Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Glimpse of the Past

Part two in a five part series about my trip to Seoul.

On Wednesday, my first full day in Seoul, me and my companions headed out to view a bit of Korean Culture. We were bound for two places south of Seoul. The first destination was in the city of Suwon, home to Hwaseong Fortress. Hwaseong literally means "brilliant fortress" (seong means fortress), which means the translation "Hwaseong Fortress" is redundant.

The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was surprised. It was quite large. Once we went through one of the entrances, we found that a small town was within its walls. Apart from the museum and tourist sites, there were also some residential places, a school, police department, and even some non-tourist shops. We along the top of maybe a fifth of the wall. The site was truly amazing. To see that steep drop along the outer wall made it easy to imagine the site in its pinnacle.

We came to a tour trolley station and decided to pitch in the money for the ride. Thankfully, the recorded announcements were also translated into English--sometimes with funny results. We were told at one point, "You must enjoy the beautiful view." Fine, fine, okay, I enjoy it.

From Suwon, we walked toward toward Suwon Station. These Korean stations are huge complexes. They are hubs for subways, buses, and sometimes trains. They often contain huge malls over the transportation terminals. One of the biggest of the stations I saw, and at Yangsan. It housed all the previously mentioned facilities plus several huge electronics markets and the only IMAX theater in Korea.

From Suwon, we boarded a bus to the Korean Folk Village. Let me begin by saying the place is amazing. Think maybe Silver Dollar City without the rides, or maybe colonial Williamsburg. This place attempts to recreate what Korean life was like before the modern era. We wandered around looking at various shops selling crafts, toured the pottery museum, and experienced some of the hands-on activities.

Next, we headed to the pavilion. We got a good seat and watched as a troupe of male dancers in tradition costume walked down into the center of the pavilion. They played drums, gongs, and an horn of some sort. The most striking part was the dance probably. The guys had ribbon attached to their hats. With just the flick of their heads, they would move the ribbons through the air. then, they started flipping around. It was amazing. The video below is not my own, but was taken at the folk village.

Then, we went to watch a see-saw competition. I was skeptical about this. However, once it began, I saw as two women jumped up and down on this see-saw to launch each other up in the air. Each set, they would do more and more amazing things. It got to the point where one of the girls was doing flips, the other was playing the cymbals while flying up into the air. Again, the video below is not mine, but is from the same village.

After that, we walked around and saw the traditional houses, farming techniques, ponds, and the greatest thing of all: a nap hut. There was this little hut raised off the group over one of the rice fields. For a minute, I wondered what it was for. Then, I saw an older couple actually taking a nap. Brilliant! I was so exhausted after little sleep from the night before and after a long day of touring that I wanted to go up and join them. I have decided that if I ever buy a house, I will build a nap hut in the backyard.

1 comment:

  1. Nice Video and write up.
    When I went there, they did not have any of the shows. They didn't have shows during the weekdays, may be. But did the folk vallage and the fort. Some shoping around the Suwon station and dinner there. It was very nice.
    Glad that you enjoyed your trip to Suwon. I wish that I had more time! (I did a day trip from seoul).

    PS. Looking forward to more write up about your trip.


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