Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seoul Day 2

Day 2, Wed 28/3

We started a bit late today as we were still sleepy and we had to reply some office emails! (yup, on a holiday!). So we brought our instant maggi, Milo and nesvita 3-in-1 sachets and some biscuits to the pantry for breakfast. There we met up with Yasuko from Hokkaido, Japan and Alex from Canada. We had some interesting chat together. Yasuko was travelling alone as she can't get her travelling buddy's time to coincide with hers. Alex on the other hand has beenworking in China for 3 months (forgot which part) and travelling to Seoul for leisure. He plans to go back to Canada and pursue his Masters later. Interested in history, he knew about Singapore being part of Malaysia once upon a time, before breaking out in 1963. He has not travelled to Malaysia, but was interested in the beaches. He asked which is better - Malaysian or Thai beaches? I told him to go Thailand - Phuket or Krabi as it is cheaper. He asked about Langkawi - I told him Langkawi is highly commercialised. If he still wanted to come, it'd be better to go to the East coast - Redang, Perhentian or diving in Sipadan (which I myself haven't been to yet)

Alex was perplexed about our age - the Asians. He told us it was really hard to guess our age - as we tend to look younger. Ah such a compliment! So he told us he's 26 years old. Yasuko is 38 (she really doesn't look like one!) and ours (I'm not revealing it here heheh).

We then excused ourselves to get ready for our first destination - Hwaseong fortress in Suwon which is a Unesco Heritage Site no 817. We arrived at Suwon station (Line 1) at about 1pm, then we enquired about the site at the info centre and were told to take a bus (no 2, 7, 7-2, 8, or 13) to Padalmun. Bus fare was KRW1000.

When we alighted at Padalmun, we saw one of the fortress building was closed for renovation / restoring works. So we had to enquire again at the info centre nearby - but none of the staff there spoke English. So with a bit of sign language, they must have understood that we wanted to go to the fortress and was directed there.

Arriving at the fortress entrance, (entrance fee KRW 1000) we felt we were transported back in time - a few hundred years back to the Joseon dynasty. The fortress is right smack in the heart of Suwon city (or rather, the modern city came later and built itself around Hwaseong fortress). We were greeted by a flight of stairs with huge steps (maybe the people back then were bigger in size?) I almost gave up looking at the stairs - to climb up that? Then I read on the brochure that we can take the trolley ride (sort of tram ride) to circumnavigate the fortress. On foot, you can complete the circuit for about 3 hours.

kena panjatkah :-p
Sort of like Great Wall of China, but way shorter

We decided to climb up the stairs, go to the first gate, then take the trolley ride. However, once we reached the top, the ensuing journey was either a flat trail or a descending route, so we decided to continue by foot instead. The weather was cool, about 8 C, so it wasn't all that bad, in fact it was enjoyable! We saw many senior citizens brisk walking, and also some younger people jogging. Very healthy activity indeed, while enjoying the view.

A bit on Hwaseong fortress:
Hwaseong Fortress is an impressive structure from the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and the official fortress of Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do. The fortress (constructed from 1794 to 1796) was built as a show of the King’s filial piety towards his father Jangheonseja and to build a new pioneer city with its own economic power.

The fortress wall stretches for a total of 5.52km and has a great variety of military facilities that’s hard to find anywhere else. Four gates face each of the cardinal directions—Janganmun (north), Paldalmun (south), Changnyongmun (east), and Hwaseomun (west)—and the seven-arch style Sumun gates straddle the point where the nearby stream reaches the palace. Above the Sumun gates is a pavilion called Hwahongmun.

More info here

forest in the Hwaseong fort

It's a Unesco Heritage site!

Janganmun gate

the stream

We didn't complete the trail, but decided to head back to the city from Hwanghogmun gate and walk along the Suwon stream back to Padalmun. We saw wild ducks (think they are wild) swimming happily in the stream and clothed dogs walking along with their masters. Oh yes, Korean people like to dress up their dogs, some people even wore them booties (paws are made for walking ok ;) , some even tuck them in prams and push them along.

doggy wearing clothes

ducks by the Suwon stream

We went back to Padalmun info centre to ask about the bus back to Suwon, again the same staff were on duty, so again some sign language ensued, then we were directed to the bus stop heading to Suwon station. Since South Korean transportation line is superb, we had no problem figuring out which bus to take - bus no 3000, which is a direct bus, so it costs us KRW2000 (double the normal transit bus). We experienced a bit of adventure here since the first 3000 bus didn't stop for us after alighting a passenger. So we had to wait for the second bus which was about 10 minutes after.

Then it was another 1.5 hours journey by transit subway to Itaewon where we had our once daily meal as it is the halal hub. The Seoul central masjid is situated there. For the first night, we had lamb briyani and palak panneer and masala chai at Little India Seoul. We saw a halal Korean food restaurant opposite which we planned to go the next day.
Note: Food in Korea is expensive (or maybe just the halal food?), about double the price of food in Malaysia.

Seoul masjid at Itaewon

Little India restaurant (OK, tomorrow we'll eat Korean food)

Palak paneer and briyani rice

Halal mart



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