Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hwaseong Fortress

Put on your sunscreen, dust off that sun hat and grab an ice-y bottle of water, we're heading to Suwon to check out the Hwaseong Fortress. You should prepare this way because there is a lot of ground to cover and not a whole lot covering your head along the way. Sunday JH and I went to this UNESCO World Heritage site, not only because it is kind of nearby but also I thought it would be fun to see more of Korea's cultural treasures.

Strange sighting:
Along the way I caught site of something along the road side. There were what looked like scarecrows on a hillside. But upon closer inspection they appeared to be wearing hanbok with red hangeul on it.

It looked as if this was some kind of protest, a public display meant to project a message. I asked JH about it and he said it has something to do with the local government.

Update: JH tells me that it is a local performance against the government, due to they are going to remove the "Toonga Rocks" in the area. What that is and why it is significant I have no idea. I wonder if this performance of theirs is having any affect. Maybe the officials drive by it everyday and it gets under their skin. Ah ..well.

Stop First for Lunch:
Arriving at the fortress I was hungry for lunch, so we checked in at a small restaurant in the entrance area.

The place had just about 5 meals on the menu. We chose a mushroom and beef soup as our meal for lunch.

It was quite good and filling enough for a day of walking and sightseeing. Outside the restaurant was a wall with some graffiti on it, looks like people left love notes and the typical "I was here" kind of scribblings.
Restaurant entrance:
A Look Around:
This place is huge which is I think an understatement. More like this place is massive, which makes sense considering that it is a fortress. Why would one build a fortress to be small in scale anyways?
The place provides a train ride to take along one edge of the fortress. It wasn't an actual train just one of those tourist type cart things decked out to look like a train. We bought tickets for the ride, but first checked out the area we were in before hopping on the train.

Some people like to say that when they see a fortress or palace that it all looks the same and so they get bored of it. But I haven't grown bored one bit after living here for a year. I still get excited seeing the ancient architectural structures that are spread out through Korea.

For instance where else can you learn the art of catapults? They even regulated how many sized rocks should be kept.

Archery Range:
I bet you probably don't know this, but back when I was a camp counselor in the summer of 2004 I tried and learned how to shoot a bow and arrow. The person who ran the archer range at camp was highly skilled and so taught us more than just your point-and-shoot skills.

You bet I was excited to see that at the fortress one had the option of shooting off a few arrows. You had to buy tickets first, which I think were about 2,000 Won for 10 arrows. As we waited for our turn we watched Ahjusshis, young couples and kids take their luck at shooting. A guy first gives instructions and then everyone practices.

I took note of his lecture, even though I didn't understand what he was saying. I noticed that the holding method was different than what I was taught in America. Despite this I tried the Korean way when it was my turn.

Look at that stance! Actually, I dropped a few arrows when trying to release it since I didn't fully open my hand. I had a lot of fun and now deem Archery as a sport fit for me. Hey you don't have to do any running...hmm unless of course some arrows are pointed in your direction. haha I made a joke...
The Train Ride:
After good fun with the archery we hopped on the train and had our look around. However I would recommend for people that taking the train ride isn't necessary. It really didn't take us through much of the fortress. This is because we rode through parts of town. But if you want to sit back and relax and be a tourist that way, it is definitely the way to go.

On the way I saw this structure, which I know am thinking may actually be a Japanese building. Hmm?

I really liked the masonry work on the fortress walls. I don't know if it is the authentic boulders, but it was fun to see how some were cut to fit in like a puzzle piece.

Ah here we have some history mingling in with the present, a bus and some old women on their way to somewhere.

The train stopped up a hill near a rest stop and we got out for a bathroom break. But it turned out this was the final stop. So we were far from where we parked. Tickets to ride the train back to where we started were sold out. We took to walking back to the park entrance, instead of riding back.

Although I didn't relate to you the rich history and architectural significance of this place I have to say it was still eye popping. I hope to go again and take a different path so to see more.

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