Fortress in snow

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Asia » South Korea » Suwon
December 27th 2009
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: 37.26, 127.01

We started the day on a quest for brekkies ... which we did find, but it wasn't very good. Need to keep looking. We returned to the hotel after eating, to check email, put on another layer of warm clothes, and use the loo.

So, despite being awake at 5am, it was well after 9am when we started, finally, for the metro station. (The underpass was lined with homeless in their sleeping bags, their faces wrapped in cloths. Earlier, we had seen a lot of men receiving a single sleeping bag in a clear plastic bag ... but we were not under the impression that any of these were homeless.) The train trip down to Suwon was long. At the Racecourse stop, a massive crowd of men all got off and charged for the exit ... I guess the ponies run in very cold weather. (I wonder if they run faster.) At another station, the driver made an announcement, and everyone got off the train. I was about to suggest we all get off as well, when I noticed a woman getting on, so I assumed it was okay. But a young man near us said, "End of line," and so we got off ... but the woman stayed on. The doors closed behind her, and the last we saw of her, she was banging on the window as the train moved rapidly out of the station.

We eventually reached Suwon; still feeling tired, we paused for coffee and a good baguette in the supermarket. Leaving the station, we found the tourist office, where we received little slips of paper with the name of our destination on it ... and the name of the station on the other side ... which we took with us to the taxi queue and handed off to the driver.

It was fun to be out in the suburbs, with all the traffic, the buildings plastered in advertisements and signs, the bustle of post-holiday shoppers. We had about a ten minute drive out to the palace of Haenggung, through a very busy shopping district.

Upon reaching the palace, we decided to eat first. We spotted a restaurant which our guide book recommended -- Haenggungjeongwon. We ordered two bowls of the beef rib soup and one bowl of buckwheat noodle soup (which was too much for the four of us). I really liked the flavour of the buckwheat noodle soup ... but it was a cold soup, so not very good on a day like today.

The palace itself was a maze of coutyards and rooms. We wandered about, without a real plan, but I believe we saw most of what there was to see. In one courtyard were games (ring toss and a large board game which we did not recognize); in another were rice bins, which you could climb into, in order to experience what Prince Sado (the builder's father) went through when he was murdered at the order of his father. In the main building, the emperor Jeongjo sits working at a task, while in a nearby room, his mother receives gifts in honor of her 60th birthday. We also climbed the hill behind the palace, but the view was becoming increasingly obscured by the weather.

The loos on the outside of the palace were ... nice? hilarious? Not quite sure which. Perhaps both. The commode faced a window, with a view of a bamboo garden, and bird sounds were piped in. I was thoroughly amused.

As we started for the fortress and wall, it began to snow -- and snowed on us the rest of the day. We walked from the palace along a narrow street lined with shops to the steps up the hill. So we climbed, pausing at the various outlook posts to watch the city fade from view in the snow. We heard the bell toll in the distance -- symbolizing filial devotion. (This palace was built to provide a place for Jeongjo to stay while he visited his father's tomb.)

At the top, we could barely see off on either side of the wall. We did pay the entrance fee, to see the main watchtower and walk down the other side of the hill. At the base, we tried to hail a taxi, but none were available. So we walked -- carefully, as the pavement was very slippery -- to the palace, then on to the main gate, where we found a taxi queue. By this point, it was well after 3pm, and traffic was terrible. It took twice as long (and cost twice as much) to return to the train station. But the taxi was warm, and it was nice to have the chance to thaw.

We did go into the shopping plaza, looking for a cup of coffee, but it wasn't warm, and it was crowded, so we opted to just get on the train and head for the hotel. Since we got seats (heated!), we decided to stay on Line 1, instead of transferring to Line 4 into Seoul Station. Line 1 runs the entire way above the surface ... but the windows were covered with condensation, and the train became so crowded, that we could see very little anyway. We were stopped at one station for about 10 minutes -- but the seat stayed heated and the door near Kyla and me, at least, was closed (the door near Paul and Keegan remained open), so it wasn't too bad. Arrving Seoul Station, we exited into snow, which had accumulated a surprising amount.

Back at the hotel, we finally got a coffee, then watched some more of Keegan's pictures from Irkutsk. Since we were all so tired -- and had been out in the snow all day -- we decided to eat at a restaurant in the hotel. But the hamburger stand, which said it was open to 10pm, closed at 7pm ... just as we arrived. So we sent Paul up to the main restaurant in the hotel to view the menu ... but it was also closed! The people at the front desk said that a small Korean restaurant in the basement remained open late tonight, so we went there. Food was good, and hot, and filling. So I'm happy.

Then, back to journal, rest, and try to stay awake until 10pm at least.

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