How to spend 2 days, 1 night in Gyeongju, South Korea

Gyeongju was the capital of the Silla which ruled from 57 BCE to 935 CE, and with the support of the Tang in China, it conquered and absorbed the kingdoms around it, thus toppling the era of the Three Kingdoms.

As such, Gyeongju is rife with historical treasures. It boasts tombs of kings and queens, ancient architecture, and historically accurate village restorations.

Each site is hyperlinked to the dedicated Korean tourism page which has further information about opening times, costs, and parking. See the map assembled by the tourism organization here.

SIGHTSEEING

Nearly all the main attractions are along the road running north into the city which made sightseeing easy for us as we had a car.

Namsan Mountain is to the southwest of Andong; Silla Arts and Sciences Museum along with Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto are to the southeast. Most of other other attractions are located within the same 2 mile radius in the city.

DAY 1

Bulguksa Temple (경주 불국사)

The temple is a bit far from the main downtown area. The site is sprawling with monks working on site in real time. There is no on-site exhibition or museum, but you can observe the many different buildings. Only one managed to escape complete decimation in the mid-century Japanese invasion; most other buildings were restored in the 1990s, as with many Korean historical sites. You can also do a temple stay here.

Time: 2 hours

Seokguram Grotto (석굴암)

Located 3km away by hiking or 9 by car from the temple, this smaller temple has a 3m tall Buddha facing the east.

Tomb of King Wonseong (경주 원성왕릉)

If you are coming into town by car, I’d recommend a quick stop to this tomb. Parking is easy and we were the only visitors. The path around the mound circled closely and you could get a much closer look than at the other tombs closer to town. There were also nice views of fields and mountains surrounding it.

Time: 15 minutes

Hwangnidan-gil

There is alley after alley of beautiful and varied cafes and restaurants. Green tea ice cream, Japanese udon, vietnamese coffee, Thai noodles, Italian pasta. Eat lunch and then take a long stroll to digest… and then get dessert.

Time: 2-3 hours

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond (경주 동궁과 월지)

This is best viewed at night. People come to take a stroll and photograph the famous reflection of the palace in the pond. As many of the old buildings have not been restored, don’t plan to spend too much time here. We came forty minutes before closing at 10pm and felt satisfied.

Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour

DAY 2

Gyeongju National Museum (국립경주박물관)

A must-see! There are more than four buildings on campus. The historical section focuses on the Silla dynasty which ran from the 57 BCE to 935 CE. The most interesting fact I learned is that servants used to be buried alive with the deceased king. Luckily, this practice stopped around the time Silla started to absorb nearby kingdoms that had more humane, Buddhist-centered customs. I also found the jewelry of the Silla king and queen to be exquisite and wondere, if they sold any replicas in the gift shop. Amazingly, they did not.

In addition to the historical section, there is also an art museum along with a special exhibition. Outside along the grounds you can find many pagoda pieces and ruins that were simply so numerous they couldn’t be fit inside a building.

Time: 2-4 hours, depending on if you prefer to browse or read in detail

Daereungwon Tomb Complex (Cheonmachong Tomb) (대릉원(천마총))

Directly north of the Gyeongju Historic area, this tomb complex boasts additional tombs as well as one that has been partially unearthed so that visitors can see what lies inside.

Time: 1 hour

Gyeongju Historic Area

Take a long stroll through these sprawling grounds to see the observatory, bridge, traditional village, and royal tombs.

Cheomseongdae Observatory: Built in the 7th century, this observatory was used to track the stars in order to understand the 24 seasonal divisions necessary for farming.

Woljeonggyo Bridge: This time, make sure to look down; you can see beautifully recreated flower pattern tiles. It’s the largest wooden bridge in Korea. Originally built in the 8th century and then burned down during Japanese invasion during the Joseon dynasty, it was rebuilt to current splendor in 2018.

Gyochon Traditional Village (교촌마을): The village is in the same area as the bridge, tombs, and watchtower. You can park on the long alley between the bridge and the village. There are a few restaurants in traditional hanok houses. There are also culture activities but unfortunately none when we attended. The standout for me was the old well where Princess Yoseok was said to have used. After she was widowed, she had an out of wedlock child with a monk whose appearance it seemed was orchestrated by her father. The monk was allowed to go swimming and then had to stay the night while his clothes dried. The rest is history.

Time: 2-4 hours

There are a few more sites to see that I did not personally experience but did take note of:

ACCOMMODATIONS

You can stay in a traditional hanok, guesthouse, or hotel; we opted for a small hotel called Mini Maison, about three blocks from the cafe area. There was a small parking lot on the first floor and additional street parking.

Checkout booking.com or AirBnB for more options.

INSPIRATION

If you need a muse, more ideas, or want to get a feel for what Gyeongju has to offer, check out these videos made by the local tourism organization. I find Imagine Korea, especially the fabulous dance videos, both entertaining and helfpul in identifying the top must-see spots of each city.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Gyeongju Tourism

Imagine Your Korea (search by area)

South Korea: Exchanging Your Driver’s License

Required Documents:

  • Original driver’s license
  • Passport
  • ARC
  • Apostille of original driver’s license
  • 출입국사실증명서 Certificate of the Facts Concerning the Entry & Exit
  • 3 color photos
  • 외국인등록사실증명서* (if your current registered address does not match your ARC address)
  • 6,000 won for the eye exam and 7,500 won for the license

Find the complete list of documents and acknowledged countries here. Depending on your country and state, you may need to take a written exam. I have a Georgia U.S. license and did not need to take a written exam.

Where to Get Documents

The U.S. Embassy no longer apostilles driver’s licenses, so if you’re American you will need to plan ahead. I used Monument Visa which did not require me to present my license but rather simply attach a photograph of the front and back of my license. Monument Visa has international shipping; I happened to be in the US at the time and received it while there.

The Certificate of the Facts Concerning the Entry & Exit can be obtained from your local gu office or community center. It costs 2,000 won. This document lists all your entries to and exits from Korea. While there, make sure you ask for the dates to cover from your birth year to the current date.

I like zzixx for photos; upload a selfie and the company will mail your photos in the next two days. You can also find a photo booth at larger subway stations.

At The Center

Head to your local regional driver’s license examination office (search for 운전면허시험장). Go to the window 외국 군 국제면허. Present all your documents and fill out the paperwork provided by the staff.

The staff will point you to an area to do your health check which is just an eye exam. The eye exam costs 6,000 won. Return to the desk with your eye exam results.

If you want your license to be in English as well as Korean, plan to pay 10,000 won rather than 7,500 won. I went with this option just in case. I paid in cash; I don’t know if they accept card.

The worker helping me gathered all my documents and handed them off. She indicated to sit and wait for my new license to be printed on site. I was told to wait 30 minutes but it took less than ten before the other worker motioned me forward to pick up my hot-off-the-press license. Asia time!

Potential Snags

If your current address does not match the address on your ID, which happens if you update your address via HiKorea rather than going in person, your hard ARC will not reflect your actual address. In this case, you will also need to bring proof of your address by obtaining 외국인등록사실증명서. As with the Certificate of the Facts, this document can be obtained at your local gu office.

Happy driving!

South Korea: D10 to E2 Visa

Required Documents:

  • One passport photo 35x45mm
  • Passport
  • Current ARC
  • Form #34 (you can fill it out at the office or you can find a PDF online at HiKorea)
  • Signed contract and NOA (if applicable)
  • Teaching schedule
  • Business license (this is not from the school but the Office of Education)
  • Housing contract
  • Report form* (will be provided to you during your appointment)
  • 130,000 won application and processing fee

Be sure to use a different photo from your D10 ARC. Luckily, I have a rotating set of long hair pics and short hair pics that I brought with me. If not, there is an ID photo booth onsite, or you can use zzixx.com in advance to print extra passport style photos.

If you only have one original contract, make sure to give them a copy instead but bring the original in case they need to see it. The officer made sure I had at least another original contract at home and also returned my NOA since it was my only original. I can’t say that every officer will do this so make copies in advance!

The school did not give me a teaching schedule so far in advance (and let’s be real, they probably haven’t made a school schedule yet– you know how Korea time works!) I simply made my own weekly schedule based on the one I worked in Seoul. It looked like this:

It passed inspection, or at least, the officer didn’t ask any questions about it. Just make sure you have between 20-22 period hours on your schedule, or whatever teaching hours your contract stipulates. For public school, more than 22 hours per week requires overtime pay.

If you will work in public school, the business license should be from your MOE or POE, not the school itself. There are only a few public programs that accept us D10s (JLP, CNOE, GOE) so your recruiter will be able to get this for you. If you work for a hagwon, the business license will come from the school itself.

I supplied a photocopy of the housing contract that my future CT was kind enough to provide. The officer reminded me that I must update my address within fourteen days of moving. This can be done in person or online. When I moved to Busan I used HiKorea to apply for my address update which was a fairly straightforward process. You will get a text if you’re address change has been approved.

1345 told me I needed to fill out a report form and that I could do so at the immigration office. I am too type A wait and thus hunted around the net for a copy. I found one document for “Report” but I’m not actually sure that was even the report document needed since the officer handed me a separate form during our appointment to report my job sector and yearly salary. I’d say, don’t worry about trying to find this in advance. The officer did accept the other paper I filled out so be wary that immigration will take and keep whatever you give them, even if it’s not needed.

Your D10 ARC will be taken and your passport returned. Hold on to the Certificate of Application for Permit of Stay that the officer will give you as proof of residency.

As always, please call 1345 for your specific situation. Immigration changes policies like I change apartments so it’s always best to double check at the source! This is my experience getting an E2 for a public school so if you will work at a hagwon, your mileage may vary.

When to Apply

1345 recommends applying at least three weeks in advance. This means you need to hop on HiKorea two weeks before that and schedule an appointment; immigration slots tend to fill up 3-4 weeks in advance. However, you may want to go more than a month in advance if you have your documents; see “Pitfalls to Avoid” below.

At Immigration

Arrive early, twenty minutes or more is a good estimate. While you are waiting, pay 100,000 won to the human cashier for the fee and 30,000 won to the ATM for the new ARC fee. Keep both receipts. When your number is called, bring your receipts and all documents to the officer.

After the officer has approved your documents, you will receive a “Certificate of Application for Permit of Stay”. Make sure you keep the 30,000 won receipt, if the officer didn’t staple it to the certificate for you. You will need to show both upon your return in a month to pick up your physical ID card.

Pitfalls to Avoid

While your E2 visa will be processed within a week or two in the online system, your physical new ARC card will take one month to be printed. If you are applying to teach in a different region, this can create havoc like it did for me today. My new contract starts March 1st, so I visited immigration today, February 4th, which is more than 3 weeks before the start of my contract. This ensures that I will be labeled as E2 in the system by my contract start and will not have any illegal overlapping.

However, since the physical ARC card takes one month to process, I will already be happily settled in my new city by the time it’s ready. Due to COVID, there is no option to mail. It can only be picked up during weekday hours.

The officer proposed two options:

  1. Cancel my appointment with him now and visit the immigration office in my new city. That way when my card is ready I don’t have to travel back to Busan. Of course, it still means I would need to take PTO during my first working week to visit immigration.
  2. Keep my appointment with the Busan office and accept that the card must also be picked up here. Luckily, there is an option on the “Certificate of Application for Permit of Stay” that allows you to designate an authorized person to pick up the ARC for you. Assuming you have a friend willing to visit immigration during working hours, this might work for you. Luckily I have Korean roommates who have non-standard working hours and are willing to travel to immigration to pick it up and mail it to me. If you choose to do this, leave the Certificate and the 30,000 won receipt with your friend.

If possible, you should probably go to immigration more than a month earlier than your contract start date, or accept that you or someone else must physically pick up your fresh ARC after your contract has started.

Congratulations on your new contract and best of luck!

Are you actually searching for the reverse? Check out this article to understand how to transfer your E2 to a D10.

How to Survive a 14 Hour Flight

Well, well, well. You’ve booked a ticket to a faraway land and are now facing the daunting prospect of a flight that defies time. Join us!

These are my tried and true hacks for surviving slightly more comfortably on your long journey.

Masks

As we are in the age of COVID, masks are required on flights. I felt most comfortable in cloth masks and changed at least once to prevent bacteria buildup. I also used a paper surgical mask which worked well, but do bring more than one as their typical wear time is eight hours.

Face

Must haves include chapstick, eye drops, and saline nose spray. A fourteen hour flight with recycled air and no humidifier wreaks havoc on your sinuses. Refresh them with the saline spray and apply eye drops liberally as needed. By the end of my last trip, not even prescription artificial tears could save me. I shudder to think of how shriveled my corneas would be without them at all. I recommend eye drops that have cellulose sodium and glycerin (aka not Visine). Make sure it’s a product that is safe for unlimited use as some eye drops are not.

You may also want to include an unscented, quick drying lotion for your face and hands.

Also, I know you want to look your best when you arrive to Korea, but avoid heavy makeup; you can put on makeup in the last hour of flying. I can’t stop you, but as an advocate for your skin and health, I recommend avoiding it so you can sleep against the window without fear of smudging anything.

*BEST TIP* eye drops, baby

Hair

No one cares. Put on a hat, throw it in braids or a bun or a ponytail, leave it down. Whatever is most comfortable for you. My hair tends to go flat in the extended dryness so I preemptively straighten it or just put it in a ponytail.

Hands

Bring something for sanitizing and something for moisturizing if you tend to dry out easily. Use gel sanitizer for your hands or a sanitizing wipe.

Body

Bring an extra pair of underwear if you have an outfit that allows for easy changing or alternatively, bring and wear pantiliners. These are very thin pads that are typically used as supplementary protection during periods but work well if you can’t change your underwear. Sitting for fourteen hours is not kind to our robust body parts, let alone our more sensitive ones. You may also bring body-safe wet wipes if you want to do a quick clean of your armpits or other areas.

Word of warning: do not put on a pantiliner before you go through security. For reasons due to men creating security scanning machines, I have been pulled aside for a pat down nearly every time I’ve donned one before going through security. I can bring my ice skates in my carry-on but I can’t wear a feminine hygiene product so yeah, I’m blaming male design for this one.

*BEST TIP* pantiliners for freshness

Feet

Please believe me when I say your feet will get nasty. I don’t care if you’re a foot model, no one can withstand this long of a flight without stinking up their shoes.

Wear socks, bring a change of socks, and say yes to the slippers. Your feet will get sweaty so peel off your first pair and go sockless in the slippers (if you do not have row mates) or throw on the new pair and lounge in your slippers knowing your toes get a breather.

Sleeping

I can’t help you out in this one. The attendants will give you a pillow and blanket, it’s up to you to Tetris yourself for maximum comfort.

Entertainment

Unless you’re on a super budget airline your flight will have built in consoles with movies, shows, audiobooks, and music. My one advice is about reading: during the flight, the lights will be dimmed in order to subdue, I mean comfort, passengers and encourage sleep.

If you’re on a crowded flight this makes turning on your personal light a lot more difficult, and disrupts the slumber of other passengers. Or it’s simply too dark. I’d recommend reading on a tablet or other electronic device, assuming you have already downloaded your reading content for offline use. (Special tip: open all your AO3 fics on your phone, click “show all chapters” and voila, as long as you don’t refresh your browser you can view these offline. There of course is also a download option if you have time and memory space.)


Like a recipe blog post, here’s the summarized list version:

  • Sanitizer (gel or wipes)*
  • Body-safe wet wipes
  • Chapstick/lip balm/vaseline
  • Eye drops
  • Saline nose spray
  • Masks (multiple)
  • Quick-drying unscented lotion
  • Extra socks
  • Extra underwear/pantiliners

Happy flying!

South Korea: E2 to D10 Visa

Required Documents

  • Passport photo 35x45mm
  • Passport
  • Current ARC
  • Form #34 (check “change of sojourn”)
  • Completed contract or Letter of Release
  • Official bank statement (“잔액증명서 Certificate of Deposit”) that proves you have at least 750,000 won per month i.e. at least 4.5M for the six month application
  • Proof of residency (lease OR utility bill with name OR fill out form “Confirmation of Residence/Accommodation” and provide appropriate additional documentation OR as I did, use the “Notification of Expiry” that you receive about two months before your E2 expires)
  • 130,000 won application and processing fee

I made copies of both my passport and ARC to include in the packet.

Form #34 and Confirmation of Residence can be found on HiKorea. Be sure to use Internet Explorer.

The 잔액증명서 or Certificate of Deposit must be obtained from your bank in person. If you choose today’s date for the certificate, note that your account will be frozen for the rest of the day. It’s best to choose yesterday’s date. At Shinhan this document cost 2,000 won for one copy. Others have used their updated bank book as proof of funds but my officer did not accept that.

While immigration can provide the job seeking form, it’s best to prepare ahead of time. I couldn’t find it on the immigration website but did find it on the page for the Korean Consulate of Singapore.

I filled out the form as if I were to get a job in March so it looked something like:

  1. Contact recruiters
  2. Contact recruiters and fill out applications
  3. Gather documents for application
  4. Mail application and documents to recruiter/hiring organization
  5. Receive new contract in mail; sign and return
  6. Start new contract

Some people filled in “contact recruiters” on every line and also got approved.

The Proof of Residency form requires some type of additional document to prove your address since you don’t have your name on a lease or utility bill. You can use a copy of the house owner’s ID card but only if the address on the back matches your residence. If not, additional materials will be required and it’s best to call 1345 for details.

Since I was still in school housing at the time, I had none of those things but luckily kept my “Notice of Visa Expiry” from immigration that I had received a few months prior. Please note that when you apply you must use your current address. Then you can update to your new address online at HiKorea. You must also visit the immigration office zoned to your current residence. Even though I was moving to Busan, I was still living in Seoul at the time of application and thus used my Seoul address. And since mailing was not an option, I will also have to pick up my new card there, too.

When to Apply

Some people have the fortune or luck to apply before the end of their contract and start processing the D10 visa.

Not so for me.

Even though my contract ended August 24th and my ARC expired August 25th, during my appointment with immigration in mid August the officer told me I came too early and I needed to come back on the 25th.

“I can’t process this if you’re still working.” She told me.

Which makes sense.

So that appointment was a practice run and I at least got to ask her if my documents were in order for the 25th.

Going on the last day of my visa was of course stressful, especially coming from a country I would never describe as “nonchalant” in terms of immigration.

Generally you must apply for the D10 between your contract end and ARC expiry. Most people have at least a week or two grace period but because I processed my E2 visa in Japan, my timing is different than others.

At Immigration

Make your appointment online at HiKorea. Arrive at least fifteen minutes early. My appointment was for 9:20 but they called me over at 9:15.

Before your appointment you should make copies of everything if you haven’t already, and also pay the fee.

You will need 130,000 cash. If you go to Seoul Immigration, you will give 100,000 to the human cashier for the “change of status” fee and 30,000 to the ATM for the ARC fee which will ask you to scan your passport. Keep both receipts and bring them with you.

When your number is called, bring everything to the window and give to the officer. The officer will look at your paperwork and ask additional questions. In my case, she asked why I didn’t renew with my school. I told her I wanted to start a new contract with a different school in March. I could have also explained further but that satisfied her answer.

Once she checked everything she approved me, gave me a receipt, and told me to return in three weeks to pick up my ARC. It appears there is no shipping option at this time.

When you are finished with the immigration officer, go to the certificate room (at Seoul immigration, this is across from the processing room), and pay 2,000 won for an official certificate of application. This is not required but is excellent for peace of mind.

Tips

For photos, skip the subway station and use zzixx.com.

I made the mistake of paying 12,000 for horrendous subway photos which turned out not only grotesque but also unusable as the camera had a smudge and printed it across my face.

With zzixx, I uploaded my own selfie and received six prints in twenty four hours for 7,000 won.

Is your D10 wrapping up? Check out how to transfer back to the E2 visa from the D10 here.

How To Read This Blog

Welcome, all!

While posts can be read separately, threads, characters, and experiences will hold more weight if you start at the beginning.

To dive deeper into this world and understand our cast of characters, see WHO’S WHO.

I also on occasion write posts about Korean language and introspective pieces unrelated to the primary chronological blog posts about daily life.

*NEW* Click on the favorites category for my best or most extreme pieces.

My origin story can be found here and to keep up with me, subscribe here and check out my Instagram if you are reading this blog on mobile and can’t see my excellent desktop layout.

And if you really like what you see, you can buy me a coffee.

Happy reading~