After our stop for lunch and coffee, we were pumped to head out again and see more of Seoul. Before that, we had to stop and pick up a Japanese couple who joined our tour for the afternoon. Then we actually left Seoul and were driven to Suwon, which is south of Seoul, and surrounded by our next destination, the Hwaseong Fortress. “Hwaseong (Brilliant Castle/ Fortress) was built in the late 18th century by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty (the king in Sungkyunkwan Scandal, for those interested in Kdrama references) to honour and house the remains of his father Prince Sado, who had been murdered by being locked alive inside a rice chest by his own father King Yeongjo having failed to obey his command to commit suicide.” Eep. Talk about a nasty back story.
Before I found out about this though, I had seen the fortress wall in many Korean dramas already. As of this moment, I can only remember one, “King 2 Hearts”. Come to think of it, this scene was pretty depressing. The princess is imagining a conversation with her almost-lover, who had died protecting her brother, the king, about how she’s finally ready to start dating again. *sigh*
Despite the sad stories linked to the fortress, it was still quite a sight to behold. They also have a restaurant, a tea house, a souvenir shop, and for the more active/adventurous types, an archery range. We didn’t have time to try and shoot some arrows, but there were plenty of people doing it and it looked fun.
I was quite amused that the targets were painted with bull’s heads, which I remember seeing on “Sungkyunkwan Scandal”.
We milled around for a few minutes and then boarded a trolley that took us around the fortress. It was a pleasant way to relax after all the walking we’d done that week.
After the trolley ride, we took a break to see some cultural presentations. The weapons demonstration was somewhat boring, although I did appreciate this one pair “dueling” with spears.
The all-women group playing drums was a lot more interesting to me.
I also liked these dancers, not so much because of the dancing, but because their hanboks were cute.
After watching for a bit we went into Hwaesong Haenggung (hanggeung means detached palace). It was built to house King Jeongjo when he was staying in the area.
|I feel as though this guy was trying very hard not to look at the camera|
|Prince Sado was locked inside a rice chest similar to this one to die|
|We Want You!|
|I probably would have been more excited about this if I had actually seen Dae Jang Geum (Jewel of the Palace).
It’s on my list.
Hwaseong was technically our last stop on the tour, but our guide was kind enough to drop us off at Insadong, a shopping area well-known for its antique stores, art galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
In all my travels, I’ve never been happier shopping for souvenirs and knick knacks than I was at Insadong. Most of the souvenir items looked classy and well-made (as to whether or not they actually are, I can only vouch for the things I’ve bought, and they’ve been good so far). There were so many choices, ranging from the super cheap (bookmarks, candies, fashion jewelry) to the ridiculously expensive (actual antiques, traditional clothing). We had already spent a bit at this point, so I mostly bought souvenirs for my family (coasters, chopsticks, fans). My one purchase for myself was a personal seal/stamp. In Korea these are used together with signatures for signing important documents. Mine was just for fun.
After shopping a bit we were exhausted and hungry, so we hunted for a nice restaurant to have dinner at. We found a few nestled behind an outdoor shopping mall.
We had done most of our shopping, so we didn’t enter any of the stores here (sad!), and instead went directly into one of the restaurants. The food was fantastic. We had some of the dishes that can be found all over Koreatown and Flushing here in New York: bibimbap and daeji bulgogi or spicy pork. We also ordered a spicy noodle dish I unfortunately forgot to write down the name of. Everything was delicious, and a tad more spicy than those served here. Either we were really lucky, or like Filipino food, it’s also hard to find Korean restaurants in New York that come close to their local fare. Note that this was a random restaurant and the food was that good.
|Mike enjoying dinner|
Like everywhere else, our food came with side dishes.
On our way back to the hotel, we passed by a rice cake store called Bizeun. I bought a few things, and they mostly tasted like mochi, but I loved the colors and designs.
We headed back to the hotel to rest before going back to the Han river to hang out at one of their riverside cafes, but it ended up raining pretty hard. So we ordered some room service dessert instead. I was a bit disappointed that we were forced to stay in on our last night in Seoul, but at least I grabbed a few snacks from Paris Baguette (a French-themed Korean bakery) at the airport early the next day.
Our last night may have been uneventful, but our whole trip to South Korea was one of the most active, and most exciting trips I’ve ever been on. I definitely would be pumped if I were to plan another trip to go there one day.
Not Bored in Manila 2012, Day 1 – Mesa Filipino Moderne, Fort Santiago, and Travel Woes
Not Bored in Jeju Island 2012, Day 1 and 2, Part 1 – Airport and Hotel Food, Jetlag, and Jeju Olle Trails Route 7
Not Bored in Jeju Island 2012, Day 2 Part 2 – Loveland Museum
Not Bored in Jeju Island 2012, Day 2 Part 3 – Dongmun Market, Han’s Deli, and Gwang Won (Korean BBQ)
Not Bored in Jeju Island 2012, Day 3 Part 1 – Hallim Park and Jeju Olle Trail
Not Bored in Jeju Island 2012, Day 3 Part 2 – Spirited Gardens, Locadio World, Mt. Sanbang, and Cheonjeyeon Falls
Not Bored in Seoul 2012, Day 1 – Myeongdong, More Korean Food, and Hangang River Park
Not Bored in Seoul 2012, Day 2 Part 1 – UNESCO World Heritage Day Tour
Not Bored in Coron, Palawan, Philippines, Part 1: Club Paradise