A day trip to the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

If you’re getting sick of Seoul, take a day trip to Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. Suwon is an hour away by subway, south of all the hustle and bustle. A good part of Suwon has stable public wifi—which I discovered by getting on the bus at the wrong stop.

I got off the subway at Suwon station and got lost once I left the gates. I approached a police officer who tried his best to point me in the right direction. He even elicited the help of his colleague.

He pointed me to the exit with the terminal. Lots of people wait there and give the illusion that you’re at the right place. However, if you get on the bus from there you’re gonna be travelling for a very long time before you get to the fortress. I can no longer tell you where you’re actually supposed to take the bus, but it’s not at a terminal bay but rather on the side of the street down the road.

View from my lunch spot
View from my lunch spot

The bus driver scolded me when he found out I wanted to head to the fortress. He said I should’ve asked him before I got on the bus at that stop. Even though his tone was stern, I knew he had my best interests at heart. His words had the affection of a kind uncle who always wants to give you advice.

Suwon was incredibly kind to me for the short time I was there.

I would’ve liked to explore more of the city, but the fact that I love taking my time in a place meant that I could only see the Hwaseong Fortress. I hiked all around the fortress and I had a blast. The sun baked my skin in undesirable ways and sweat glued my outfit to my body. Physical discomforts have always ruined my experiences. But not this time.

Suwon was beautiful and I was happy.

I spoke to several middle-aged ladies while going to the pavilion at the top. Two ladies were sitting and chatting at a resting point, and one of them offered me corn. When I told her I had already eaten lunch, she said “well we don’t always eat because we’re hungry.”

The pavilion at the top
The pavilion at the top

From here I could see a panoramic view of Suwon. The wind was fierce with my hair. There were people just hanging out and other travellers. I also saw someone who had been running and they briefly rested at the top.

View from a different pavillion
View from a different pavilion

The spot where I took this photo gave me so much joy. It was after a long stretch of not much. The wind slapped my hair and face and it was the only thing I heard. I saw the city side of the fortress from here and it just amazed me that such a huge piece of historical artifact was just sitting inside a city.

Stranger Danger

Standing next to a guard who was wearing jeonbok
Standing next to a guard who was wearing jeonbok

The person who took this photo was actually a traveller in a group of 3 men. I ran into them repeatedly as I walked along the fortress. We first met when I was walking down the stairs from the top pavilion. I thought I was in their way because they seemed to be taking photos of something behind me.

It got very weird very fast.

One man asked me to take a photo…with one of his buddies. I was so taken aback I actually turned to face the camera and smiled for the photo. They started striking a conversation with me after and that’s when I dashed the hell out. I practically ran down the stairs. I suffer from paranoia, clearly. Thankfully they didn’t do anything horrible. They helped me take a photo, so that was nice.

P.S. Korea has a shockingly small number of garbage cans. I held my empty Iced Americano cup for almost two hours.

A small part of the fortress
A small part of the fortress

The dirt path connected lookout points where military used to be stationed. Hwaseong Fortress was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.  It was built in the 1700s. At one point I actually saw someone dressed in jeonbok (traditional clothing worn by military) and holding a sword walking along the path.

Suwon day trip verdict

If you want to get out of Seoul, make time for Suwon. Although I only saw a small part of it, the fortress itself was worth the trip for me. I enjoyed public wifi while being lost on the bus and talked to kind locals. Who knows, you may find yourself eating free corn with an aunty stranger.

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