typical barbeque restaurant where you grill your own meat. This particular restaurant was overly generous in its portions of pork and the number of side dishes available (see photo) hence the reason we came back!!
The next day it was in to a taxi and back to the bus station for our journey to the next destination.....Cheungju.