Located less than thirty minutes south of the Korean capital is the best preserved city wall in the whole country. Hwaseong is a relatively new fortress (end of the 18th century) built by the Joseon dynasty to defend the city of Suwon and honor the late Prince Sado.
Contrary to most things in Korea, this structure is completely original suffering only minor damage during the Korean War. It has a wonderful river that flows through it and a very impressive flood gate. Walking along the wall is the best way to experience it as you can see some steep drops along the 5.5 km circumference.
While I meant to talk about our entire trip to Buyeo on the last post, I just went off on a tangent and couldn’t shut up about the Baekje Cultural Complex. Seriously, that place is amazing and was definitely the highlight, but I need to take some blogging lessons or something… Anyways…
What else is there to see in Buyeo? Plenty, and everything is walking distance as the town is so small. Let’s get this list started.
[Information on how to get to Buyeo is at the bottom]
1) Jeongnimsaji Temple
This once important temple happened to be next to our motel so we started here. It contains a 5 story stone pagoda, one of only two remaining from the Baekje Kingdom. It has been very well preserved and restored given it is over a thousand years old. Inside the building in the back (pictured) is one of the oldest known Buddha statues in Korea, too. The temple is not traditional in that it is only for tourism now and no actual monks live here.
The rebuilt temple also has a museum about the spread of Buddhism across the globe from India to Baekje and on to Japan. It also explains the meaning of pagodas and while I might have actually enjoyed it, there are no English translations at all, so let’s hope your Korean is better than mine.
2) Busosanseong Fortress
In two words, utterly disappointing. This was the main thing I was looking forward to and maybe it is my own fault by not knowing that Baekje didn’t make stone walls back then. The fortress is pretty much raised dirt on a hill and without a lot of imagination, it is just a nice walk, not something worth traveling to.
One interesting part was the Nakwaak Rock ,where legend has it that 3,000 loyal Baekje women jumped to their deaths instead of submitting themselves to the conquering force of the Shilla Kingdom and their Chinese Tang allies. Again, no explanation in English, but the rock itself is well marked.
3) Goransa Temple
There is a tiny little temple at the back of the fortress named Goransa. I know that after a while, all temples start looking, well… kind of the same. When I do find myself in one though, I try to find some artwork as Korean Buddhists tend to be fond of painting their places of worship. Here is what I found:
4) Gungnamji Pond
After walking through a labyrinth of stones and bridges between the water, you arrive at the center of the main attraction. This pond has a pavilion in the middle in one of the prettiest settings in town. Like anything in Korea, it has a mysterious legend:
The princes of Shilla and the prince of Baekje were in love and met secretly at this pond. They had to keep their love a secret since Shilla was at war with Baekje. There is a tablet in the central pond that tells the whole story (sorry, again only in Korean) but it is a little hazy as to whether there is any truth to it. Nevertheless, I am always a sucker for a romantic story.
To the east of the pond is a little park with a humongous monument commemorating the brave soldiers in the last battle of the Baekje Kingdom. Outnumbered 10:1, they didn’t stand a chance.
5) Buyeo National Museum (Sabi Maru)
While the museum is largely under construction (until August 2014), it is still worth a look. It has a bunch of artifacts, but none as important as the Baekje incense burner. Despite being beautiful and quite a large artifact, it also has great archaeological significance. Unfortunately… when I visited, it was on loan to the National Museum in Seoul so I don’t have a picture of it, but here, I googled it for you.
How to get to Buyeo
(Nambu Bus Terminal -> Buyeo Bus Terminal)
There is no train that goes to Buyeo. We took a 2 hour express bus from Nambu Bus Terminal in southern Seoul. Buses leave every 20 minutes, with some direct (2 hours) and others taking the scenic route (3.5 hours). Given how Buyeo is considered an important historical city, no one seemed to have arrived with us for the sights and the bus station was incredibly small.
There are no guesthouses, but plenty of motels around which can be seen from the station. Everything except for the Cultural Complex is walking distance from each other.
If you have any more questions, leave them in the comments!
Typically, I don’t shy away from weird food choices. I like to try new things and am always up for a challenge. There is just one type of food that, no matter what, I tend to resist: FISH! I absolutely hate almost all kinds of fish, and despite Japan being my favorite country, I tend to shun most sushi and sashimi, too. For this reason, when a trip to the Noryangjin Fish Market was suggested, I dodged, resisted, and feigned interest while avoiding, all strategies that worked for almost four years. Alas, my luck ran out and I was dragged into the enormous but damp building while kicking and screaming. Okay, maybe my display wasn’t that dramatic.
Just a tease
On the contrary, despite really not liking fish, I love seafood markets. I am probably the worst kind of ‘customer’ though as I am lurking around, taking pictures, and stand in front of stalls for minutes at a time, but am never once tempted to buy anything…that is, until now!
My trip to the Noryangjin Fish Market was… well… pretty damn awesome. One thing I definitely noticed immediately and was the sheer size of the place. It’s HUGE!
What the hell is that?
Another thing that I never gave much thought to was the variety of sea creatures Koreans eat. Tuna and salmon are just the start as you can also buy those weird flat fish with eyes on its side, those hideous blubber fish, and even shark. Come to think of it, it seems like the ugliest things in the ocean hang out around off the Korean peninsula.
Blood and guts everywhere
I am not squeamish at all, but even I took second looks at some of the blood splattered everywhere. Bloody knives and severed shark heads were the tame parts where I was not shocked and took out my camera for some shots. Sidney thought it was a bit too weird though when we saw a completely gutted fish still splashing about vigorously. How in the world was it still alive? One butcher lady motioned that I should take a picture of what she was about to do, then proceeded to drive a pick into a large fish’s brain. Definitely not for weak stomachs.
So what did I buy?
I actually did cave and bought some shrimp. Sidney got herself some salmon sashimi and we had a pretty awesome feast. Although the shrimp came out too salty, even for me, they were still pretty good! Here are some pics of the cooking process and end result.
I hope you liked this tour of the Noryangjin Fish Market and subsequent dinner. How about you? Are there any food markets out there you particularly like? Put them in the comments!