During my stay in Daejeon, I also went on a trip to Buyeo (부여), which was formerly known as Sabi (사비) and is a relatively popular tourist destination because it used to be the capital of the Baekje Kingdom (18 BC – 660 AD). It’s located in the southern region of South Chungcheong Province 충청남도.
TRAVEL ITINERARY: ONE DAY PLAN
1. Gungnamji Pond (궁남지)
2. Lunch: Yeonipbap 연잎밥 and Ureong Ssambap 우렁쌈밥
3. Baekje Cultural Land (백제문화단지)
4. Buso Fortress (부서산성) and Nakhwa Rock (낙화암)
Most of the tourist attractions in Buyeo are related to the Baekje Kingdom. The Baekje Kingdom was part of the three kingdoms of Korea (Goguryeo 고구려, Silla 신라, Baekje 백제) and it consists of three main periods which are Hanseong 한성 (18 BC – 475 AD), Ungjin 웅진 (476-538), and Sabi 사비 (538-660). In 538, King Seong 성왕 of Baekje moved the capital from Ungjin 웅진, which is modern Gongju 공주, to Sabi, which is modern day Buyeo. King Seong (성왕) and King Mu (무왕) are considered the two strongest rulers during the Sabi period, so you’ll find a lot of information about them in Buyeo. Another well known king is King Uija 의자왕 who was the last ruler of the Baekje Kingdom. He is King Mu’s son and is known for being a ladies man. His name is the Korean equivalent of the term “Don Juan.”
My first stop in Buyeo was Gungnamji Pond (궁남지) which is located in Seodong Park. It’s Korea’s first artificial pond and was created by King Mu 무왕 (aka Seodong 서동) for Princess Seonhwa 선화공주. Princess Seonhwa was from the rival Silla Kingdom, and she was also the sister of the famous Silla Queen Seondeok 선덕여왕. However, the two fell in love, and after being exiled for her treachery, Princess Seonhwa married King Mu and became a Baekje Queen. King Mu dug this lake south of his palace in 634. ‘Gungnamji’ 궁남지 literally means ‘a pond in the south of the royal palace.’ The pond is known for it’s lotus blossoms and there is a lotus festival here every year in July. I was a little early, so I only saw a few flowers, but the leaves were already out, so it was still an impressive sight. There were a variety of pink, yellow, and white lotus and I even saw some turtles in the pond.
Gungnamji Pond Admission Fee: free
Operating Hours: 24 hours
Average Viewing Time: 1 hour
After Gungnamji, I went to get some local food. I ordered some Yeonipbap 연잎밥 and Ureong Ssambap 우렁쌈밥. Yeonipbap is rice wrapped in lotus leaves. It comes with a variety of side dishes usually with some fried fish and lotus roots. Ureong Ssambap 우렁쌈밥 is freshwater snail in soybean paste 된장, and it’s another popular Buyeo specialty. Most places will cost you 15,000 won per person for either of these dishes, although the price varies greatly depending on how good the side dishes are.
Another popular attraction is the Baekje Cultural Land 백제문화단지. It’s a huge complex made up of an exhibition hall, Sabi Palace, 사비궁, Neung Temple 능사, a village, Wirye Fortress 위려성, and a park with tombs 고분공원. I could have easily spent all day there.
The exhibition hall was really well made, and it focused on the general history of the the Baekje Kingdom, how people of that time period lived, and how the buildings of that time were built. It was mostly in Korean, but the main panels were in English and Chinese as well. A lot of Korean history books tend to only briefly talk about Baekje, because the two other kingdoms, Goguryeo and Silla, were stronger, so I learned a lot about Baekje at this museum.
Here’s the entrance to the palace. It was huge inside, but the interior didn’t photograph well due to the size.
There was a village that was separated into neighborhoods of the nobles and the peasants.
There was a lot of construction going on when I visited, probably renovations for the summer tourists.
Baekje Cultural Land Admission Fee: 4,000 won / adult
Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Mar – Oct) / 9 am – 5 pm (Nov – Feb)
Average Viewing Time: 3 hours or more
Contact Information: 041) 635-7741
Unfortunately afterwards, I didn’t get to check out Buso Fortress 부서산성 and Nakhwa Rock 낙화암 which is a rocky outcrop on top of a cliff at the north end of Buso Fortress. It’s famous for a legend where supposedly three thousand court ladies leapt to their death rather than be captured by Silla troops when they attacked the capital. This was during King Uija’s rule around 660.