Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Past Weekend Excursions

So far during my tenure in South Korea I have yet to do much of anything in the "cultural" department. My original plan was to hit up all these fantastic sites during the weekend, or on my days off, but that has been a bit of a bother. I'm usually too tired from the work week, and relieved to be off I might add, to really put some planning into going somewhere. Yet, thanks to the foresight of Sonali, I have seen a few things, and I shall list them for you.

1. Suwon Fortress

So, a group of my training comrades, and Sonali, sigh, went down to Suwon city. Suwon is about a two hour subway trip south of Seoul. The gang, as I shall refer to we Chungdahmians as, and I met up outside this big shopping mall. We then explored looking for a place to eat lunch, settling on an Italian restaurant. We decided to try and see a palace located in the area and Suwon Fortress/Garrison. Just so you readers don't wait too long for one particular chestnut, we never made it to the palace. By the time we found it, we would have had to rush through it, but I shall return. Anyway back to the main point.
After lunch, the gang and I jumped a bus heading for the fortress, which we skillfully passed by; riding all the way to the last stop. This little accident wasn't a total loss, as we got a Suwon tour via public transit. After our collective compass was righted, we made it to the fortress. The fortress is a wall that encircled the city of Suwon, with a garrison and lookout posts at various points, during the 16-18th centuries. The modern Suwon has since engulfed the wall, and it more, or less dissects the city at various points.
All-in-all the fortress was rather gorgeous. It's a several mile walk along the entirety of the wall, with spectacular views of modern-day Suwon. The lookout posts were all wooden and well maintained. They also provided a great vantage point of the city. The fortress has fantastically colorful paintings on it's wooden elements, essentially the roofs and doors, as well. The walls weren't what I would call imposing in stature; and I would more, or less, call it the bastard child of another wall in little old China.
After our several hour walk- during which I made friends with a little South Korean boy who followed me and pelted me with snowballs - along part of the wall, we discovered a dragon trolley. The dragon trolley is a little trolley with the main "bus" in the shape of an oriental dragon's head, so it is aptly named. The trolley takes you on a tour of the wall and drops you at the main garrison. So the gang and I bought tickets and rode the trolley, which took us back the entirety of the walk we had just finished, past several new lookout posts and ending at the garrison.
There they had training grounds for the troops once stationed at this post, and a sign with rather amusing translations in English. We also discovered an archery range, with several old men practicing/competing in the art. They were aiming at these wooden targets located about 200 hundred yards away, and they would make this awesome sound when they hit. The sound was made often I might add. So, our day ended there and we went looking for dinner. To sum up, it was a pretty full day of cultural crap.

2. N-Tower/Itaewon/Myeongdong

We Chungdahmians got together a few weeks later and made a grand list of extravagant things to do. First, we decided to go to Itaewon, the Foreigner District, and explore. Basically we just window-shopped, walking up and down the streets looking at souvenir shops. We ate a kebab and then split up to explore different areas. A few of us went to a grocery store specializing in foreign foods, where Sonali and I picked up a few creature comforts. Then we ambled over to a book store with, yet again, a specialization in foreigner things, this time books. Sonali and I also found some postcards on this journey, some of ye readers have received some of these spoken of cards. The preceding made up the the majority of the afternoon. The gang and I then decided to see Seoul-N tower.
So, we jumped a train to the area of which Seoul-N tower resides. The area is slipping my mind, but it's not all that important. Seoul-N tower is the highest point in the whole of the city, providing a great vantage point of the entirety of the city. In order to make it up there, we had to take a tram up the mountain upon which the tower is built. It was a pretty awesome trip up the mountain, having personally never been on a tram before. Once we got up there, and ascended the remaining stairs, we got to see some pretty cool shit. The mountain used to be a lookout post for the city. There were these fire signals that would be used to alert the local populace in case of invasion. I don't know how effective this signal thing would be, but whatever floats your boat.
Once we actually made it to the viewing deck we saw some amazing views. The sun was just setting as we made it up there, and the city from that point of view was breath-taking. There were also some gates up, I'm sure to prevent jumpers, and there were locks all over them. We found out that Korean lovers "lock' their love to one another by signing a lock, and then closing it on one of the rungs of a gate. There must have been several thousands of these things, and Sonali even saw evidence of an adventurous couple, whom used handcuffs. After the freezing cold and wind knocked the adventuring spirit out of us, we headed down the mountain and in search of food.
The gang and I then decided to head to Myeongdong, where Sonali had her first Korean BBQ. We ate, drank, and made plans for a night on the town. It is at this point that the night starts to get a little hazy in my recollection, but I do remember the tiniest bit of a hangover.

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