Hwaseong Fortress: UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Korea

There are fourteen listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites here in South Korea, and one of them is only a 15-minute drive from my home. Hwaseong Fortress is located in the Gyeonggi Province city of Suwon. Suwon is also home to some of Korea’s biggest tech company HQs like Samsung and LG.

The fortress was built in the 18th century by King Jeongjo for defensive and political purposes. It was also built to house the tomb of the King’s father. The Suwoncheon stream runs through the centre of the fortress which you can see in images below. UNESCO’s website state the following about the incredible features of the fortress:

‘The walls incorporate a number of defensive features, most of which are intact. These include floodgates, observation towers, command posts, multiple arrow launcher towers, firearm bastions, angle towers, secret gates, beacon towers, bastions and bunkers’.

Information Source

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to explore that is just outside of Seoul, I would highly recommend visiting the Hwaseong Fortress. People were starting to set up picnics along the stream now that the weather is warming up here. The site boasts gorgeous views of Suwon and is a great way to get in a mini-hike on the weekend. There are also lots of beautiful modern cafes juxtaposed against traditional architecture and the surrounding fortress. Here is the cafe we visited. Scroll to the end of the images to find out how to get there.

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How to Get There

Train and Bus

Take the Line 1 train to Suwon Station and catch the 66 Bus to the fortress

Ice Skating at City Hall in Seoul, South Korea

Merry Christmas to the four people who consistently read my blog! I hope you had a great time with loved one(s) and reflected on the year we’ve just had. I have been absent on my blog due to visa struggles and moving house! All of our dilemmas have been solved and we are back to our happy normal life selves. My husband and I recently ventured further south east to Yongin in Gyeonggi Province. We feel so excited to move a little further from Seoul away from the chaos…

Today, we spent our afternoon gliding around City Hall’s ice skating rink in an attempt to enact Frozen 2 on ice. It was my first time strapping into ice skating boots and slipping on ice (I’m Australian, this is all foreign to me, I’ve never even been skiing). I managed to find my rhythm rather quickly thanks to many summers spent rollerblading in my local neighbourhood.

There was ample space for skaters of all varieties: speedsters, grandpas, clusters of friends who all kept falling over, and nervous parents. There was a special section for little kids to learn how to skate and it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. As well as the learning zone, there was a separate rink for kids and parents to fall over in. I also saw some people playing curling and assumed they were Canadian because who plays curling? Does one ‘play curling‘ or simply just ‘curl‘?

In any case, I regretted not wearing a cape for this icy occasion but I’m pretty sure I’m a contender for Disney’s Frozen 2 On Ice Korea Tour 2020. My husband seemed to be a seasoned skater and glided around effortlessly. He’s good at almost everything so it was no surprise that he had skater’s legs and could spin without hesitation!

How to Ice Skate in Seoul:

If you’re visiting Seoul between Jan and Feb, the ice skating fun will be up and running. Just head to City Hall station on line 2 or line 1 and follow the signs! It’s hard to miss. We were lucky to have a sunny blue sky over us as we skated! It costs 1,000 KRW (roughly $1) to skate for 1 hour including skates and a helmet! How cheap! Also, bring a 500 won coin to use the lockers to keep all of your belongings safe (not that anyone would touch them in Korea!)

Second Hand Bookstore in Seoul (서울책보고)

Today, I went to the incredible second-hand bookstore ‘서울책보고’ along with my friends from Korean class! They have a variety of both Korean and English books. If you are living in Seoul and struggling to buy books to read in English, this might be a great option for you. Bonus points: it has beautiful arched shelves that lead you through a tunnel along the entire store!

As an expat in Korea, it’s hard to get my hands on English novels, so I picked up 3 to keep me going next year on public transport. I’m not sure that it is wise to buy more books a week before moving house, but I am still in the store so I may not end up buying them all (edit: I didn’t). Keep scrolling through the images to see the directions on how to get there!

How to Get There

1, Ogeum-ro, 14, Sincheon-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Bus Jamsil Naru Station (about 608m walk after getting off)-342, 3318, 3412, 4318, 16

Subway Line2 -Jamsil Naru Station Exit 1

(Information from their website http://www.seoulbookbogo.kr/front/ )

A Day of Books in Seoul, South Korea

Here are a selection of images from my humble, but forever runing out of power, smartphone. I’ve been wandering around bookstores and the Seoul Metropolitan Library in the City Hall area of Seoul.

After multiple unanswered phone calls with an airline that shall remain nameless, I needed to get outside into the fresh air. Although my fingers are numb, fresh cold air is better than the music you have to listen to when you’re on hold.

I hope my 2-3 regular readers are having a great week! I would love to hear about what you get up to in the wintertime in Seoul. Stay WARM! The bookstore in this post is called ‘Arc’n’Book’.

If you’re interested, the area in the map below is a great place to walk around and find things to do in Seoul! You can kind of just wander and end up in a cool, photogenic location!

The Colours (and smells) of Gwangjang Market, Seoul, South Korea

Yesterday morning, we popped open our umbrellas and hopped through puddles to get to Seoul’s ‘Jewelry City’. Yes, that is a real place in Seoul, and yes, we finally bought wedding rings as a proclamation of our love. We hadn’t planned on it, but Gwangjang Market was located right next to the city of jewels. We had really been wanting to go there for a long time, what a cowinky dink. My husband is particularly keen on street food and was in heaven at the market.

I’m not sure why I thought otherwise, but shopping for wedding rings is so difficult. Why do western men have to shop alone for engagement rings? What a terrible culture. We went to four different sellers, touched a lot of hands and saw a lot of fake diamonds (they don’t put the real diamonds on display for some reason??). Because of this difficult shopping decision, we had to take a time out and feast on street food. We decided to eat some 족발 (Jokbal – pig’s feet), 잡채 (Japchae – sweet potato noodles) and 떡볶이 (Tteokbokki – spicy rice cakes). We then went in for a second sitting and ate 빈대떡 (mung bean pancakes). What’s was even better was the stall seats were heated. You definitely need a warm bottom to consume things like pig’s feet and mung bean pancake.

It was a happy accident that I had my camera in my bag yesterday. I just woke up with that feeling that a good snap was waiting for me, you know? Despite the cold, the rain and the difficult decision making, we ended our day with full bellies, three wedding rings and the realisation that my husband and I have the same ring size! Enjoy some of the pictures I took, but just remember that I was really hangry whilst taking them. Let me know if you’ve been to the market, I’d love to hear about what you ate!

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Hiking Gwanhaksan

Yesterday, I started my day with full mobility of my lower limbs. I ended the day drunk on makgeolli (Korean rice wine), with shaky knees and frozen fingers. This is of course because we ventured to Gwanhak Mountain, located next to Seoul National University. With autumn in full swing, it was so magical to wander through a trail lined with red and yellow trees, crunching on leaves as we hiked 600m above civilisation!

I wanted to bring my fancy camera but, being a novice hiker, I decided to stick to my camera phone. I didn’t need any unnecessary weight holding me down. Hiking is incredibly popular in Korea so we had many buddies along the way. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful temple. Because a lot of high schoolers have their SATs this Thursday, there were prayers and wishes hanging from red lanterns. I wanted to soak in the beauty of it all but the temple was on the edge of a cliff and my hands were turning blue. I was joined on the trail with my husband, two classmates and my lovely Korean teacher (oh, and a lil puppy).

I hope to start hiking more regularly! However, it’s starting to get real chilly and there is no way I’m going up one of these Korean mountains in the winter! There was one very smart businessman selling icecream in the middle of a rather gruelling flight of stairs. By the time we saw his little esky, our sweaty bodies were ready for an icy treat and we (obviously) proceeded to buy them. Little did we know that 30m later, we would reach freezing temperatures and lose our craving for refreshing icecream. Had he sold his popsicles at a higher altitude, he would have had to carry a lot of melted bags of ice down the mountain. A very savvy businessman indeed. Enjoy some pictures! The air was not so great on Sunday so there is a bit of a fog situation! Have a happy week and go to my blog to read more about my life in Seoul, South Korea.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace: Hard to spell, even harder to take a bad picture of!

Yesterday, my fellow Korean class members and I ventured out in the dust to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. This palace is kind of the pulsing heart of Seoul, the lifeblood of the city. Everything around it is more or less using this palace for energy. That’s the way I see it, anyway. It’s by no means an official tourism slogan… yet.

The last time I visited the palace, it was snowy December and I was with my parents. This time, I was able to see things in a less covered-in-snow way. It was so nice to walk around, snapping pictures of just about every texture and leaf in sight. I also loved uploading my pictures to my laptop to find that half of them are blurry or overexposed. That’s always a cool little surprise. It doesn’t really matter though, because, in the photographing moment, I’m having so much fun! Here are some of the pictures that I was so happy to see after a long day of walking and imagining I lived in one of the traditional Korean buildings. Enjoy!

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NUTELLA HOTTEOK!!!

Yeouido Park is a landscape architect’s playground

You know when the stars and zodiac signs align and you have both the energy to leave your house and a pollution-free blue sky? No? Well, you obviously don’t live in Asia. This happened for us only two weekends ago when we ventured over to Yeouido Park near the Han River. We decided to rent a tandem bike and go for a leisurely (sweaty) cycle and then eat (drink from sticky hand) ice cream.

On the way to the bike rental zone, we passed so many strange urban space designs with descriptions in front of each explaining how they cured inner city pressusre disease or something. I didn’t read them because of the aforementioned parenthetical sweat. I felt like I was back doing my landscape architecture elective at uni, by which I mean I had no idea what anybody was talking about but was able to appreciate what was happening nonetheless. Here are some snaps of said spaces! Yeouido is a guaranteed good time! You can also rent basketballs, ripsticks, scooters and other crazy things. Talk about the time of your life! Peace out, reader.

I guess I like baseball now? Why you should go to a baseball game in Seoul

In May… oh dear, I’m writing about something that happened in May. This is off to a bad start. Well let’s turn this around, shall we? My PARENTS came to Seoul recently… er, this year. They came to have a long weekend getaway in the bustling city centre of Seoul after several months of being separated by the Pacific Ocean and a harrowing one hour time difference.

Without an itinerary or much in the way of a game plan, we somehow threw the topic of baseball into conversation. One minute we were reminiscing over our childhood pet rabbit and purchasing tickets to a baseball match the next? As a person who has neither watched a baseball game nor given much thought to its supposed existence, I was quite shocked by this ticket-purchasing event. It may (or may or not at all) help to mention that this discussion and subsequent ticket purchase occurred over a rather boozy middle eastern dinner after reuniting with my parents whom I hadn’t seen since Christmas 2018. What a time to be alive!

Back to the topic of this important blog post…

I had very low expectations of baseball because I had nothing to compare the experience to. I briefly remember my brother getting a baseball bat for Christmas once and that was about the only baseball-related event thus far in my baseball-less, sheltered life (barring High School Musical 2).  To add another life milestone into the mix, I’ve also never typed the word ‘baseball’ so many times in one day.

To, once again, cut to the chase…

The reason you should see a baseball game? match? session? in South Korea is because of the CHANTING. The two teams have a cheering section on opposite sides of the… pitch? diamond? baseball ring?… and they take turns singing just about every melody under the Korean sun until they respectfully halt when it’s the other side’s turn to sing their baseball-ised, Korean version of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since you been gone’ at full volume. I’ve never been so entertained/confused about sports/drunk on cheap beer/sticky with chicken fingers/excited in general about anything. If you’re in Seoul, you should go and watch some baseball and enjoy the excitement. You should DEFINITELY go if you’re a baseball fan because I’m sure you’d have a blast. Boy, I bet I really sold you on this hot travel tip. This post was so descriptive that you’re probably purchasing your tickets to Seoul as we speak and planning your entire trip around multiple baseball matches? games? I still have no idea..

My lifelong dream of seeing a beer boy finally came true. It wasn’t so much a dream as it was a disbelief that such a boy/man child could exist.

How to get there

If this was a helpful blog, I would instruct you on how to purchase tickets, arrive at a baseball stadium near you and where to buy your game snacks. This is not the case. Please do NOT mistake this website for an informative blog, this is a blog where I write about my life in South Korea and nobody reads it and I go about my life being completely fine with it. Have a fab day/week/life/wedding/meeting at work.