Before the transport tips, maybe I shall go ahead with my Day 2 first, since it was the day I really learnt the most about the most common medium of transport. The metro and the buses.
Day 2 : Of Snow and Fortress, Of Old and New
20th December 2013
I woke up to the noise made by a fellow guest, which wasn’t his fault, since I had already been restless and itching to wake and take a little stroll out in the early morning 6am. Since I checked in late the night before, I had no instructions given on where I can have my shower or the password to the common area (I didn’t even know where the lobby was), I asked this fellow guest from India, who was half dressed at the moment, and he was so kind to drop whatever he was doing at the moment to help me out. He brought me to the above level, explaining how I can unlock the security device that can be found on virtually all doors in Korea, told me where I could have my breakfast, and also advised that using the toilet in the common area is better since that toilet is more spacious. Only thing about using that 1st floor toilet, is that we, who were living in the basement level, have to go up a flight of outdoor stairs in the cold. Quite refreshing!
It was still early, 730am, so I decided to go take a little walk around the neighbourhood since I’m only meeting my friend 12pm at Suwon station. I started the walk by heading to the rooftop of the guesthouse to just have a look at the scenery. (I don’t smoke :D) With these sightly sceneries from the rooftop, I wonder if I’ll spend a chunk of my time up there if that was my house. Even while typing this now, I’m missing the cold!
After shooting a few pictures, I went downstairs and headed in a random direction and just kept walking, turning only when there was no path in front. I had always wanted to pass through the Korean alleys that looked like this.
This random walking brought me to one of the main roads in the hongdae area, and there were some posh cafes along it. Somewhere along this road, I found a steep road leading up.
Since I like high places, I just took the road without hesitation and let it bring me to where it leads, hoping it would gift me some scenery.
This hill is called the wa-u-san, 와우산, which is just a few hundred metres walk from the hongdae station, and is just beside Hongdae university. You can get quite a view of the area from the hill, if you dare tread into the residents’ carpark to get the vantage point.
One of the 2 cats I saw on the hill. Initially, I saw a man shouting something to the cats, and I decided to head over to check out what was happening. Turned out the man was trying to feed the cats by leaving a container of cat food in the little pavilion, but the cats weren’t as receptive as he’d like them to be, staying a distance from the cat food while he is looking at them. I started a conversation with him, in Korean of course, and realized that his favourite cat was Korean Cat 1, but Korean Cat 1 is afraid of him.
After the explanation on the cats, which I could only understand half of it, he ended the conversation by saying “oh? But you look Korean though.” when I told him I am from Singapore 😀 “오? 한국사람이 같은데.” without the “yo,요” It shows how aware they are of the age difference and the respect you have to or can show the other party. Its quite an important concept over there, and I took some time to get used to it. Doing it was easy in Singapore because I only talk to a few people in Korean, and I know exactly how I should address and how I should or can talk to them.
When the man walked off after our talk, Korean Cat 1 came out from hiding and started eating together with Cat 2, who had already started eating while we were talking. Not sure if its specific to South Korea, but is it true that there are many 3-coloured cats out there? Have seen quite a few of them on Instagram~ After this cat event of the day and some sightseeing from the hill, it was nearing 10am, so I headed back to the hostel to prepare what I had to for the Suwon Fortress trip.
Since it was the first time taking a public transport in Korea, I bought the T-money, and it was so convenient! It’s similar to the Ez-link card that we have in Singapore. This first subway trip was rather confusing. To get from Hongik Station to Suwon Station, I had to transfer so many times I was 40 minutes late to meeting my friend. AND the EGG was out of battery! Forgot to charge it up the night before, and by signing up through SK telecomms meant I can’t log in to the subway wifi. And all of these meant I had no way of contacting my friend whom I was going to meet. Such terrible feeling!
So I spent the subway journey mostly observing the people there, ogling at the sceneries from the train and enjoying their conversations (I just love to hear Koreans speaking, their tone and language are just too pleasing to my ears!). I realize many youths there like to read webtoons while on the subway.
Since I was really late for meeting my friend ( I had to try switching on the router with its very last bit of battery to contact my friend. The router died straight after.), we decided to just have a quick meal, before heading to the fortress, at the food section which is kind of like the one we have at Takashimaya.
Although it was really big, we didn’t explore much and quickly decided on having this Crow’s Nest pizza. I had my doubts before eating, but the pizza was really good. Each pizza cost about 7000 to 10000 won and they bake it on the spot, so the cheese was still soft and chewy when the pizza arrived. I don’t remember getting such experience at Singapore’s pizza joints which would just get a slice of what was on display for you.
We then took the bus to the Suwon Hwaseong (fortress). There are a number of entrances from which you can start the walk, choose it beforehand so that you know from which bus stop to alight from. From the entrance we decided on, we had to walk about 5-10mins before reaching the walls. Once we were there, we took the flight of stairs on our right, thinking the wall isn’t that long and we’d probably finish walking the whole perimeter within the next few hours. But we were wrong…
You’ll be able to see the other part of the fortress which my friend and I missed out on. The other side seems a little more epic though, with the climb on the other side along a fortress wall covered with snow.
One thing about snow, they can look nice and romantic at first. After a few minutes of it, you might start slipping on them and then realize how slippery they are and how much inconvenience they bring you. I still like snow though. Of how beautiful they look and cold they feel.
This picture might not seem like much, but it is a special one to me. Behind a Korean style fortress wall stands a Catholic church of Western architecture. A very rare combination!
Walking along the fortress, we will see quite a number of these observation rooms, or something else, which I can’t really recall, since I have forgotten what I read on the information board outside each of these rooms. They are all quite informative, and this place is definitely a must-go for people who are so very interested in 18th century Korea history.
A little ahead is a court where some, I think 10 or so, ahjusshis (uncle, 아저씨) playing games of cricket. The elderly in Korea have so many activities to enjoy, I think they’d never be bored. Pretty interesting sight, but no photos. Just a day into the trip, I didn’t have the confidence to take pictures of people yet, except for the above, where they don’t know I am shooting them 😛
And it was a little hazy that day, as you can see from these pictures. Especially the ones that allow, and not allow, to see further.
By this time, we were about an hour and a half into the walk, and just about to reach the other entrance of the wall.
The reason why this is my favourite view here. A little lake with a few trees, a fortress and its wall and some modern buildings behind.
Never had chance to practice building one in Singapore, soooo I didn’t know how to make a beautiful snow man~
This gate behind us is the other entrance on the other end of the fortress where we started from. We decided to end our walk there since its getting a little late, and it’ll be a nightmare to travel back to Seoul. See that gate behind us in the picture above? On the other side, you could see the city outside the wall.
We then made our way back to Seoul via the metro. My friend and I then made stops at the Lotte Department Store at City Hall station and then proceeded to Myeong Dong for dinner and a little bit of shopping before we each headed back to our hostels.
You can easily find the place from Myeong Dong station, its just a really short walk there. In our dakgalbi, we added cheese dokbokki. The food was good, and portions rather big for 2. It’s quite spicy too, but I think it should be quite comfortable for Singaporeans, including the taste. Cost both of us 18000 won for the meal without drinks, so that will be about 9000won or 11plus SGD each.
After the walk, I made my way back to my hostel, Housetay Hostel, but my day did not just end there! In the common area was the host, 2 guys from the U.S, 7 Australians who all were of different descents. I learnt how to play 3,6,9, donut 31, the soju bottle cap flicking game, and the soju bottle cap number game from them. However, there are no pictures because I was playing drinking games, and I didn’t bring my camera along, and forgot to take pictures with my phone since I got too engrossed with the games~
Can’t really remember what happened next, except that night, I slept alone in the room with 5 other empty beds…. Sleeping alone in a room on a bed is one thing, but sleeping alone in a room with other empty beds is rather.. creepy for me..
Since the recount for day 2 took up so much space, I shall continue on the travelling tip on the next post! Hope everyone enjoyed my little walkthrough of Suwon Fortress!
Yoo Ga Ne Dakgalbi at MyeongDong
Address: 66-6 Chungmuro 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Everyday from 0930am to 1130pm