It was after midnight in the small town of Gyeongju when my friends and I crossed a deserted bridge into a park. It was a dark night, but there was just enough illumination to tell that something loomed before us. I could feel its presence but it was so big that I doubted myself. When my eyes finally adjusted to the darkness I realized the five-story tall dark shadow didn’t just exist in my imagination. It was a traditional mound of earth which marked the burial sight of a royal tomb.
The temptation to view the capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom from the top of the burial mound was irresistible. Under the guise of darkness we scaled the surprisingly steep sides. I crouched low to the slippery, itchy grass and eventually sank to my knees to crawl the rest of the route. There was a faint path we followed that must have been made by the caretakers. I wondered how they could possible cut the lawn at such a sharp angle. Through the stalks I saw my companions silhouetted against the starry night sky. It felt magical and unexplored and when I reached the top a fresh breeze blew against my face.
I felt a bit guilty but also exhilarated as we looked out over the sleeping city. As if reading my thoughts, my friend turned around and flashed me an I told you I was going to show you something really cool look. He was right- it was one of the best views I have had of Korea.