Seoul is a big city, the likes of which most of us have never seen, there is 10 million people in the "downtown" Seoul, with 25 million people in greater Seoul area, which almost 45,000 people per square mile, that's 8 times more crowded than New York city. That's a lot of people! So Kyle wanted to get out of Seoul and see what else there is to see, we headed out that morning on an hour long subway ride to Suwon.
I was expecting something rural (why, I don't know) but Suwon while certainly less crowded than Seoul has a very similar feel to it, basically it's a big city. It is also home to the Wwasaeng fortress, which was built by the king in 1790, it's famous for it's observation towers and command posts, which were very advanced at the time.
To get to the top you walk up some very steep steps about a quarter of a mile, straight up. I was having a hard time to say the least, every time I would stop to catch my breath another 60+ year old local would run past me up those steps, getting their daily exercise, it reminded me I really need to get back in shape, it was pitiful.
Once you get to the top you have a beautiful view of the town below and get a great view of some of his command posts and a bell tower that after paying his money, Kyle got to ring three times. We seemed to be the only tourists there, everyone else we saw was over the age of 60 and running up and down the mountain as if it were an ant hill.
Down at the bottom you can view his palace, and we actually were given a private tour in english, it's still winter in Korea, so there's not much tourists around. I enjoyed this palace more than some others I've seen, because they had taken the time to re-create real life scenes in several of the rooms, it helps me to understand the culture of the day to see the rooms with furniture and people set up in them.
We happened upon an artist who was working out of the palace selling pictures that he would make of your name. We had him make one for both Jack and Chloe in their Korean names and they are so beautiful, someday I think they will really treasure them, and I got them for about 15 dollars each, matted and framed!
Next it was off to find lunch, Kyle had read in his guide book that in Suwon you have to go to a local restaurant and have kilbe to eat. So we got a taxi over to a really hoppin restaurant and ate one of my least favorite meals of the trip. :) Kilbe is a beef rib stew, rice, and of course kimchi is served on the side (kimchi is served on the side of all Korean dishes). Kyle loved the kilbe, I loved my coke and my protein bar and we were both perked up enough to head out for more shopping.
We took the train to Namdaemun shopping market, which is my favorite shopping area in Seoul. Before I tell you about Namdaemun I have to tell you that riding on that train was one of my favorite moments on the trip. The subways can be very crowded and since I'm not Korean I am uncomfortable with how little personal space is allotted to you, so I sit on the subway folded up trying not to touch the people next to me, all the while everyone else is just cozied up not thinking a thing about it. But on the train you have your own seat that's actually wide enough for a westerner and out the window you can see the city in it's unique beauty as you drive by. It also has a bathroom on the train which I found fun and handy considering I have the bladder of a mama who birthed all three of my children and had drank a coke.
After getting off the train we walked over to Namdaemun, which is a very crowded, very active shopping market. In all the traditional Korean markets, of which Namdaemun is just one, they group products together, so one part of the market will have blanket sellers with about 10 stores selling identical blankets, same goes for jewlery, electronics, clothes, food, anything you want. I find it confusing how you can stay in business right next to your competitors but there appear to be plenty of shoppers. Above is a shot of three stores selling the same luggage and bags.
We got a ton of stuff (if you are expecting a gift from us, don't look to close at that picture and definitely don't show it to my kiddos), and got down to only a few things left on our to-buy list. I definitely hit a wall though, having had so little for lunch and getting up at 4:30 in the morning and Kyle got me a taxi home, which is very easy and very cheap thing to do in Seoul.
That night in his effort to not wear out his wife, he went out and found some Korean food to bring back to the hotel for dinner. He brought home some pajaeon (Korean potato pancakes) to eat, which is one of my favorite Korean foods, but for some reason this particular one wasn't that good, so I was left that night feeling rather in need of having some American food tomorrow!