Friday, September 4, 2015

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

It was a Sunday and after a whole week of traveling, I really wanted to sleep in that day. However, despite being tired, I still managed to wake up at 6am and couldn't get back to sleep. At 7am, I gave up, rolled off my bed, made breakfast, and got ready for a day trip to Suwon, a city located south of Seoul.

The reason I wanted to go to Suwon is the Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I do not know anyone in particular who has visited the fortress before. I have a lot of Facebook friends who share photos of their travels to South Korea but I have never heard of anyone who went there, which makes me even more intrigued.

It only took around an hour by subway. I got to Suwon station around lunch time and I found a food court there so I decided to eat first.

The food court was crowded as it was a Sunday. It was really fun looking around and I couldn't decide what to get! Also, the desserts are a treat, not just for the tummy but for the eyes as well.

Sadly, I couldn't find any seats elsewhere so I ended up in a conveyor belt sushi bar. Japanese food in Korea, I know, I know. It was very good, nonetheless.

From the station, I went to the bus stop and took the bus to the Paldalmun Gate. There are a number of buses that you can take: 2, 7, 7-2, 8, and 13.

When I got off the bus, I got quite lost because it seemed that the Paldalmun Gate is right in the middle of a roundabout and there seemed to be no access and no people there! 

After asking for directions, I ended up walking to the Hwaseong Haengung (a palace inside the fortress). There were sooooo many people as, apparently, there's a festival that day.

Despite being intrigued by the festival, I didn't want to join the crowd in that heat. I found a tourist information center and asked where the Paldalmun Gate was. Apparently, it was on the opposite side of the roundabout where I got off the bus. I walked there and found this:

I was like, "Seriously??" (You can't even see the top of the fortress in the picture but it goes all the way up to the edge of the trees.) It was already a week of going up a mountain in Gyeongju and walking around the steep slopes of Busan and Seoul... I guess I could handle it. Besides, there were people doing it so why not me.

It. Was. So. High. I don't even know how high I ascended. The steps were very steep too! I was proud of myself when I reached the top hehe.

Thankfully, there's not much people at the walls of the fortress. There's also supposedly an admission fee but it was free that day because of the festival.

The views from the walls were fantastic. There are also buildings where people can rest.

The walk along the walls was a little more convenient because it's no longer very hot and the path gently slopes down. Eventually, I arrived at the next gate, Hwaseomun. From there, I was wondering whether to continue walking the walls or to go down and go back to Seoul. I figured, everything would be pretty much the same from there and I was quite tired already. I went down the gate, walked towards the bus stop and then went back to Seoul.

At the Hwaseomun Gare

If you ever travel to Seoul, I suggest going to Suwon as well since it's just an hour's subway ride away. Instead of going up at Paldalmun (where the ascent is very steep and then you slowly descend as you walk along the path), I think you can choose another gate like Hwaseomun where you ascend along the path gently and then get down at Paldalmun. Either way, make sure you're physically fit and you've got strong legs!

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