After a leisurely breakfast at Compa D’or I wandered across the road passing Paldalmun Gate and turning left at Woori Bank towards Tteokbokki Street and Paldalmun Market. Here you can purchase bags, shoes, accessories, jewelry, Hanbok (to flatter your figure), bed sheets, and affordable clothes.
I was surprised to see folk gorging on hot Jolmyeon at Kokkiri Mandu restaurant, really this early in the morning! There’s no link to this place but any visitor to Suwon should pick up the pocket-sized map called intriguingly “And I Meet You On The Street”.
This pocket-sized, foldable street map is all you need for a 2 day exploration of the Hwaseon Fortress and the innards of the complex. It should be available at you accommodation and if not, the tourist information at Hwaseon Haenggung should have a copy. Walking down Yeong Dong Jungang-gil I emerged at the traditional market of Jidong. Jidong shops sell Sundae, rice cakes, steamed pork slices, agricultural & fishery products.
Several street vendors sell traditional fare, including ddeokbokki, mandu, and squid.It’s an extremely colourful space; the map says that the visitor will “notice their hands are full of contagious happiness”! Korea, all this money you spend on Englishy education! I was reminded of my nan’s fondness for pigs trotters and my lack of fondness for squid. The jars of herbs, spices and other concoctions were reminiscent of markets in Hong Kong and Bangkok.
Leaving the market opposite the Namsumun Floodgate and adjacent to the statue of the King imbibing Makeoli or Soju, I came across and elderly chap who appeared to have entered a trance-like state. To the right and some 40 metres above the gate sits the Dongnamgangnu Pavilion. At the foot of the wall three local residents occupied the same spots as I noticed when I ended my walk the previous day. Two ladies selling agricultural produce and a bloke who I think was a fortune-teller.
I decided to follow the perimeter of the fortress wall but this time on the outside. As I passed Dong3-chi I viewed a monstrous church (Suwon Jeli) to my right, they are the “blight’ of Korean skylines. While I have no Godly inclinations I am originally an engineer and appreciate the incredible human effort and skill that went into creating the Mediaeval Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey, the resurgence of those skills in creating masterpieces such as Kings Cross St. Pancras and Lutyen’s Liverpool Anglican cathedral. I’m a fan of modern architecture as you can see in previous blogs but these carbuncles…. shit I sound like our future king!
I noticed how laid back this area is, so un-hurried, calm, happy within itself. People exchanged pleasantries, smiled more than in Chungju, they were comfortable with foreign visitors and the prosperity and opportunity for cultural exchange that they bring to the city.
Passing the Bongdon or “beacon tower”, the earliest form of messenger service, I arrived at my next pottering stop opposite Dongporu. This is Ji-dong Mural painting street. Whilst I have become and still am a fan of these projects I do wish they could be less “child-friendly and the art more adult and less predictable. Sometimes I feel I have entered the world of cutesy card shops, something I tried to avoid in the UK. The world is not all cuddly toys, smiling kids, happy families and balloons sometimes it’s a little darker and more interesting.
I trundled through this small area stopping for coffee and resting on a rainbow coloured bench. The rainbows engulfed me and up above the tress and house the rainbow was truly flying high. I half expected Jeffrey and Bungle to emerge at any second! This tiny area had more rainbows than Canal and Christopher Streets put together. I wanted more Burton Wonderland than Lewis Carol’s Fairies. This detracts from the purpose of these mural streets as all over Korea traditional homes are at risk from developers particularly in metropolitan areas where land prices have risen. The purpose of mural streets to create tourist attractions and lay bare the threat to people homes where they’ve often lived for a several generations. I made a rainbow coloured “friend” before passing under Dong1-chi.
I crossed over the raised main road that cuts across Hwaseon Fortress and spotted more murals. Some of these were more artistic, traditional or humorous but not noted on my trusty “meet you on the street” guide. I pottered around these streets for a half hour or so before returning to follow the wall of the road towards the Hwaseong Trolley Stop (Yeonmudae) where the visitor can experience traditional Korean archery in the shadow of Changnyongmun Gate (East Gate).
As I approached I noticed a Lowryesque figure topped by a think black mane, yes it was the spring chicken of yesterday. He didn’t notice me as he stopped over his coffee. After re-introducing myself it became apparent the candle had well and truly been burned at both ends! Maybe it was the stench of stale tobacco, the bloodshot eyes or the crokey voice that provided the evidence. Had he, I enquired, found his “Ms Right” the night before,”No” he retorted, “80th birthday party” :-). As he wasn’t in a particularly chatty mood I followed the wall passed Dongjangdae, Dongammun and the hidden gate of Bukammun downhill to Banghwa-suryujeong and Hwahongmun Flood gate stopping again at Man U café for refreshment.
After engaging with my 20th vacation muffin and colombian, I turned into Haenggung-dong and another Mural Painting Street. This was much more my cup of tea than Ji-dong, scattered with infantile work it also contained artwork of greater merit.
My favourites included the octopus that stretched along a whole alleyway, a gothic bird and a giant fish that stretched across the gateway of a Hanok.
I also loved a piece of work painted by a guy all the way from Mexico, a sort of green spiritual creation. There were a couple of window openings were coffee and food were sold but it seemed only during the busy summer months. I was relieved to be visiting solo without the honey-pot interference of mass tourism! I also made another “incarcerated” new friend who tried to make babies with my leg!
South of this area are the Stationary and Toy Wholesale Street alleyways. It’s described as a “fairy-tale” area but I came across some guys repairing a drain and other piling for a new building. I saw a number of school-uniform shops with retailers using Doddy-like tickling sticks to remove accumulated dust! I couldn’t help think that storing them with dry-cleaning covers would have been more appropriate. Hey ho Korea! There were some interesting shops selling biscuits and toys and there were a number of happy kids clinging to recently acquired gifts. One more fantastic quote from my little guide “A little child was seen having a sweet-dream, waiting for his mom”. Can someone explain to me how Koreans can “see” that someone is having a “sweet-dream” :-).
I crossed over to Jeongjo-ro 841 beon-gil (mouthful) turning left at a cultural centre that had a splendid tiled mural on the side. Further along this street is the Hwaseong Haenggung (temporary palace) where once again the skilled martial arts guys were just starting their impressive performance. I stopped to watch it again without the minor distraction of taking photos, it was great deja-vu!
My two days in superlative Suwon was nearly over just another feast on “Chicken Alley” awaited before leaving for Jeongju on the Saturday morning.