Gwangmyeong City 관명시

Gwangmyeong means prosperous life. located southwest of Seoul, it’s known for several large discount shopping centers like IKEA, Costco, Lotte Premium Outlet, etc.

Location in South Korea

I started the day off at IKEA. I have never had Swedish meatballs, so I was pretty excited to check out the IKEA food court.






The shopping experience at IKEA was pretty similar to the ones I had in the US. There was a large selection and the prices were similar to that in the US.





IKEA, Lotte Outlet, and Costco and all located on the same intersection, but since they open late, I decided to check out the nearby Gwangmeyong Cave before it closed.


Gwangmyeong Cave is an artificial cave built in 1912 and used until 1931 to dig gold, silver, copper, and zinc to make weapons for the Japanese army. After liberation from Japan, the mine was reopened and used by a Korean company until it went bankrupt largely due to a major flood in 1972. It’s been open to tourists for only a few years now (since 2011.)







Operating Hours: 9am – 6pm (Closed Mondays)

Admission Fees: Adults 4,000 won

Average Viewing Time: 1-2 hours

Contact Info 02-2680-6550


After the cave, I went back to the Lotte Outlet for shopping and dinner.







Gapyeong County 가평군

Last week I went on a camping trip to Gapyeong County 가평군. The county is located near the border of Gyeonggi Province and Gangwon Province. The Bukhangang River runs through, it so its a popular attraction for recreational water sports (and camping). The most well known tourist attraction there is Nami Island 남이섬, which was the setting of some of the most memorable scenes in the tv drama Winter Sonata 겨울연가, but over the last decade or so Gapyeong has developed quite a few other tourist attractions.



1. Garden of Morning Calm 아침고요숙목원

2. Petite France 프띠프랑스


Getting around Gapyeong is extremely easy, because there’s a hop on, hop off shuttle bus that goes to all the major tourist destinations. It costs 5,000 won, and you just pay the driver in cash.

The bus route goes from Gapyeong Bus Terminal → Jara Island → Gapyeong Station → Nami Island → Geumdaeri Community Hall → Bokjangri Samgeori → Petite France → Cheongpyeong Bus Terminal → Cheongpyeong Station  → Garden of Morning Calm.

In the morning I checked out the Garden of Morning Calm 아침고요숙목원 which is probably one of the more famous gardens/arboretums in Korea. There were a lot of people there, even though I went on a weekday. On the path in between the parking lot and the ticket booth, there were a few places selling snacks. I recommend the ice cream waffle, which was really cheap at only 1,500 won. There are also several restaurants inside the garden selling typical food court meals like pork cutlet, bibimbap, udon, and spaghetti carbonara.




garden map

Garden of Morning Calm Operating Hours: 8:30 am – sunset

Admission Fee: 7,000-9,000 won / adult

Average Viewing Time: 2-3 hours

Contact Information: 031) 1544-6703

Public Transportation: From Seoul, take the Gyeongchun Subway Line to Cheongpyeong Station, walk 10 minutes to Cheongpyeong Terminal or take the express bus from any major city to Cheongpyeong Terminal then you can take a shuttle bus to the Garden. (Shuttle buses run frequently.)


Petite France 프띠프랑스 is a small French village located on a hill by the Cheongpyeong Lake. It’s made up of quaint buildings that resemble a village in the Alps. I saw lots of young couples here taking photos, probably to upload later on their SNS.




france map

<Map Source: Petite France homepage>

Inside the buildings there are various exhibitions, so there’s plenty to see. I saw some old drama sets, an exhibition on the Little Prince’s author, a marionette show, etc. Each of the shows only run a few times a day, so make sure to pick up a schedule of the shows when you go to the ticket booth. This village also heavily advertises the tv shows that filmed here. One of the more recent ones is You Who Came From the Star, 별에서 온 그대.  I’ve always been skeptical of how popular people say that drama was in China, but apparently that might be true because I saw a lot of Chinese tourists here.  Because the village is right by Cheongpyeong Lake 청평호, you can also walk down there are try some recreational water sports.




Petite France Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm 

Admission Fee:  8,000 won / adult

Average Viewing Time: 2-3 hours

Contact Information: 031) 584-8200


There were some guest houses at the Petite France village, if you plan on staying overnight. If you want to stay in Gapyeong another day, check out Nami Island which some say is a tourist trap…but I think it’s worth checking out just once.





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Suwon City 수원시

Suwon is located just south of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province 경기도. It’s noted for the massive Hwaseong Fortress 화성 and related relics which include a palace, shrine, temples, etc. This fortress was built by King Jeongjo in 1794-1796. He stayed in the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace 화성행궁 located within the fortress walls during his trips to his father’s, Prince Sado’s, grave, and made 13 trips here which was a testament to his sense of filial piety given how difficult traveling was back then. For that reason you’ll hear often about how Suwon is a city full of filial piety.


1. Suwon Museum 수원박물관

2. Suwon Hwaseong Museum 수원화성박물관

3. Hwaseong Haenggung Palace 화성행국 / Hwaryeongjeon Shrine 화령전

4. Hwaseong Fortress 화성


You can get to this city by going to Suwon Station 수원역. From Seoul, you can get there by subway line one, and from other cities you can get to Suwon Station by bus or train. There is an information center right outside exit number one of Suwon Station where you can pick up some pamphlets/map.


Before checking out the fortress, I wanted to get some historical context, so I went to visit the museums first. My first destination was the Suwon Museum 수원박물관. To get there from Suwon Station, go out exit number 7. There you’ll find a large bus stop. Take buses 60, 660, 70-2, or 770-2 to get to the museum. The bus ride takes around 20-25 minutes, and once you get off you will have to walk about 10 minutes (750 meters) to the museum. Walk up the street in the direction the bus came from towards the SK gas station. From there you’ll see a sign for the museum. Cross the street and and you’ll find it at the top of the hill there.

The Suwon Museum is made up of the Museum of History and the Calligraphy Museum. The historical portion is organized chronologically and it showcases both prehistoric Suwon and modern Suwon. My favorite part was the 1960s zone which was a recreation of a town center where you could go inside tea shops, food stalls, clothing stores, a photography store, and much more. The calligraphy portion included mostly writings and paintings from kings and poets.




Suwon Museum Admission Fee: 2,000 won / adult*

Operating Hours: 9am – 6pm / Closed every 1st Monday of each month

Contact Information: 031) 228-4150

Average Viewing Time: 1 hour

*There is a combination ticket for 3,500 / adult that gives you admission to the Suwon Museum, Suwon Hwaseong Museum, Hwaseong Haenggung Palace/Shrine, and Hwaseong Fortress. This would cost you 6,500 won / adult when purchased seperately. 

Then take a bus to the Hwaseong Museum. The bus stop is in a different location from the one where you got off so ask the museum front desk for directions if you can’t find it. You can take bus 6, 7-2, 47, 60, 400, 400-4, 660, 700-2, or 1007. They will all take you to right outside the Hwaseong Museum entrance.

The Hwaseong Museum was built to show how the fortress was constructed and how it was used. Here I learned about the scholar Jeong Yakyong who was a key figure in the fortress construction for standardizing raw materials and developing scientific machinery such as the Nokro (a crane/pulley) and the Geojunggi (crane). There’s also the story of the 60th birthday celebration of King Jeongjo’s mother (Lady Hyegyong) which took place at Haenggung Palace. Generally, the 60th birthday is important in Korea, because there are 5 cycles of the 12 animal zodiac, so 60 years represents a completed life cycle. These days though, the 60th birthday celebrationg is becoming less important because of longer lifespans, but it’s still considered a milestone.




Suwon Hwaseong Museum Admission Fee: 2,000 won / adult*

Operating Hours: 9am – 6pm / Closed Mondays

Contact Information: 031) 228-4242

Average Viewing Time: 30-45 minutes

From the museum it was a short walk to the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace 화성행국 / Hwaryeongjeon Shrine 화령전. The palace was built in 1789 by King Jeongjo. He intended to live here with his mother after he retired from the throne, so this palace is much more elaborate than other temporary palaces I have seen.

Another theory for why this temporary palace is so elaborate is that King Jeongjo built it in order to move the capital here, away from all the political turmoil in Seoul. King Jeongjo’s grandfather, King Yongjo had no sons with his queen, and only two sons with his lesser wives. One of these sons died young and the surviving son, Prince Changhon aka Prince Sado, was made crown prince. However, Prince Sado later became increasingly erratic and was alleged to have had a mental illness. In 1762, King Yongjo ordered his son to be placed in a rice chest and smothered to death. This led to many political factions emerging and there was a power struggle when King Jeongjo suceeded his grandfather.

Btw, Lady Hyegyong (1735-1815) who is Prince Sado’s wife and King Jeongjo’s mother wrote an autobiography based on these events titled Hanjungnok (Records Written in Silence.) It is considered a literary masterpiece today and a rare insight into court life in the 18th century, especially since so few women of the time were literate.

Unfortunately, most of this palace was actually destroyed by fire during Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, but it was restored starting in 1996, and has been open to the public only since 2003. On the weekends there are lots of experience programs here you can try for a small fee such as coin making and model building.





The palace is connected to the Hwaryeongjeon shrine 화령전 which houses a portrait of  King Jeongjo. If you’ve been to the Jeonju Hanok Village, you’ll see similarities with the Gyeonggijeon Shrine 경기전 honoring King Taejo. The postures of the two kings in the portraits are similar, and so are the color schemes. The King Taejo shrine was a lot larger though, which makes sense since Taejo was the first king in the Joseon Dynasty. 




Hwaseong Haenggung Palace / Hwaryeongjeon Shrine Admission Fee: 2,000 won / adult*

Operating Hours: 9am – 9pm / Closed Mondays

Contact Information: 031) 290-3600

Average Viewing Time: 1 hour


After the palace, check out the fortress walls. Paldalmun 팔달문(South Gate) is one of the most famous parts and it’s near the palace, so I would start out there. Then walk west along the walls. It took me about 1.5 hours (5.7 km) to walk the entire circumference of the fortress walls, but if you are tired, there is also a shuttle called the Hwaseong Trolley 화성열차. You can get on at the Paldal Mountain platform (west side) or the Yeonmudae platform (northeast side) and it stops at Hwaseomun, Jangan Park, Janganmun, and Hwahongmun so you can take a look around. The trolley is pretty cool because it’s supposed to look like the chair that kings rode in. Also if you have a smartphone, I recommend you download the “World Heritage Hwaseong” app which is a free tour guide service where you can listen to audio descriptions of places along the fortress wall as you pass by them.





Hwaseong Fortress Admission Fee: 1,000 won / adult

Operating Hours: 24 hours

Average Viewing Time: 1.5 hours



Hwaseong Trolley 화성열차 Fee: 1,500 won / adult

Operating Hours: 10am – 5pm / Closed New Years, Lunar New Years, Chuseok, rainy and snowy days

Contact Information: 031) 228-4683 (Paldal Mountain)      031)228-4686 (Yeonmudae)

Average Viewing Time: 30 minutes ride

If you’ll looking for some dinner suggestions, Suwon is known for 갈비, grilled marinated beef short ribs. That’s because up until 1940, Suwon was the home of Korea’s largest cattle market. Cattle were butchered in large numbers in order to feed and strengthen construction workers while the fortress was built, which resulted in a long standing cattle market.

There is a lot more to do in Suwon, but this is all I could fit in one day. ^^


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