Monday, May 25, 2020

Adventuring Again: Hwaseong Fortress

Where oh where  to begin. We are all relearning how to socialize in public again. Relearning how to go places and do things and it's a bit awkward. Do we wear the masks do we not? Do we shake hands or bump elbows? Am I standing too close? Do you think they'll be open?

Now that the Army has given us the green light we are getting back to exploring Korea. While the country as a whole has been open for a little bit now (and in fact never fully locked down like they did back in the States), the Army finally lifted the restrictions for active duty soldiers and their families just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Everyone quickly scrambled to get out and go go go, enjoying our new freedom!

Thursday night we had dinner. In a restaurant! For the first time in thirteen weeks!! We walked to our favorite local Korean BBQ joint and went all out! We took our time meandering home, stopping for hot donuts and then popping in to the GS25 convenience store near our house to pick up a beer for T.J. and a soju for me. We enjoyed them al fresco on the picnic tables outside the shop, just like the locals, and it felt so dang normal!
I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the sudden possibilities for a 4 day weekend. Where should we go? Should we stay overnight, take the train, book a hotel? We decided not to go too crazy and just planned a couple of little day adventures instead.

On Friday we headed to Suwon a city about 45 minutes north of us but still south of Seoul, to explore the Hwaseong Fortress. GPS took us to a parking lot near the Haenggung or "temporary palace." Apparently this palace is where the royal family would retreat in times of war.  We didn't venture in this time and instead made our way up a steep set of stairs to the high Western Command Post. From there we had sweeping views of the city laid out before us. The Fortress is a walled structure almost 6km around surrounding the center of Suwon. Over the many years since its construction the city has grown up around the walls, both inside and outside of the gates. Because of that, the gates and walled paths are open 24/7 since businesses, restaurants, cafes, hotels and homes are all just a part of the fortress now.

We walked around the fortress passing gun towers and sentry posts, all the while keep trying to keep a certain strong-willed toddler from running too far ahead and tumbling head over foot down a hill or off some tower. We crossed over the Hwaseomun gate and carried around the wall a little further before descending the stairs at the Janganmun gate in search of lunch. We'd heard about Suwon's famous "chicken street" but were all still feeling quite full from the BBQ the night before so we settled for something a bit lighter before heading back to the car. Both boys quickly crashed on the ride home.


(entrance to the palace)

(Western Command Post)

(Hwaseomun Gate)
(Janganmun Gate)
*A few notes for families considering a visit: Parking was super easy- we got there earlier in the morning and had no problem finding a spot. We paid 10,000KRW (credit card only) for the day.  The fortress is NOT stroller friendly. Lots of stairs and uneven steps and cobblestones and steep hills. It was a work out for my husband who ended up carrying our toddler a good bit of the way (carrying was also required for previously mentioned feisty toddler's sudden urge to bolt). 
I feel like before this whole COVID mess we were just starting to find our groove. I was no longer pregnant, Will was getting a bit older and we were more comfortable going out with two kids. And then BAM! Hello 13 weeks of going no where but downstairs to our apartment's playground (thank God for that playground and our little community here), or for our weekly adventure to see what was new at the PX.  Now stepping out in to the local community or driving further than the mile to base feels exotic and slightly overwhelming, kind of how I felt when we first touched down in Korea.  But now that we've had successful first outing back in the real world, outside of our little military family bubble, I'm sure it wont take long to readjust. The running list of places to go and things to see during our time stationed here was temporarily paused but has taken off again. I'm excited to see where we go next and to share more posts and make more little videos of our adventures in Korea! 

2 comments :

  1. It is so great to read this post, Shannon!! I have wondered several times how you were doing over there during this pandemic. It is nice seeing the kids and all of you out and about again!! Stay well! Be blessed!

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  2. I'm so happy to see you blogging. I love that you're writing it all down. xo

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