My friend and I have just bought tickets home for Christmas. Our other friend is leaving Korea soon. Combine this with expensive plane tickets, sold out KTX tickets and lots of traffic on the roads and a staycation really was our only option. Not that we were complaining. Doing and seeing all the tourist sites in Paju was on my to do list for a while and this was the perfect opportunity.
Of all the places to find expensive hotels, Paju wouldn’t have been top of my list but at 300,000won for a large room for the night, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Of course this was the VVIP room complete with jacuzzi and sauna and all the rest. After visiting a hotel called Vom, where rooms came complete with poles and the staff couldn’t understand why we didn’t want it for “short time”, we settled on the more affordable and normal “Great funny hotel bus”. I’m not making that name up. That’s really what it was called. Points deducted for the fact that there actually was no bus there but added for the fact that there was a circle bed, the room was huge and it was cheap.
Next we found ourselves in Heyri. For the day before Chuseok, it was filled with young couples, families and groups generally having a great time. This is somewhere you could spend the entire day, but instead we found ourselves seeking shelter from the unforgiving sun and what better was to do that than to paint some cups and plates.
Thursday morning, we were on a mission. Some real sight-seeing was going to happen today. Off we set in the trusty Spuddy.
First stop, Provence. Provence is a themed village with the most colourful buildings and the cutest shops. It also houses a famous bakery by Ryoo Jae Eun, where we ate breakfast and with rude staff and middling food, it was a little disappointing. Although most places were closed for Chuseok, there were several large tourist buses there and it was a nice way to spend the morning.
While looking for the standing Buddhas and navigating some serious Chuseok traffic, we found ourselves at Paju Samneung or the Three Royal Tombs of Paju. These have been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2009 and somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. The entrance was free for Chuseok (usually 1,000won). There is a little museum on the way in but everything is in Korean so we didn’t spend too long there.
The tombs , from the Joseon dynasty, Gongneung, Sulleung and Yeongneung hold the bodies of 4 royal members. You can get an information booklet in English at the gate and the grounds are incredibly well-kept. We must have spent over an hour here although in cooler weather, it would be possible to spend an entire afternoon exploring the vast grounds.
The Standing Buddhas were next. I was super impressed by these since I didn’t even know of their existence up to a few months ago. You can see the tops of the Buddhas long before you get to them. The legend of the Buddhas is super cool and the temple and surrounding area is also very beautiful and peaceful.
Not too far from the Buddhas are other smaller tombs which we explored. Public transport to all these areas is possible with careful planning but ideally, one would have a car. Staycationing was definitely one of the best things I’ve done for Chuseok. We were able to get away but not go so far away that we need a holiday from our holiday. I’m planning to do a more in depth blog on each of the sites we visited once I get my camera to work properly and have my own photos.
*All photos were from Pratishka Ruthun. Her blog can be found here; http://koreantimes25.blogspot.kr/