It Only Took 14 Months!


Well yes, today I went for an early morning bike ride towards Jungangtap Park location of the 2013 World Rowing Championships and the centre of Korea. No joke, this is the centre of Korea and was strategically important at the time when Korea was three Kingdoms, GoguryeoBaekje and Silla. For that region the city and its environs have some important archeological sites, though it has to be said some are hard to find, hence my bike ride. I decided to leave my DSLR at home and carried my trusty iPhone with the Hipstamatic App.  All the pics in this post are iPhone 4S, Hipstamatic, John S Lens and Blanko Film.

I went in search of my last archeological wonder from the Chungju City Tourist Guide Book, yes the one in Englishy that can be picked up at the bus terminal.  The holy grail was The Ancient Silla Tombs of Nuam-ri. On the way, after passing under our two new road bridges that are yet to open,  I stopped to view my favourite rock-carved Buddha in the hamlet of Changdong. After climbing the hill and descending the 120 steps I found it was covered in scaffolding.  Chungers is experiencing a spring clean for the rowing championships.

I decided to go off piste in search of the elusive tombs and so I left the newly surface main road and took the left fork, the right goes to Jungangtap Park. It was merely intuition but I saw a local side road which led into a small agricultural village surrounded by rice fields and corn plants. As I entered the village voilà a brown sign appeared with a 1km marker. I followed the road up a steep incline scouring right and left for my treasure. As I reached the cusp of the hill to my left was a painted mural of….tombs, this must be it. As I broke the back of the hill on my right was a roughly made car park and the traditional red wood and stainless steel sign.  This was it, farther to the right the mounds rose from the side of the hill and were much more impressive than I’d imagined. My 14 month search was over.

The setting is awesome, the tombs are nestled between two hills overlooking lush paddy fields. The road ends here and any further progress is only by cycle or moped. The tombs were developed by King Jinheung near to the end of the Silla period of governance, it’s said there are some 230 tombs here and the setting is so picturesque that anyone visiting Chungju should make the short detour from Jungangtap, it’s just a pity it isn’t particularly well signposted. I recommend a picnic if the weathers fine there’s a covered seating area to shade the visitor from the harsh summer sun.

I am including the instructions I found here, Google Maps saved the day for me:

Take the Jungbu Inland Expressway to North Chungju Interchange. Then take the local road 82 bound for Gageum. Turn right at Ipseok Samgeori (The Goguryo Stele of Chungju).  Take the road straight forward to Chungju and you will find the Nuam-ri Ancient Tombs, you will need to take a right just after Jungangatap Park!

As I was cycling I decided to explore taking the narrow concrete path that extended into the countryside and after an undulating 15 minute ride came to a underpass below the newly constructed but un-opened highway. I had spotted a relief road for construction workers adjacent to Chungju’s new bridges so I knew if I accessed the highway it would afford me a shortcut back to Tangumdae. It was weird cycling along this great expanse of road all alone, like a movie set when theres been a nuclear holocaust. I came back down to earth when I was overtaken by a farmer on a moped taking his produce to, I presume, Chungju market. My exit came into view and beyond that was the new bridge so I tentatively kept going to take some snaps. After about 5 minutes I was spotted and ushered away so I retraced my steps back to the service exit and continued my journey to Tangumdae.

I spent a hour circumnavigating this local beauty spot before cycling back through the World Martial Arts Park back to my apartment. A lovely and successful morning bike ride. Tomorrow my soccer boys play in a competition on the Tangumdae sports ground astro turf.

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