Friday, September 9, 2016

Day Trip to Suwon City in Gyeonggi Province

I took an hour-long subway ride to Suwon City (in the province of Gyeonggi), about 50 km south of Seoul, to cross off another UNESCO World Heritage Site on my list: Hwaseong Fortress.

Hwaseong Fortress
수원 화성
9AM to 5PM
KRW 1000
I took a bus from Suwon Station to Hwaseong Fortress. The bus driver dropped me off at the fortress' imposing south gate called Paldalmun.


From there I searched for the street to the west of Paldalmun where I would find the ticket booth marking the start of the long and seemingly neverending incline of the fortress. I stared at it and asked myself what was I doing here.

Tell me again why I'm here

Since I had traveled so far to be here and had already paid the admission fee, I made my reluctant legs move. I slowly put one foot in front of the other, while many oldies in complete hiking attire overtook my fat ass.

Suwon City from Hwaseong Jangdae Command Post

The view from Changnyongmun (East Gate)

The fortress is 5.7 km long and without knowing it, I had already walked three quarters of it! Along the way, I found turrets, pavilions, sentry posts, command posts, bastions, observation towers, platforms, the imposing west, north, and east gates, and great views of the city within and beyond the fortress walls.

Something old surrounded by something new

What amazed me the most was that Suwon City has grown and transformed with the times while Hwaseong Fortress remains a beautiful reminder of the past (the fortress was built from 1794 to 1796, undergone destruction during the Korean War, and restoration in 1975).

Tip: If walking 5.7 kilometers is torture for you, you can ride the Hwaseong Train (KRW 1500, one way). There are only two stops between the start and end points, and once you get off, you cannot ride it again unless you buy a  new ticket.

Tip: You can try Gukgung (Korean traditional archery) at the fortress' Dongjangdae Command Post from 930AM to 430PM for KRW 2000 (10 arrows).

Hwaseong Haenggung Palace
9AM to 5PM
KRW 1500

There are several points along the fortress where one can exit. From somewhere near Seojangdae Command Post, I found a path leading to Hwaseong Haenggung Palace. A haenggung is a temporary palace and there are several haenggungs in South Korea. The Hwaseong Haenggung is the largest of all the haenggungs. It was built as a temporary palace for King Jeongjo when he visited his father's tomb nearby.

EcoMobility Village
I was walking along backstreets trying to find my way from the palace to another portion of the fortress, when I stumbled upon bicycle-themed sculptures, benches, and bike racks.

Haenggung-gil Craft Street
Another street that caught my eye and wasn't part of my itinerary was the street near the Hwaseong Fortress ticket booth. It's a short street of craft shops, but it wasn't the merchandise that I was drawn to (you know I am not into shopping), but the random art on the walls.

Walking the streets of Suwon City made me realize that I should have stayed a night here. There was more to this city than just the fortress:
  • Suwon Hwaseong Museum – a museum about Hwaseong Fortress
  • Suwon Museum – a museum about Suwon City and about Korean calligraphy
  • Haewoojae Museum / Mr. Toilet House – a museum shaped like a toilet and all about toilets
  • Noeulbit Observatory – located at the bell tower of Suwon Jeil Presbyterian Church
  • Haenggung-dong Mural Village
  • Suwon Chicken Street – chicken for lunch, for dinner, for snack
  • Ji-dong Market Sundae Town – sundae...not the ice cream but the blood sausage
  • Nammun Rodeo Street – shopping
Directions to Suwon City: Take Subway Line 1 or Bundang Line to Suwon Station, exit 4.
Directions to Hwaseong Fortress: From Suwon Station Exit 4, take bus 11 / 13 / 36 / 39 / 2-2 to Paldalmun.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

South Korea on Three

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