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Suwon R & R part 2: Along the city walls

May 22, 2010

(continued from the previous post)

Known by the Chinese tourists who visit it as the “Little Great Wall of China,” Suwon’s fortress boasts what may be the most pleasant walk in Gyeongghi-do Province (around and including Seoul). At a relatively easy pace the fortress takes an hour and a half and at no point does the scenery become monotonous or anything short of breathtakingly panoramic. The fortress is set on mountainous hills around the ancient city and overlooks the surrounding territory with the purpose of deterring invaders and protecting the city.

Well… duh…

But it also seemed perfectly designed for Solopsistic Jesse-Land in providing me with the perfect Thursday hooky trip.

(History, hiking, hellacious hilly height-sights!)

At the beginning of my trek, the central Paldulmun Gate was bookended with petty politics – on the South entrance, the Red team rah-rahhed with song and dance for the local-something-candidate, and on the North side, the Blue team and their ajumma squad macarena-ed with Korean gusto for their own. Yellow just drove around on a truck with a loudspeaker promising everybody plenty more dancing if the Yellow candidate won.

And in the backdrop of this spectacle, surrounded by commerce and cars and the avenue roundabout, this solitary gate practically bled history.

No less of a juxtaposition was the crowd of Korean retirees drunkly sprawled at the base of the long ascending staircase leading up to the fortress walls, looking like a group of dissolute heroin addicts and hurling laughing barbs at the passing foreigner. Few were out on the wall today – they would all arrive Friday in droves on the national holiday occasion of Buddha’s birthday.

The solitude was welcome, however, and I walked in the sun, building up a healthy sweat, taking my time where I wished to and moving on where I didn’t. The old walls routinely extended up and out into guard posts, or revealed between the trees and hills a magnificent view of the surrounding city. Small shrines appeared along the way, including one large bell that for 1,000 won could be struck three times – the first time to show gratitude to one’s parents, the second to guarantee the health of one’s family, and the third to wish for the fulfillment of one’s dreams. The sound it produced was majestic and supreme; the sound of the space around it was one of fresh summer silence.

My companionable silence would not last forever though – hearing to my left “Hi, where are you from?” I would soon have a fellow traveler on my trek along the city walls.


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