Last Saturday Rachel and I went to Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon. Suwon is about an hour bus ride from where we live and about an hour south of Seoul. They were having a Cherry Blossom festival for the weekend. We had heard that Hwaseong Fortress was very beautiful so we decided to visit.
We bought bus tickets to go to Suwon and waited for our bus to come. When I saw the Korean name for Suwon (수원) I was pretty excited because the last syllable looked like a table and chairs with food! About ten minutes before our bus was scheduled to leave another bus pulled up at the same platform our bus was supposed to be. Well, that bus did not have the table and chairs syllable but all of the people were getting on that bus so we decided to follow. They guy took our ticket and we got on. When I sat down, the guy next to me looked at my ticket and said “Suwon, no.” I was confused but someone at the front of the bus was saying something about Suwon as well. So we got off the bus. I guess the guy who took our ticket wasn’t bright enough to realize the first time that we wanted Suwon and not that bus. I’m sure we made the Koreans day by being able to laugh at a stupid white person though.
We made it Suwon, wrote down the last 2 or 3 buses’ times back to Dangjin, and then started to walk out of the terminal when we noticed an information center. We stopped and started looking at some of the maps when the Korean behind the desk asked in very good English if he could help us. We told him where we wanted to go and he explained which buses go there and what else to see in the area. He certainly made our trip much easier.
Hwaseong Fortress (Brilliant Castle) is a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of about 10 in Korea. To save you the hassle of Wikipedia-ing it (or you could enlarge the picture of the history of Hwaseong Fortress at the end), the Fortress was built by King Jeongjo to honor and house the remains of his father. For some reason Jeongjo’s grandfather, who was king at the time, killed Jeongjo’s father for not following orders. When Jeongjo became king he had a temple and fortress built where his father was buried so that Jeongjo could have a place to stay when he visited his father’s grave. Jeongjo had very technologically advanced equipment for that day used to build an impressive fortress. King Jeongjo even wanted to move the capital of Korea from Seoul to Suwon but eventually gave up that idea because of a lack of support.
The weather turned out to be gorgeous for out visit. There were not many cherry blossoms out, but the few flowers were pretty. The festival itself was held at the city governmental buildings which were down the hill from the fortress. We certainly got a workout walking up and down the hills of the fortress, but the lookout view of Suwon was gorgeous! We decided not to ring their famous bell of fortune because it cost money. We did take the cool dragon trolley ride! Hwaseong Fortress was definitely worth the visit.
We ended up taking a city bus back to the bus station. The city bus we ended up on was being driven by a guy whom I could swear was trying out for the World’s Worst Bus Driver award. Thankfully we made it alive. Attached to the bus station was a shopping mall with some restaurants. We ended up eating on the 3rd floor at a restaurant named Alaska Family Restaurant Seafood Buffet. We figured combining the Koreans expertise of seafood with Alaska’s delicious seafood would make an amazing meal. Well, we quickly saw those dreams dashed. They had a ton of seafood options in their buffet, but nothing quite hit the spot. It all seemed a bit off. We did get to eat some crab legs and all sorts of other sea creatures. For some reason they did not have plain shrimp. Anyways, we were hoping dessert would salvage our experience, but were disappointed again by dry cookies and mediocre cakes. Thankfully they did not charge us what a high end seafood place could have cost. We thought the second to last bus for Dangjin left at 6:50 but when I checked my notebook I found out it left at 6:40. So we had to leave in a hurry and quickly walk downstairs. Thankfully our bus was at the first platform out the door after buying tickets so we made it just in time.
I would highly recommend visiting Suwon (just be careful of your choice of restaurant). We are hoping to go back and visit more of the sites there. I am sure it will be even pretty when more flowers come out. The slideshow of pictures at the end is definitely worth looking through. There are 80 pictures and a good number of them have captions.