The Seoul of Korea: Day 3 – Excursion to Haenggung and Hwaseong (Suwon Fortress) @ Suwon City & Night Out @ Itaewon

Third day in Seoul already! This was the start of the remaining 60% of my trip (I always think of my trips in percentages that way), and we started off early because of the out-of-Seoul day trip we were about to embark off.

Brunch @ Insadong

But of course, first thing first. We went off in hunt for a suitable food place, and at that hour in the morning (about 9 a.m.), we were disappointed to find most of the places around Beewon were closed. But after some venture into the other side of Insadong, we hit jackpot! Had this most authentic brunch at this little Korean couple-run eatery, where I had this amazing ginseng soup and spring chicken stuffed with glutinous rice. How… riveting.

Brunch @ Insadong

After the brunch, we made our way to the subway for the one-hour ride to Suwon, our destination of the day. It was so far out from Seoul that the train map in Lonely Planet did not even show Suwon station. It went right off the page! With the addition of a couple of stations along the subway line we were on, for a few moments we panicked that we were on the wrong train. But my gut instinct preserved and soon we alighted at Suwon, found the tourist information office, and off we went to Suwon City on a cab!

At Haenggung, Suwon

The cab driver dropped us at Haenggung, a “temporary palace” built by King Jeongjo, who stayed here on his visits to his father’s grave, which is nearby. His father met a tragic fate, the victim of court’s intrigues, he was suffocated in a rice chest. Courtyard follows courtyard as you walk around the large wall complex.

At Haenggung, Suwon

One hall depicts the 60th birthday party of King Jeongjo’s mother, while another hall features Daejanggeum, a female Joseon dynasty cook who rose from humble beginnings to a high position in the royal court. The TV drama about her has been a huge hit throughout Asia, and was partly filmed here (you know, Da Chang Jin in Singapore?). Military uniforms and weapons are on display and you can make a wish and tie to the oldest tree in Suwon. Other activities take place, mainly at the weekend.

At Haenggung, Suwon

We took a great many photos here, but truth to be told… once you have seen one Korean palace, you have seen it all. The palaces all started to look the same to me, except for the differences in its history. So after spending about an hour here taking in the sights (including a uniformed male guard who was flirting with a female visitor!), we made our way uphill to begin our proper tour around the Suwon Fortress, also known as Hwaseong in Korean.

At Hwaseong (Suwon Fortress)

This World Heritage fortress is in Suwon, which is home to a million residents. The majestic fortress wall snakes 5.7 km around the city center, and 95% has been faithfully restored. It was originally constructed between 1794 and 1796, during the reign of King Jeongjo, a much loved monarch due to his filial piety, and concern for ordinary people. The fortress wall is made of earth and faced with large stone blocks, while additional features are built of grey bricks.

At Hwaseong (Suwon Fortress)

Hiking all the way around the walls takes two hours and include views of the city, large entrance gates, small secret gates, sentry towers, bastions, command posts, a giant bell, and archery field, and the signal beacon platform used for sending messages in an age before mobile phones.

At Hwaseong (Suwon Fortress)

To “speed up” our tour around the entire fortress wall, the three of us took the trolley ride from on top of a hill. The tram will snake around at least half of the walls which surrounded the city. We were at the last seat, thinking that our view will be awesome since there were no seats in front of us… only to discover that a non-English speaker attendant will perch himself right in front of us Cheryl throughout the trip.

At Hwaseong (Suwon Fortress)

We were unbelievably quick to take nice photos even as the tram was moving. The sights around Suwon Fortress was truly beautiful. It was hard not to be envious of Suwon residents to be living within this very ancient walls. The people of Suwon were out in full force to appreciate the grandeur of their city and the awesome cherry blossom season.

And of course, we didn’t lose out and did a very funny video during the tram ride. Watch out for how Cheryl describe her “uncle’s residential palace” while Shafik did an impromptu dance. Yes, really, he did that! And here’s another video on what we saw during the ride.

Lunch @ Yenpo Galbi

At the end of the tram ride, we found ourselves in front of an archery field (which I wanted to try but got distracted by souvenir shopping) and a Korean restaurant called Yenpo Galbi. This famous log cabin restaurant serves us galbi including a special Suwon version of galbitang – chunks of meat and a big rib in a seasoned broth with noodles and leeks.

Lunch @ Yenpo Galbi

It was also here where I made my first acquaintance with Seju, a local alcohol packed in smallish bottle, which tasted like vodka. At only W3,000 each, it was a bargain and a sure fire way to, you know, drunkard heaven. LOL. One tip – mix this with ice cubes and orange juice, and you can’t tell the difference between that and those expensive jugs you always get in Singapore clubs.

At Hwaseong (Suwon Fortress)

After our hefty lunch (which only cost W28,000 in total!), we continue scaling the wall of Suwon Fortress towards the exit, taking in the sights along the wall, sentries, gateways, smoke beacons, pavilions. And being our silly selves, we took many funny videos of us here along the wall. Here’s one of Shafik and I “fighting on a pavilion (see below too), one of Cheryl asking for more abuse from Shafik, and (of course) a commentary from Cheryl on being a Korean princess.

The officers of UNESCO would probably have a heart attack if they see the kind of atrocities we were up to along this world heritage site. To this day I am still amazed on how close you could come up to these ancient monuments of Korea. In Europe, such sites would probably be cordoned off with thick ropes and manned with guards – you can only admire them from afar. In Seoul, however, you can literally climb onto one, have a sword-vs-scarf fight, and take a video without anyone shouting abuse at you. Of course, we didn’t spoil anything!

Fresh Produce Market @ Suwon - Ginseng

At the exit of Suwon Fortress, there was a fresh produce market (if I am not mistaken, it was called Jieju Market). You shoud see the amount of seafood and exotic items on sale – including mountains of ginseng on display in baskets and trays, as if they are mere vegetables. In Singapore, such ginseng would probably be boxed up and locked away in shops.

Dinner @ Insadong

By the time we were back in Insadong, it was already pass 7 p.m. and we were famished. Managed to find this BBQ place run by a Mandarin-speaking owner (what are the chances?) and we had the most satisfying BBQ meal ever.

Right after dinner, we went back to Beewon, slept for two hours, before dolled ourselves up for another night out at Itaewon (Hongik was just a little to tame for us, hehe). And wild it was! I can’t even remember what time we came back to our room… probably in the dawn or something.

Click here for the full set of photos taken during the third day of my holiday in Seoul. Plenty of nice photos, including some awesome Sakura in Suwon!

5 Thoughts on “The Seoul of Korea: Day 3 – Excursion to Haenggung and Hwaseong (Suwon Fortress) @ Suwon City & Night Out @ Itaewon

  1. the food looks absolutely yummy but only because there’s so much meat in their food. hahahahaha. i love meat. hahaha. and pls u all are getting more n more ridiculous in ur videos!!

    but it’s ok. I LOVE IT! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

  2. @ Daphne – We have more to come in Day 5. Hehehe… yes the food was very meaty, but that’s because Shafik doesn’t like veg, and Cheryl can’t eat veg! I suffered, food-wise.

  3. oh yeah. hahaha.. that’s ok. meat is good. how come cheryl doesnt eat veg?

  4. @ Daphne – Oh, she has this condition that whenever she eats certain veg (most types, actually), she’ll get bad stomach pain. So we always try to control her intake, coz she loves veg!

  5. Interesting posts you have here … I can see that you put a lot of hard work on your blog. I’m sure I’d visit here more often.
    from ginseng root prices.

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