Travel Journal

Seoul, Suwon and Ganghwado (South Korea)

(Thursday 18 October 2007) by Lynda
I left China by boat and arrived the next morning in Incheon, an island just off the coast of Seoul. Arriving in Korea by boat it a great way to enter the country. In this way you can slowly get used to the seize and speed of the enormous capitol Seoul.

In the palace garden
In the palace garden
Seoul is a very modern city with skyscrapers and lots of neon and a perfect public transport system. The Koreans claim to have a 24/7 economy and I tested it by having a dinner at midnight and indeed it works: the food was good and hot!!!

In between these mega structures of steel and glass you can find some old historical buildings and get an idea of how the city looked ages ago. I visited the Gangdeokgung palace, constructed between 1405 and 1412 and it was Korea's centre of power from 1618 to 1896. The highlight of the tour was a visit to the secret garden where some nice old pavilions overlook a square pond with a round island in the middle (heaven is round, earth is square.... or was it the other way around??). Great place for an emperor to relax with his concubines.

To get a better idea of the past of Korea I visited the Korean Folk Village in Suwon, just outside of Seoul. In the village are many thatched and tiled traditional houses set around a quiet river and traditional musicians, dancers and
Sculptures in Suwon Folk Village
Sculptures in Suwon Folk Village
acrobats perform twice a day. A nice place for a short visit, but a bit too much "Disneyland" sauce to make the place even distantly interesting for someone looking for a glimpse of the past.

I did spend quite a lot of time in Seoul, waiting for a tour to Panmunjom in the DMZ and got a bit tired of the big city so it was time to head out of town and see more of rural Korea. I took the bus to the island Ganghwado, famous for its "stamina producing" ginseng. The island is a great place to visit, very quite and relaxed and the pace of the island life is slow. I've seen the Bugeun-ni dolmen, the biggest dolmen on the island and tried to build my own dolmen...... very impressive how they build these structures in those days without help of machines. Korea claims to have 60% of all dolmen in the world, and when you look at the map, they could be right! After a dinner of Bibimbap in the fishing village Oepo-ri it was time to catch the last bus back to Seoul. Seoul is a nice place but I like the great escapes from Seoul even better!

  • information about boat if you please! by claire

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