Gimhae City 김해시

A couple weeks ago I went on a trip to Busan and Gimhae, but I’ve been a bit lazy about uploading those photos until now. I will to upload the Busan post within the next few days.

The city of Gimhae is located in the South Gyeongsang Province 경상남도, just above Busan. Gimhae’s legacy is that it was the capital of the Gaya Confederacy (42-532) which had grown out of the Byeonhan Confederacy 변한 of the Samhan Period 삼한시대. Gaya was later annexed by the Silla Kingdom 신라, which is interesting because I found a lot of similarities between Gimhae and Gyeongju 경주 (the former capital of the Silla Kingdom.)

TRAVEL ITINERARY: DAY ONE

1. Gimhae National Museum 김해국립박물관

2. Guijibong Peak 구지봉

3. Royal Tomb of Queen Suro 수로왕비릉

4. Daeseongdong Tombs Museum and Excavation Site 대성동고분박물관

5. Gimhae Folk Museum 김해민속박물관

6. Royal Tomb of King Suro 수로왕릉

 

TRAVEL ITINERARY: DAY TWO

1.  Bonghwangdong Relics 봉황동

2. Former President Roh Muhyeon’s Birthplace 노무현 생가

3. Clayarch Museum

<Image Source: Gimhae Tourism Website>

My first stop of the day was the Gimhae National Museum which opened in 1998 to preserve the cultural heritage of the Gaya Confederacy. It was a pretty large place that focused chronologically on the history of cultures that lived in and around Gimhae. There was a lot of pottery and I learned about how the uses of bronze and iron led to advancements in civilizations.

Gimhae National Museum Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: 9am – 6pm weekdays / 9 am – 9 pm sat, sun / Closed Mondays

Average Viewing Time: 1-2 hours

Contact Information: gimhae.museum.go.kr/html/en/

English Accessibility: detailed English, Chinese, Japanese translations available

After checking out the museum, I walked up the small hill behind it to get to Gujibong Peak (구지봉). This is supposedly the birthplace of the Gaya founder Kim Suro. The legend goes that in the 19th year of King Yuri of Silla (42 AD), a golden box containing 6 golden eggs came down from the sky. King Kim Suro and the five other founders of the 6 Gaya Kingdoms were born from these eggs. There wasn’t much to see here, and I actually dropped my iphone while walking up and shattered my display screen, but atleast it was a nice place for a walk. In case anyone is wondering, Technomart in Sindorim has a lot of vendors on the 9th floor who’ll fix cracked smart phones.

Guijibong Peak Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: 24 hours

Average Viewing Time: 15 minutes

English Accessibility: n/a

On the other side of Gujibong Peak (구지봉), there is the Royal Tomb of Queen Heo 수로왕비릉, the wife of King Kim Suro. Queen Heo Hwang-ok was originally a princess from the Indian country of Ayuta who may have became aware of Korea through her brother who came to Gaya to spread Buddhism. She had many sons, and some of them took on the surname Kim and others took on her own surname. Today members of the Gimhae Kim Clan and the Gimhae Heo Clan are closely related. It used to be taboo for members of these two clans to intermarry.

RRoyal Tomb of Queen Heo Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Nov-Feb) / 8 pm – 7 pm (Mar – Oct)

Average Viewing Time: 20 minutes

Contact Information: 055) 330-3948

English Accessibility: detailed English translations

After that I walked back to the Gimhae National Museum where I had parked my car and drove to the nearby Daeseongdong Tombs Museum and excavation site. You could probably walk to Daeseongdong if it weren’t too hot or cold out. Although it was much smaller than the Gimhae National Museum, I actually liked this place a lot more because it was more detailed and focused. The museum itself looks like a mound and is pretty cool looking at night. The museum had lots of details about the burial process, which included things like digging the graves and preserving bodies. At the time, servants were sometimes buried with the deceased nobles. Hm..

 I walked around the site outside where many tombs were found, and you’ll see white lines marking outlining the sites of old excavations. There was even a team there doing an excavation when I visited.

On the opposite side of the site from the museum, there’s an open air burial exhibition hall where you can see what an actual tomb actually looked like. Apparently the people of Gaya would build newer tombs over old ones, so many of them were destroyed. One theory for why this happened is that there was a lack of sacred land for burials, while some theorize that it was a symbolic act to destroy the old.

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Daeseongdong Tombs Museum and Excavation Site Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: 9 am  – 6pm 

Average Viewing Time: 1 hour

Contact Information: 055) 330-6881

English Accessibility: detailed English translations

Across the street, there’s the tourism information center if you want to check that out too. It was pretty large, and they had lots of booklets in English.

On our way to King Kim Suro’s Tomb, I saw the Gimhae Folk Museum 김해민속박물관. It wasn’t originally on my itinerary, but since it was free, I decided to stop by. It wasn’t anything special, but I would recommend checking it out if you have a lot of spare time.

Gimhae Folk Museum Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm 

Average Viewing Time: 30 minutes

English Accessibility: none

My last attraction of the day was to the Royal Tomb of King Suro (42-199).

Royal Tomb of King Suro Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm / 9 am – 5 pm (Nov – Feb)

Average Viewing Time: 15 minutes

Contact Information: 055) 332-1094

English Accessibility: English translations available

The next day I went to the Bonghwangdong Relics Site (봉황동유적).The site includes a shell mound exhibition from the Gaya period, and in 1920, it was the first archaeological site to be excavated in Korea.

This is also where the remains of raised houses and a residential site of the Gaya period were excavated. This is significant because it was one of the first places in Korea to have homes with elevated floors.

While there, I saw this squirrel pluck a mushroom, run up a tree branch, and then eat the entire mushroom. How cute.

Bonghwadong Relics Site Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: n/a

Average Viewing Time: 1 hour

English Accessibility: Shell mound had detailed English

I also checked out the Birthplace of Former President Roh Muhyeon 노무현 생가 aka Bongha Village 봉하마울. It’s a typical farming village, and its name comes from the mountain above it, which is called Bonghwasan. The actual birthplace of the former president Roh Moo-hyun is a brick house with a slate roof that consists of two small rooms and a kitchen. It’s a shabby house, up on a hill nearby, you can also see Roh Moo-hyun’s newer home where he moved to after his presidency, but I didn’t take any pictures of that because there were some security guards there. I think his wife still lives there today.

In the neighborhood, there’s also a warehouse exhibition center commemorating Roh Moo-hyun, specifically the things he did to help farmers and agriculture.

Across from the warehouse, there is the grave site of the former president.

I suggest trying some of the Barley Bread Cakes? 찰보리빵 which tastes just like the ones that I just tried in Gyeongju 경주. Many of the street vendors in the walking path to Roh Moo-hyun’s birthplace sold them.

If you have some time to kill, The Clayarch Museum is pretty neat. It’s an art museum that exhibits modern art, and various buildings of the museum complex are really cool looking. In case you were wondering, Clayarch refers to clay and architecture, which I guess are two things this art museum exhibits.

Jinju City 진주시

Jinju is a city located in the South Gyeongsang Province (경상남도). It’s a serene city that’s divided in halves by the Namgang River which flows west/east through the city.

TRAVEL ITINERARY: ONE DAY TRIP

1. Jinju Fortress (진주성)

2. Jinju National Museum (진주국립박물관) 

3. Lunch: Jinju Buckwheat Noodles (진주 냉면)

4. Jinyangho Lake Park (진양호 공원)

5. Jinyangho Zoo (진양호 동물원)

 

File:South Gyeongsang-Jinju.svg

 <Map Source: Jinju Tourism Organization>

The most well known tourist attraction in Jinju is the Jinju Fortress. It was originally made of mud during the Three Kingdoms Era, but then rebuilt with stone in 1379. That was a very good thing because the fortress was the site of a huge battle during the Imjin War (임진왜란) in October 1592. The Siege of Jinju (진주대첩) was one of the three major battles of the Imjin War along with the the Battle of Hansando (한산도대첩) and the Battle of Haengju (행주대첩).

The citizens of Jinju were able to protect their city during the first round. Unfortunately, the Japanese, under the rule of Emperor Hideyoshi, were very persistant in conquering Jinju because it was a passageway to the routes to the west coast of Korea, which the Japanese needed to control in order to wage war with China. The following year, the Japanese came back in June 1593 with 100,000 troops, and this time, they took control of the fortress and the city. Since much of the wall was destroyed during these two attacks, most of the current fortress is a reconstruction from the last few decades. In the past, there was a large village inside the fortress walls, but today it’s mostly just grassy fields inside.

One of the most famous buildings inside the fortress is the Chokseongnu Pavilion (촉석루) which is one of the three most famous pavilions in Korea. It was first built in 1241 and used as a command post during war and as a leisure venue during times of peace.

Behind Chokseongnu there is a path to Uiam Rock (의암). In order to celebrate their successful invasion in 1593, Japanese officials had a party at Chokseongnu and invited/ordered the local gisaengs to entertain them. One of the gisaengs, named Nongae (논개), managed to seduce a Japanese officer to walk towards the cliff at Uiam Rock and embraced him while jumping to death. Her suicide/assasination is a popular story of patriotism, and because of this, Nongae is one of the more famous gisangs in Korean history.

I didn’t take a picture of the rock, because there were too many people there, but here’s the nearby shrine for Nongae.

 Jinju Fortress Walls Admission Fee: 2,000 won / adult

Operating Hours: ?

Average Viewing Time: 1-3 hours

Contact Information: 055) 749-2480

English Accessability: detailed English/Chinese/Japanese translations available

Inside the fortress walls, there’s the Jinju National Museum. This museum was originally built in 1978 to introduce the culture of Gaya, but after the Gimhae National Museum (which focuses on Gaya culture) opened in 1998, the museum was reorganized to focus on the Imjin War (1592-1598.)

Here’re you’ll learn about General Kim Si-min (김시민) and the Great Battle of Jinju (진주대첩) where 3,800 Koreans fought off 20,000 Japanese soldiers. General Kim was shot towards the end of the battle, which parallels how the famous Admiral Lee Soon-Shin 이순신 also died during the Imjin War. The museum has lots of relics from that war, from both the Korean and Japanese sides.

Jinju National Museum Admission Fee: free (but requires 2,000 won / adult admission to enter the fortress walls)

Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (weekdays) / 9 am – 7 pm (Sat-Sun) / Closed Mondays 

Average Viewing Time: 1 hour

Contact Information: 055) 740 – 0698    jinju.museum.go.kr

English Accessability: detailed English translations available

For lunch, I highy recommend checking out  Hayeongok (하연옥) which has two locations in Jinju, and one in the nearby city of Sacheon 사천. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Korea. I recomend getting some Jinju Buckwheat Noodles 진주 냉면 (8,000 won) and some beef pancakes 육전 (20,000 won). The buckwheat noodles are unlike any other that I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of buckwheat noodles. The noodles are thicker which makes them chewier, and the broth is meat based with only a hint of vinegar, as opposed to the vinegar doused soup based that has been the trend for the last couple of decades.

Another popular tourist location is the Jinyangho Lake Park (진양호 공원).  Jinyangho is a large lake that overlooks Jirisan Mountain. The park is huge and is based on a hill that you could spend all day walking around, if you wanted to.

At the top there is an observatory (휴게 전망대) with a cafe. This observatory is probably the most popular point in the park.

 

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There’s also a zoo near the observatory. It’s not an amazing zoo, but it still had lions, tigers, llamas, monkeys, peacocks, bears, etc and it was so cheap, that it was definitely worth the money. On one hand, I think zoos are very sad places, but on the other hand I’ve learned so much more about animals from visiting them, than I would have from just reading about them and looking at photographs, so while I dislike the idea of a zoo, I really enjoy visiting them.

 

Zoo Admission Fee: 1,000 won / adult

Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Mar-Oct)  / 9 am – 5 pm (Nov – Feb)

Average Viewing Time: 1 hour

English Accessability: Korean only, but I think English translations aren’t really necessary for a zoo

Jinju is a small city, so it’s perfect for a day trip.

 

Relevent Links

http://www.travelwireasia.com/2012/11/destination-jinju-fortress-jinju-city-gyeongsangnam-do/

Jirisan National Park (Namwon) 지리산 국립공원 (남원)

At 1,915 meters, Jirisan (지리산) is the second highest mountain in Korea. The highest is Hallasan (한라산) which is 1,950 meters and located in Jeju Island (제주도). Jiri literally means “a place where the foolish become wise,” and that makes sense because it’s a serene place where you’ll have a lot of time to think and ponder about life.

Jirisan National Park (지리산국립공원) stretches across seven cities and counties (Namwon, Jangsu, Gukseong, Gurye, Hadong, Sancheong, and Hamyang.) It was designated the first Korean national park in 1967. This was my first time there, and I went camping for four days in the Namwon (남원) side, which is the northwest portion of the park.

TRAVEL ITINERARY: DAY ONE

1. unpack at Dalgung Camping Site (달궁야영장)

2. Dalgung Creek (달궁계곡)

 

TRAVEL ITINERARY: DAY TWO

1. Baemsagol Creek & Visitor Center (뱀사골계곡 & 뱀사골탐방안내소)

2. Baemsagol Hiking Trail (뱀사골 등산)

 

TRAVEL ITINERARY: DAY THREE

1. Nogodan Hiking Trail (노고단 등산)

 

TRAVEL ITINERARY: DAY FOUR

1. Dulegil Course #1

It took me about 4.5 hours to drive to Jirisan. There are buses available, but if you plan on staying here a couple of days, I highly recommend coming here by car since local buses don’t run frequently.

Jirisan is a popular tourist attraction, so there are many hotels, motels, pensions, minbaks, and campsites throughout the park. Since the weather has been really nice, I decided to go camping. There are several campsites inside Jirisan National Park (Dalgung 달궁, Dukdong 덕동, Baemsagol 뱀사골, Naewon 내원, Somakgol 소막골, etc.) I went to the Dalgung Campground 달궁야영장 because it was the largest. This particular site has around fifty slots that are available through online reservation only, and a much larger area that is first come first serve. I went on a weekday, so I didn’t have to make a reservation ahead of time. There were no showers there, but the bathrooms and the sinks for washing dishes were extremely clean because park employees came and cleaned them every morning. It cost 16,000 won per night.

  

This general area that I stayed in is called Dalgung 달궁 which translates to “Moon Palace” because it’s the site of a palace that King Hyo (효왕) of the Mahan Confederacy built in order to protect himself from Jinhan invaders. The Mahan Confederacy (along with Jinhan and Byeonhan Confederacies) was one third of the Samhan Period which existed  during the final century BCE and the early centuries CE. There is no longer a palace here, but there was a reconstructed hut made to look like a typical Mahan home.

In Dalgung (달궁), there is also the Dalgung Creek (달궁계곡) rights across the street from the campsite and a neighborhood of around 20 pensions and restaurants about 5 minutes north of the campsite by foot.

It got dark around 7:30 so after setting up my tent, wading in the creek, and checking out the area, I went to bed early.

The next day it was pretty sunny, so I decided to go swimming in Baemsagol Creek (뱀사골) which is only about fiteen minutes away by car. Near the entrance of Baemsagol Creek, there is the Baemsagol Visitor Center (뱀사골탐방안내소), which I checked out first.

The visitor’s center was pretty large. The first floor gave information on various trails in the park and the different kinds of wildlife that live in Jirisan as well as the history of preservation of the park. The second floor focused on life in Jirisan which consisted mostly of partisan guerilla warriors who hid in the mountain during the Korean War.

Baemsagol Visitor Center Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: 8 am – 7 pm (June, July, Oct, Nov) / 9 am – 5 pm (other months

Average Viewing Time: 30-60 minutes

Contact Information: 063) 625-8914    jiri.knps.or.kr

English Accessability: first floor no English translation available, second floor very detailed English

From there, there was a pretty easy trail that followed the Baemsagol Trail. The area is called Baemsagol which translates to ‘dead snake valley’ because there was a legend originating from a nearby Buddhist temple called Songlimsa (송림사) that said a monk could become immortal if he prayed on a rock here. One day a monk tried this out, but the villagers only found a dead serpent that had failed to become a dragon. This legend doesn’t really make sense to me, but maybe that’s because I’m missing some of the details.

 

<Image Source: jirisantour.com>

Along the way I saw this rock that is supposed to look like a resting dragon. It’s called Yoryongdae 요룡대.

There were a lot of places in the creek that were deep enough for swimming.

 The third day I wanted to do some hiking. Originally I wanted to go to Cheonwangbong (천왕봉) which is the highest peak in Jirisan at 1,915 meters. However, Cheonwangbong is located on the opposite side from where I was camping, and after doing some research I realized that I probably wasn’t fit enough to climb it, so I opted for one of the easier trails.

Nogodan (노고단)  is another popular peak and it was located only ten minutes away from the Dalgung camping site. Although it’s 1,430 meters above sea level, it was extremely easy because you can drive up to about 1,000 meters, and then from there there’s a dirt car road all the way to the top. It took under two hours to hike from the Seongsamjae Reststop (성삼재 휴개소) to Nogodan (노고단).

 Here’s the parking lot of the Seongsamjae Reststop.  There was a Cafe Bene, La fuma,  a convenience store, bathrooms here, as well as a great view of the mountain.

 

The hike was fairly easy. There were these markers along the way letting you know how many miles left until the top.

Here’s Nogodan. The name means “the place where Nogo lived.” Nogo was an old lady who lived here during the Silla dynasty. At the time, a lot of Silla warrior came to Nogodan in the summer to train, because this was one of the coolest areas due to strong winds here. It was a good thing I wore long pants, because it was a lot colder here than it was at the bottom.

 

<Image Source: jirisantour.com>

My last day day at Jirisan National Park, I decided to take one of the dulegil (walking trails).  The circumference of the base of Jirisan is about 300 km and this is divided into roughly 20 trails which are refered to as dulegils. Any sort of easy walking path at the base of a mountain is called a dulegil (들레길). I took dulegil course #1 which starts in Jucheon (주천) and ends in Unbong (운봉) which are two neighborhoods in Namwon City (남원시). There course is 15.1 kms long, and it supposedly takes 6 hours, but I power walked through most of it and it only took me 4.5 hours.

Here’s the parking lot and the information booth at Jucheon (주천). Make sure to pick up a map here.

 

 

<Image Source: jirisantour.com>

Throughout the path there were posts telling you how many kms you  had left.

Course number one went through farms, small mountains, creeks, and half way through I stopped by at a makeshift restaurant to have some noodles (잔치 국수) and scallion pancakes (파전). There were quite a few hole in the wall type of  local restaurants, so you don’t have to worry about packing food, but make sure to bring plenty of water, because there were a lot of uphill parts that will tire you out.

 

<Image Source>

Usually when I go travelling, I’ll check out several places in each county or city each day, but in Jirisan I pretty much stayed in one area and did just one thing each day. I still feel like I did a lot here though, and hopefully by this time next year, I’ll build up my endurance enough to climb Cheonwangbong.

 

Relevent Links

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_ET_6_2.jsp

 

Okcheon County 옥천군

Okcheon is a county in the southern part of North Chungcheong Province. It’s a quiet place that doesn’t have a lot of flashy tourist attractions. I think this is the kind of place that you can only enjoy if you keep your expectations low. The county’s tourism markets itself as “Okcheon: the land of nostalgia.”

TRAVEL COURSE: ONE DAY ITINERARY

1. Yuk Yeong-su’s Birthplace (육영수 생가)

2. Jeong Ji-yong’s Birthplace and Literature Gallery (정지용 생가와 문학관)

3.  Jangryung Mountain  (장령산)

File:North Chungcheong-Okcheon.svg

Okcheon has a few famous locals. Yuk Yeong-su (1925-1974) was the wife of former president Park Cheong-hee and mother of current president Park Geun-hye. She lived in Okcheon until she married. Her home, the Gyodong House, is one of the more expensive residences of the time, and you can tell because it’s made up of so many buildings and the complex even has a private pond. The home was demolished in 1999 after decades of neglect, but a few years later it was rebuilt as a historical monument.

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Yuk Yeong-su Birthplace Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: ?

Average Viewing Time:  30 minutes

English Availability: none

About five minutes away by foot, you’ll also find the home of Jeong Ji-yong (1902-?) who was a poet known for the poem “Hyangsu” which is often translated to “Nostalgia.” His birthplace is just a few minutes from Yuk Yeong-su’s home, and the two lived in similar time periods, so I thought it was really interesting to be able to compare the aristocratic home of Yuk Yong-su to the home of a poor poet. There is a small exhibition hall here honoring his works.

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This poet’s home only consisted of two buildings, and there where both thatched roof buildings.

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Jeong Ji-yong Birthplace and Literature Gallery Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm / Closed Mondays, New Year’s Day, Lunar New Year’s Day, Chuseok

Average Viewing Time:  30-45 minutes

Contact Information: 043) 730-3408  jiyong.or.kr/html/jiyong/

English Availability: none

It was a hot day, so after checking out the two homes, I sent the next two hours cooling down in at Geumcheon Valley (금천계곡) at Jangryung Mountain  (장령산). There are log cabins and a camping ground here. I didn’t stay overnight, but I did set up my tent here for a couple of hours, so I could hide from the sun, and cool off.

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Jangryung Mountain Parking Fee: 3,000 won / car

Contact Information: 043) 733-9615     cbhuyang.go.kr/jangyongsan

 

 

 

Buyeo County 부여군

During my stay in Daejeon, I also went on a trip to Buyeo (부여), which was formerly known as Sabi (사비) and is a relatively popular tourist destination because it used to be the capital of the Baekje Kingdom (18 BC – 660 AD). It’s located in the southern region of South Chungcheong Province 충청남도.

TRAVEL ITINERARY: ONE DAY PLAN

1. Gungnamji Pond (궁남지)

2. Lunch: Yeonipbap 연잎밥 and Ureong Ssambap 우렁쌈밥

3. Baekje Cultural Land (백제문화단지)

4. Buso Fortress (부서산성) and Nakhwa Rock (낙화암)

부여 지도

<Image Source: Buyeo County>

 Most of the tourist attractions in Buyeo are related to the Baekje Kingdom. The Baekje Kingdom was part of the three kingdoms of Korea (Goguryeo 고구려, Silla 신라, Baekje 백제) and it consists of three main periods which are Hanseong 한성 (18 BC – 475 AD), Ungjin 웅진 (476-538), and Sabi 사비 (538-660). In 538, King Seong 성왕 of Baekje moved the capital from Ungjin 웅진, which is modern Gongju 공주, to Sabi, which is modern day Buyeo. King Seong (성왕) and King Mu (무왕) are considered the two strongest rulers during the Sabi period, so you’ll find a lot of information about them in Buyeo. Another well known king is King Uija 의자왕 who was the last ruler of the Baekje Kingdom. He is King Mu’s son and is known for being a ladies man. His name is the Korean equivalent of the term “Don Juan.”

My first stop in Buyeo was Gungnamji Pond (궁남지) which is located in Seodong Park. It’s Korea’s first artificial pond and was created by King Mu 무왕 (aka Seodong 서동) for Princess Seonhwa 선화공주. Princess Seonhwa was from the rival Silla Kingdom, and she was also the sister of the famous Silla Queen Seondeok 선덕여왕. However, the two fell in love, and after being exiled for her treachery, Princess Seonhwa married King Mu and became a Baekje Queen. King Mu dug this lake south of his palace in 634. ‘Gungnamji’ 궁남지 literally means ‘a pond in the south of the royal palace.’ The pond is known for it’s lotus blossoms and there is a lotus festival here every year in July. I was a little early, so I only saw a few flowers, but the leaves were already out, so it was still an impressive sight. There were a variety of pink, yellow, and white lotus and I even saw some turtles in the pond.

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Gungnamji Pond Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: 24 hours

Average Viewing Time: 1 hour

Contact Information:

After Gungnamji, I went to get some local food. I ordered some Yeonipbap 연잎밥 and Ureong Ssambap 우렁쌈밥. Yeonipbap is rice wrapped in lotus leaves. It comes with a variety of side dishes usually with some fried fish and lotus roots. Ureong Ssambap 우렁쌈밥 is freshwater snail in soybean paste 된장, and it’s another popular Buyeo specialty. Most places will cost you 15,000 won per person for either of these dishes, although the price varies greatly depending on how good the side dishes are.

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Another popular attraction is the Baekje Cultural Land 백제문화단지. It’s a huge complex made up of an exhibition hall, Sabi Palace, 사비궁, Neung Temple 능사, a village, Wirye Fortress 위려성, and a park with tombs 고분공원. I could have easily spent all day there.

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The exhibition hall was really well made, and it focused on the general history of the the Baekje Kingdom, how people of that time period lived, and how the buildings of that time were built. It was mostly in Korean, but the main panels were in English and Chinese as well. A lot of Korean history books tend to only briefly talk about Baekje, because the two other kingdoms, Goguryeo and Silla, were stronger, so I learned a lot about Baekje at this museum.

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Here’s the entrance to the palace. It was huge inside, but the interior didn’t photograph well due to the size.

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There was a village that was separated into neighborhoods of the nobles and the peasants.

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There was a lot of construction going on when I visited, probably renovations for the summer tourists.

Baekje Cultural Land Admission Fee: 4,000 won / adult

Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Mar – Oct) / 9 am – 5 pm (Nov – Feb)

Average Viewing Time: 3 hours or more

Contact Information: 041) 635-7741

Unfortunately afterwards, I didn’t get to check out Buso Fortress 부서산성 and Nakhwa Rock 낙화암 which is a rocky outcrop on top of a cliff at the north end of Buso Fortress. It’s famous for a legend where supposedly three thousand court ladies leapt to their death rather than be captured by Silla troops when they attacked the capital. This was during King Uija’s rule around 660.

Relevant Links

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=262459

http://koreatravelnotes.blogspot.kr/2013/09/buyeo-trip-part-1-baekje-cultural-land.html

Seocheon County 서천구

Seocheon County 서천군 is located in the southwestern point of South Chungcheong Province 충청남도. There are lots of farms and fields here as well as a 72 km long coastline, so there’s a great mix of both farmed produce and seafood when it comes to local specialties. For this same  reason, (proximity to the sea and abundant food sources) Seocheon is a passageway for many seasonal birds. I often go to Daejeon 대전 to see my in-laws, and this time around instead of staying home and watching tv like we usually do, we went on a day trip to Seocheon 서천.

TRAVEL ITINERARY: ONE DAY PLAN

1. Local Specialty Market (특화시장음식점)

2. National Institute of Ecology (국립생태원)

3. Shinsungri Reed Field (신성리갈대밭)

4. Maryangri Camelia Forest (마량리 동백나무숲)

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map

We got there by car around noon, so we decided to get lunch first at a local market (서천특화시장). Vendors sell food here caught in the nearby Maryang Harbor 마량항 and Hongwon Harbor 홍원항. The first floor is an indoor marketplace specializing in fresh and dried seafood and on the second floor there were around twenty restaurants where you could take your food and have it prepared. We had some raw fish and spicy seafood stew (매운탕). Most coastal towns in Korea have places like this, but the restaurants were a bit larger than ones I had been to in places like Tongyeong (통영), and cleaner too!

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After lunch, we headed to the National Institute of Ecology (국립생태원) which is a huge park great for both kids and adults. The institute has 30,000 plants from various climate zones from around the world, including 1,000 endangered species. It also hosts a zoo with 4,200 animals from 240 different species.  It’s so huge that there were shuttle buses, but it seemed like it was mostly older people riding them, so we just walked. We quickly realized though, that it was too hot out today, so we spent most of our time indoors rather than looking around the park.

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About ten minutes from the main entrance, there was a Visitor’s Center (방문자센터) which was an informative exhibition hall that explained how the park was built in an environmentally friendly way. It wasn’t too interesting, but I could see how it would be pretty informative to young kids. The panels were in Korean only.

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On the far end of the National Institute of Ecology there was the Ecorium (에코리움) which is the largest greenhouse in Korea. The Ecorium is an is a combination of an ecosystem exhibition center and an aquarium that is organized into various types of ecosystems such as tropical, desert, mediterranean, temperate, etc. There were lots and lots of fish and some alligators, prairie dogs, and even penguins. Once again, the panels here were in Korean only, but you don’t really need to be able to read Korean, to enjoy this garden/zoo/museum, since there’s plenty to see.

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National Institute of Ecology Admission Fee: 5,000 won / adult

Operating hours: 10 am – 6 pm 

Average viewing time: 2-5 hours

Contact information: 041) 950 – 5300   

 

After checking out the National Institute of Ecology (국립생태원), we took a short drive to The Munhon Confucian Lecture Hall (문헌서원). This school/lecture hall was established in 1610 in honor of two great scholars called Gajeong Lee Gok (1298-1351) and Mogeun Lee Saek (1328-1396). While doing maintenance, one of the employees here actually hit a beehive, so I didn’t get a chance to stay here long.

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Munhon Confucian Lecture Hall Admission Fee: free

Operating hours: 10 am – 6 pm (Mar-Oct) / 10 am – 5 pm (Nov – Feb) / Closed Mondays

Average viewing time: 30 minutes

Contact information: 041) 953-5895   munheon.org

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to check out the last place on my checklist, but one other great place to visit in Seocheon is the Sinsungri Reed Fields 신성리갈대밭. There are reeds all over Seocheon but you’ll find a lot of them in Sinsungri. The reed field at Sinsungri is counted as the seven representative reed fields in Korea according to the Korea Tourism Organization. It was also a shooting location for the popular film JSA (2003).

Another great place for a walk is the Maryangri Camellia Forest which is in full bloom in April.

 

Relevant Links

http://english.kbs.co.kr/hallyu/blog_view.html?page=1&No=1796

http://www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Sci-Tech/view?articleId=116704

 

Gimpo City 김포시

While I was doing some research on places to visit in Gimpo 김포, I didn’t find a whole lot of information in English. That was pretty surprising to me given how close Gimpo is to Seoul. I assumed it would be a popular weekend getaway, but it seemed like most people just use it as a gateway to other tourist attractions because of the airport there. Then again, this was also my first time actually stopping and visiting Gimpo. I’ve always only just passed through it too. 

TRAVEL ITINERARY: ONE DAY PLAN

1. Munsu Mountain (문수산) and Munsusanseong Fortress (문수산성)

2. Deokpojin Fort (덕포진)

3. Daemyung Port 대명항

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gimpo map

<Source: Gimpo City Website>

Yesterday, I visited Gimpo by car and started the day at Munsu Mountain 문수산 which is the highest mountain in Gimpo. Its peak is just 376 meters high, so I thought it would be an easy hike, but it’s pretty steep and I had to stop and take a break midway and ate some kimbab and sandwiches. Luckily, the path going up had plenty of trees keeping me cool in their shade. 

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The mountain peak overlooks Seoul to the east and Incheon to the west, and you get a good view of both the Han River and the Yeomhagang River. After the initial steep climb, I spend a couple hours walking along the ridge of the mountain which was peaceful. This tree reminded me of something I would see in a 2000s Korean movie like in one of those scenes in My Sassy Girl or A Moment to Remember. 

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The main trail on the mountain is also connected to a fortress. The fortress on Munsusan Mountain was built in 1694 during the reign of King Sukjong 숙종, the 19th king of the Joseon Dynasty. The fortress walls were 6.1km long, but only 2km of it have been restored and about 4.6km remain. I saw a lot of construction going on, so it seems like the reconstruction is still currently underway.

The fortress was originally built to protect the nearby Ganghwado Island and today you can still see the north gate, south gate, south postern, and east postern. The fortress was also a stronghold during the Foreign Disturbance of 1866 (병인양요의 전쟁) which was a battle between French naval forces.

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Munsu Mountain and Fortress Operating Hours: none

Admission Fee: free

Parking fee: 1,000 won per car

Average viewing time: 3-6 hours (depending on the course)

Contact Information: 031) 988-2965

Next I drove south to Deokpojin Fort which is the site of a military camp during the Joseon Dynasty used to fend off enemies heading towards Seoul. There is a small exhibition hall in Korean only, with some dioramas and explanations of the history of the site.

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The camp was used in battles such as the French disturbance of 1866 and the American disturbance of 1871. The area was part of an excavation and there are lots of cannon foundations rebuilt here. Since Gimpo is so close to the North Korean post, there was also an army guard post here, but I was too scared to take a pictures. I thought I might get yelled at. 

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At the far end of Deokpojin 덕포진there is the tomb of Sohn Dol, a boatman from the Goryeo period. In 1231, King Gojong tried to flee to Ganghwa Island during a Mongolian invasion, and Sohn was the boatman  in charge of taking him there. However, the currents were rough so the king suspected Sohn of trying to kill him. Sohn pleaded with the King to trust him and floated a gourd dipper on the water and said that if the boat followed the dipper, it would safely reach the island, but the King didn’t believe him and had him drowned. Later, the king did safely arrive at his destination and realized that he was wrong about Sohn and held a funeral for the boatman and had a temple built to console his spirit. The Gimpo Cultural Center hosts a memorial service on October 20th of the lunar calendar each year in remembrance of the anniversary of Sohn’s execution.

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Deokpojin Fort Operating Hours: 24 hours?

Admission Fee: free

Parking fee: free

Average viewing time: 1 hour

Contact Information: 031) 989-9794

The Daemyung Port 대명항 is just a couple km south from there. There were a lot of ships docked there, and on the end of the main parking lot there was a marketplace that sold dried seafood and salted seafood, as well as a more general marketplace next to that one. 

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I ended the day with some seafood noodles 해물 칼국수 for dinner and then headed back to Seoul.

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