Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Korean Folk Village in Yongin, and Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon!

The Chuseok holiday gave me a five-day weekend in Korea, and I wanted to do whatever I could to celebrate the holiday and appreciate my free time! Aside from doing homework for school and cleaning my apartment, I set out to learn a little bit about Korean history.

Suwon's Hwaseong Palace and Fortress

On a Thursday, which happened to be Chuseok day, I paid a visit to the Hwaseong Palace and Fortress in Suwon [수원 화성 (행궁)], which happens to be the city I live in.

Scenes from the Hwaseong Palace in Suwon City, Gyeonggi-do Province
 How did I get there? From my neighborhood, it was a simple 20-minute bus ride away. I personally took a bus to the Hwaseong Henggung stop, then walked to the folk village. From Suwon Station there are many buses that head there, such as the numbers 2, 7, 7-2, 8, or 13. At least some of these would be taken be leaving out of exit 6 and crossing the street to the bus stops on the other side. You would get off at Jongno sageori (which means intersection).

The palace was open, and it's open every day. On Chuseok day, it just happened to be free, and all of the guests could just walk right in and explore.

I was given a little map in English, and from the front gate I was able to explore the grounds, which were made up of old style buildings from the Chosun Dynasty. There were a few activities, such as riding a bus powered by guests riding bikes, traditional Korean games, and there were art sections for children. There was also a market, where guests could purchase traditional Korean style coins, then use them to buy items in the market, which consisted of souvenirs, snacks and nick knacks. There was also a section where visitors could put on traditional Korean clothing (called the Hanbok) and have their pictures taken for a reasonable price.

Some of the displays were interesting, with dressed up dummies meant to show us how the former aristocratic class lived their daily lives. Many of the signs did have explanations in English. They had a display case with traditional food as well.

At the end, a few southeast Asian tourists approached me and asked for a picture with me! They were sweet and then took some pictures of me afterward.

Padalmun, Part of Suwon City's Hwaseong Fortress

After the palace, it was easy for me to get to the fortress wall by heading toward Padalmun. That happened to be free as well for the holiday! I met a Korean woman who was exploring alone, and she was nice enough to take a few pictures of me at the entrance before climbing up loads of stairs.

As a made my way up, a Korean family began to climb the stairs behind me. The parents had two sons, one about 6 years old, and a pre-teen. As I kept climbing the stairs, I looked back to notice the older son walking behind me. I figured that he was trying to get ahead, which is what kids do. He didn't pass me, and I looked back again -- only to notice his cell phone under my skirt to take pictures! I laughed in shock, thanked myself for wearing shorts underneath and sat down to wait for his parents to catch up. I climbed the rest of the stairs with the entire family!

When I finally made it up the wall, I found my way to one of the posts, which had a little traditional roof under which folks could take their shoes off and rest. I did so, then eventually made my way back down. It was good exercise, but it is still essentially just a wall.

Korean Folk Village

The next day, which was a Friday, I decided to go to the Korean Folk Village (한국민속촌). This is located in Yongin, which is the little city next to Suwon. As a result, this also was an easy trip for me, but for the visitor, this is definitely worth the travel time!

The Korean Folk Village, located in Yongin City, Gyeonggi Province
 How did I get there? From Suwon station, exit 4, take either bus numbers 37 or the 10-5. They'll get you there in about 45 minutes. The stop is big and obvious. From the Bundang line, go to Sanggal Station, and take the bus number 37. This is a much shorter ride, about 10-15 minutes (or just take a taxi!) There is also bus number 5001-1 from Gangnam station (exit 10), and the bus number 7007-1 from Yeouido station, exit 6. They also have a free shuttle bus from Suwon station, but I didn't see it when I was there. I went to Suwon station, but going by the Bundang line would have been much smarter for me.

I had planned to go with a friend, who ended up having to back out at the last minute. No matter, I was on my way! This is also open every day, year round.
The Map of the Korean Folk Village

When I got there, traffic was heavy, so my fellow bus riders and I opted to walk. I finally arrived to the front gate, and noticed just how large the place was! I knew it was a big folk village, but this was honestly more like an amusement park in size.

The general admission for adults was 15,000 won, and the all inclusive ticket (which includes the amusement park rides) was 24,000 won. I allowed them to up sell me for the all-inclusive ticket!

I walked inside, asked for a map, and was immediately impressed. The first thing I thought of was the Renaissance fair in Maryland that I attended with a friend a few years ago. It was sort of like the Palace in Suwon, but much more interactive with far more activities and attached to an amusement park.

There was so much to explore at the Folk Village!

At the entrance, visitors would see traditional-style buildings with many different things to purchase. There were lots of restaurants serving Korean food and snacks. There were souvenir shops and different workshops that were offered. You could also dress in traditional Korean-style clothing (the hanbok) and have your picture taken, but for a premium!

The first place I ended up was at a souvenir shop. I purchased some gifts for my parents, snapped some photos, then had a late lunch at one of the Korean restaurants. At the restaurant, I ate some stir-fried pork in a spicy sauce with vegetables and rice, called jaeyuk bokeum (제육볶음). It was delicious, filling and set me back 8,000 won. Not bad!

I ate stir fried pork, known as Jaeyuk Bokeum, at this restaurant

I then walked through the gates and went through the village. It was amazingly large, and loaded with activities and props. Much of it was interactive, and it was meant to teach you how Koreans lived in the past, in different locations and time periods. Most of the signs had explanations in English, which was a plus if you're interested in the history.

People had their children try out the hard work that Koreans used to do, like carrying old vases, smashing things together and lifting other heavy objects. The props made it possible. They had workshops, such as making pottery. While I didn't make anything, I watched the teachers show others how to make vases. The village also had a playground, archery range and places where you could take your shoes off and wash off your feet in ponds. They had animals, and you could ride horses, pet donkeys and feed chickens. There was also a fortune teller yard where visitors could visit a house, and the fortune teller would tell them a fortune. I didn't try, but I'm guessing that part's not in English!

Posing for pictures! It was fun showing seniors how to use my tablet!

They had a punishment section which was interesting as well. They showed the different ways they used to discipline people back in the day, which was brutal. There was a jail to show us the goods.

I eventually purchased traditional snacks and had short conversations with other guests, usually involving them taking my picture for me! It was all in good fun. Unfortunately, the Folk Village had an entire amusement park section with rides, but I didn't get to go to that part! Three and a half hours later, it was time to go. The park closed at 7:00pm.

Things were kind of unexpected for me, but I would dedicate a whole day to this park, as it is massive and should be treated as a place like Everland or something similar!

Anyhow, I had a good experience and hope to go back someday!

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