Suwon Hwaseong Fortress Wall
My then-boyfriend and now-husband stared warily at me with one raised eyebrow when I suggested going to Suwon during one of our trips to Seoul. We are polar opposites (opposites do attract!) when it comes to traveling and he knew that my suggestions almost always involve a certain amount of walking and perhaps some form of elevation. Think the walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee scarred him for life.
“So besides this UNESCO World Heritage ancient fortress wall, what else is there to do in Suwon?”
Seeing how thoroughly unimpressed he was with the UNESCO site, I dangled another carrot.
“Suwon’s very famous for its bbq galbi. You know, premium short ribs grilled over wood fire?”
“Ok. When are we going?”
We took a short commuter train ride from Seoul station to Suwon (30 minutes) and was slightly shocked to see how busy Suwon was with its crowded bus terminal and larger than expected human traffic.
The kind people at the tourist information centre informed us of a tourist tram that could bring us to Hwaseong Fortress for just 1100 won per person. What we didn’t expect was for it to have a huge dragon head at its front. Interesting concept.
Along the way, we passed by Paldalmun Gate, a circular fortress gate right in the middle of the city and soon arrived at Hwaseongmun Gate, the start of the walk. The Hubs kept asking about the galbi at freaking 9.30am and I continued to placate him every 10 minutes or so like a mother throughout the walk, reassuring him that yes, galbi does exist in this town.
It was a nice and easy walk along the well-preserved wall and took us about an hour or so to reach Hwahongmun that had water gates to allow the river to flow through. VisitKorea has a very detailed list of gates you will pass through along the walk.
By then, the Hubs was starving and I was trying very hard not to commit murder. Thankfully, Yeonpo Galbi restaurant was right next to Hwahongmun and I’ve never seen the Hubs walk as fast as he did when we spotted the galbi joint’s iconic wooden log structure.
We had a very large serving of galbi (short ribs), unlimited servings of side dishes and galbitang (beef soup). Hubs was ecstatic. The service was good, with the ahjumma grilling and cutting the meat for us noobs, and we were about the only customers in the restaurant at 11.30am. Yes, we were having a BBQ feast at freaking 11.30am. Well, it’s either the short ribs or my arse on the grill. Nothing stands in between the man and his meat, especially after a long coerced walk. The meal cost us about 65,000 won.
After stuffing ourselves with meat, we took the dragon tram to Yeonmudae, the training grounds for the Joseon army. We had a go at traditional archery and discovered that I had a talent for shooting arrows. Hub’s arrows landed on the grass.
Yongin Korean Folk Village
The dragon tram brought us back to Suwon tourist centre and we decided there was sufficient time for us to go to Yongin Folk Village.There is a free shuttle bus operating from the tourist centre to the folk village and the officer on duty actually dashed out and stopped the 2.30 pm shuttle bus from leaving just for us.
The folk village was the filming site for many K-dramas and Hubs was excited to spot the cardboard signs indicating the actors and dramas. The folk village consists of about 200 traditional houses ranging from temples, Confucius schools, officlal quarters and farmer huts. There was even a shaman conducting a prayer ritual. Hubs and I joined a paper workshop and managed to complete a simple bookmark out of hanji. A market was also set up for us to dig into some kimchi jeon and makgeolli.
My favourite parts of the folk village were the performances – traditional tightrope acrobatics, traditional wedding and the most awesome of all, equestrian feats. The stunts and fights performed on horseback were very exciting. It was like watching a sageuk action drama live. Check the entrance of the village for the timings or just dash towards the performance area when you hear the music.
We spent about 3 hours there and returned to Suwon train station on bus 37.
Hubs wanted to have BBQ galbi yet again. -_-