Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hwaseong Fortress

So after almost a month, I finally have my computer back. It has been quite the trial being this far away from my family and friends and having very limited contact with them. But I have survived and now have a fancy new keyboard that has both English and Korean letters.


For those of you who don't know, my computer became a casualty due to my lack of furniture. I spilled spaghetti on it and the keyboard when berserk. It didn't recognize I was pressing "D" and then suddenly it would press "d" 25 times in a row. Also a few of my numbers didn't work. I lasted about 4 days before I got tired of copying and pasting my letter "ds" whenever I needed them. Luckily, Bree was able to find someone to replace my keyboard. AND I can now write in Korean if I want to. Well, once I can figure out how to install the Korean language pack. It won't let me install it and the microsoft website gives very specific directions, which would work perfectly if the tab on my computer they want me to use actually existed...

I will continue my blog from where I left off...I was in the process of writing this one about visiting Hwaseong Fortress with Elaine when I spilled on the computer. Twas quite the tragedy.

Elaine and I went to Hwaseong Fortress about a month ago. It is a bit closer to where she lives compared to the other places we've explored, so I figure I'd wander down to her area of Seoul. It sounded pretty interesting.

The subway getting there was a bit confusing. It was on Line 1 of the Subway, but Line 1 has many branches and at one point I had to get off at a stop that had about 7 platforms just for line 1. Luckily I knew I was getting off at the Suwon stop and one of the platforms was labelled "Suwon" which helped. I got to the Suwon exit and headed to the exit we were meeting at. I was there a bit earlier than Elaine so I kind of stared around. As I was staring around, a group of men came up to me. I thought they were asking me to take a picture OF them, so I said of course. Little did I know they meant WITH them, so I managed to accidentally agree to take 3 pictures with strangers. Oops. I texted Elaine to hurry up because people were asking me to take pictures of them.

We took the bus to Hwaseong Fortress, which was pretty easy to get to, and hopped out at the stop. The fortress it quite cool. It was actually only built in the 18th century, so it's not as old as it seems it should be.

Me being creepy through the cannon holes.

We arrived at the fortress and wandered around. As we were wandering around, we realized it was a tad warm. It was May, but it was very hot. We also noticed these signs all over the place:
I was slightly horrified until I remembered it is also a religious symbol...I remembered about the time we got to the Buddhist statue and inside the shrine (?) there were a lot of the symbols inside.

More Fortress Pictures:

Turtle tail

The happy tour train! Dragon style. We should have taken this train. It was very hot.

No words, just a picture to make sure they turned the corner.

This sign made me laugh.


So we continued to walk around. The entire fortress is very large. Takes on average 2 1/2-3 hours to walk to whole thing. and it was very hot. I have yet to learn my lesson: Do not walk on the cool walls and high places on very hot days. I should have learned the lesson at the Parthenon in Greece and then again on the walls of Dubrovnik, but no. We made it about 1/2 way around when we decided we were a bit too overheated and needed to cut through the fortress a bit. We found a archery range where they were teaching lessons, then asked for directions to get to the main palace.

Then we saw this cool door.

The lady gave us very specific directions, which we followed to the letter. However, we got a little worried slash confused when we were supposedly following her directions, which should have us in the middle of the fortress, but we appeared to be in the ghetto.

Lots of people were staring at us as we were walking by...and it was really hot. We were very confused because from what we could tell, we were still following the directions well.

We continued walking in the ghetto, when suddenly we arrived at Hwaseong Palace after crossing this bridge.

and walking on a road with this cool flower on the sidewalk

We got to the palace and wandered around. It looked very much like other palaces we had been to, but still beautiful.

Except it had these creepy wax figures that looked extremely real.

And a guard wearing thick framed glasses that ruined his authentic garb.

There was a mountain in the back of the palace, which we decided to climb. It went into the woods, where we found a little mini-building with this fish in it.

Then we followed the path and a family trying to figure out why the mountain path was on the palace map. We managed to circle around through some more bushes and end up at the bottom of the hill directly behind the palace. The fish was the cool thing we found. and this view:

But we also noticed an enormous golden Buddha statue in the distance, which we became determined to find.

Elaine decided to make a stop at the bathroom. I embarrass her for a purpose here. I was diligently waiting outside watching our purses...and the construction men who were attempting to put up a wall but kept dropping it, when Elaine comes back out and says "Lauren, you need to go to the bathroom." And I said "No, I don't really need to go." and she said "No, you need to go use the bathroom. Trust me. And bring your camera." So, I followed her advice and went into the bathroom. This is why she forced me to go to the bathroom.

Here's the toilet:

Here's the view from the toilet:

Yes, there was a window in the stall looking out at some bamboo. It made me a little nervous that someone would come walking up to the window and stare in...

After the strange, strange bathroom, we decided to walk to the giant gold Buddha.

We found the hill that was on the map, but were a little uncertain if it was the right hill, since we seemed to be walking directly up someone's driveway into their house.
Notice how it looks like a driveway. and someone's house. But, once we got to the top of the hill, which was really steep by the way, and did I mention it was about 87 degrees (not exagerrating), we saw that there was a small path that connected to the palace that went straight to the top of the hill that then lead to the Buddha.

It was kind of awesome. And absolutely enormous. I'm sure you can see that it was pretty tall. I don't know the exact height, but it was pretty huge.

Elaine and I took about 5 million pictures of it.

Here's the inside of the shrine (?). It was quite pretty. and had lots of little mini Buddha lights.

The little palace/temple around the corner. The building that we were practically walking into coming up the hill was actually a little monastery.

The inside again

Here I am under the Buddha.

The monastery.

After taking our 5 million photos, we decided to walk up the hill. We knew that at the top was the highest point of the fortress.

The first part of the hike was nice. The view was pretty.


Then it started getting steeper and steeper. and it was 87 degrees (luckily we brought water bottles). And then steeper and steeper and we were literally climbing a hill into heaven.

Look there's heaven:

But we made it, barely, to the top of the hill. It was totally worth the sweat and tears involved to climb the mountain. The view was amazing. It's of Suwon/Hwaseong

the palace from above.

We took lots of pictures of the top of the hill, the buildings and the fortress.

and this bell:

We then climbed down the hill to the bottom, wandered around a little more then took a taxi back to Hwaseong where Elaine lives.

The taxi driver was watching tv while driving. It was a tad nerve-wracking.

We then got dinner at a sushi place her house (mom's reaction: You're going to get worms!)
I ate my first snail, not too bad.
The food was great

Except to the small animal testicles that appeared in our soup. We literally have no idea what these are…except that they are impenetrable with knives and spoons. We were both adventurous and put them in our mouths, but immediately spit them out due to the horrendous texture slash they looked like testicles.

and this one seems to have eyes....

If anyone can enlighten me on what these are, I would love to know.

Luckily the desert made up for it. Pat binsu--the sweet red beans and ice chips. and other stuff. tis delicious.

Anyway, after dinner, I took the bus back home, which took about an hour. Then early that week I spilled spaghetti on my computer which is why I haven't updated in a month. More posts to come with updates about my life while I've been AWOL, including my birthday weekend.


  1. I am so glad your in business again. Sounds like you are having a great time. Stay away from bathrooms with windows.. how creepy is that.. yikes.

  2. I'm really hoping the post will work. First of all, I am horrified on so many levels. "Sure!" you say to a group of men using their cameras in an attempted kidnapping. "Yes, we'll keep going up this hill in 87 degrees and 92 percent humidity even though heat stroke is imminent!" Then at dinner you obviously said, "Bring on the worms!" as you ate your sushi. And was that an antennae I saw on that snail? And what was the thing with the eyeballs and why are you attempting to put any of this in your mouth? I think bludgeoning with knives and spoons is truly the only way to deal with unknown food. To all this I expect you to say, "Oh, mother." As you should. You should have given up listening to me long ago! I love you and always enjoy your posts ... specifically laughed out loud at the cab driver watching tv.