Ganghwa Island (강화도), in Incheon Metropolitan (인천광역시)

Ganghwa Island/Country is the fifth largest island in Korea, or rather set of islands, because it’s made up of 11 inhabited islands and 17 uninhabited islands that collectively make up Ganghwa Island 강화도. It’s located off of the west coast of downtown Incheon City, but is now connected to the rest of the peninsula by Ganghwa Bridge, and while it’s still relatively remote and rural, this small island is worth a visit for its prehistoric relics. Ganghwa Island was one of the centers of the Goryeo Dynasty 고려시대 which was the first Korean Kingdom. Also, because it’s located along the coast, this area was the site of many battles during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) against Japan, France, and the US.

ONE DAY TRAVEL ITINERARY:

1. Ganghwa History Museum (강화역사박물관)

2. Ganghwa Dolmen (강화 고인돌)

3. Goryeo Palace (고려궁지)

4. Lunch (간장계장)

5. Chojijin Fortress (초지진)

6. Deokjinjin Fortress (덕진진)

7. Bunori Dondae Fortress (분오리돈대)

8. Ice Fishing

Map showing location of Ganghwa Island.

<Img Source: Wikipedia>

I drove out to Ganghwado Island last Saturday and my first stop was the Ganghwa History Museum 강화역사박물관 which gave a quick overview of the island’s history. The museum is pretty large, although most of it is not open to the public because it is also used for research. The museum exhibitions go all the way back to the beginning of Korea and through the Bronze Age, Goryeo Dynasty, and Joseon Dynasty. I learned how and why dolmen were made and there was also a lot of information about the various battles with the West during the Joseon Dynasty.

Ganghwa History Museum Admission Fee: 1,500 won / adult

Parking Fee: free

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

Average Viewing Time: one hour

Language: Korean, English, (Some Chinese and Japanese) description panels were available

Contact Information: museum.ganghwa.go.kr     032) 934-7887

The Ganghwa History Museum is located inside the World Cultural Heritage Ganghwa Dolmen Park, so after checking out that museum, I only had to cross the street to see the Ganghwa Dolmen 강화 고인돌 which is a UNESCO World Heritage relic. Dolmens are ancient stone burial markers, and there are around 80 officially recognized dolmen on Ganghwa Island.  The Ganghwa Dolmen is the most famous one here and it is estimated to weigh between 150-225 tons, and local archaeologists believe it took 200-300 people to lift the top piece into place. These dolmens are important because it means that there was some type of tribe or someone with enough power to gather all these people together to lift such a heavy rock. Along the circumference of the park, there were some models of other famous rock structures around the world like Stonehenge, but it was so cold that I didn’t take much time to look around.

Ganghwa Dolmen Admission Fee: free

Parking Fee: free

Operating Hours: N/A 

Average Viewing Time: 10 minutes

Language: N/A

The Goryeo Royal Palace Site 고려궁지 is located nearby and this place was the site of the royal palace of the Goryeo Dynasty and was later converted into a library during the Joseon Dynasty. The Goryeo Palace was moved here in 1232 and stayed here for 39 years during King Gojong’s reign because the coastal location gave it better protection against Mongolians invasions. After King Gojong made a truce with the Mongols, he moved the capital back to Gaeseong in 1270.

Goryeo Royal Palace Site: 900 won / adult

Parking Fee: free

Operating Hours: N/A 

Average Viewing Time: 10 minutes

Language: Korean and some English

Driving around the island, I saw a lot of restaurants that specialized in blue crabs marinated in soy sauce 간장계장 which is one of my favorite foods, so for lunch I had a seafood set that included blue crabs and raw shrimp.

After lunch I checked out a few fortresses. The Chojijin Fortress 초지진 was built in 1656 to defend from marine attacks from Japan. This fortress was restored in 1973, but there are still some original parts of of the wall remaining. I saw some cannon and bullet marks on the fortress walls and on some nearby trees.

Chojijin Fortress Admission Fee: 700 won / adult

Parking Fee: free

Operating Hours: 9 am – 5 pm  Nov-Feb / 9 am – 6 pm Mar-Apr, Sept-Oct / 9 am – 7 pm May-Aug

Average Viewing Time: 15 minutes

Language: Korean and English description panels were available

Then I drove to the nearby the Deokjinjin Fortress 덕진진 which was built in 1679 to defend the Ganghwa straits. It was the location of a major battle in 1866 during the 병인야요 French Invasions. There are reproductions of cannons here on display, which made for a good photo op.

Deokjinjin Fortress  Admission Fee: 700 won / adult

Parking Fee: free

Operating Hours: 9 am – 6 pm  summer, 9 am – 5 pm winter

Average Viewing Time: 30 minutes

Language: Korean and English description panels were available

There last fortress I checked out was Bunori Dondae 분오리돈대 which was located right by Dongmak Beach. It has four gun platforms and the watchmen here could see up to 3,100 meters away towards a fortress to the west called Songgot Dondae 송곶돈대. It was partially destroyed, but the original shape has been preserved.

Bunori Dondae Admission Fee: free

Operating Hours: N/A

Average Viewing Time: 15 minutes

Language: N/A

Contact Information: museum.ganghwa.go.kr     032) 934-7887

I noticed that there were a few places on the island where you could go ice fishing. I didn’t try it myself, but I did take a look around. At this particular place there were also sleds, inflatable balloons?, and bikes that you could rend to ride on the ice.

Before heading back to Seoul, there was a coffee shop that I wanted to check out. I found it on some food blogs and it was so popular that there were people waiting in lines to sit down.

 

I’d like to come back here when the weather gets warmer. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to go camping here this year because there’s Maininsan which is a great place to go hiking, and lots of mudflats to catch crabs.

Advertisements

Incheon Metropolitan City (인천광역시)

Incheon literally translates to ‘kind river.’ It’s a port city that was home to just 4,700 people when its Jemulpo port was built in 1883. Today there are 2.9 million people living in Incheon, and it’s the third most populous city in Korea.

TRAVEL ITINERARY: PART ONE

1. Seafood Noodle Soup (해물 칼국수)

2. Eurwhangni Beach (을왕리해수욕장)

3. Museum of Korean Emigration History (한국이민사 박물관)

4. Chinatown (차이나타운)

5. Jjajangmyeong Museum (자장면 박물관)

6. Open Port Museum (인천개항박물관)

7. Korean-Chinese Cultural Center (한중문화관)

8. Jayu Park (자유공원)

9. Wolmido (월미도)

I got up late yesterday, and so it was already around noon when I arrived in Incheon. There are a lot of local restaurants near Eurwhangni Beach (을왕리해수욕장), so I headed there to get some seafood noodle soup (해물 칼국수) and some fried shrimp. I got the deluxe, more expensive version which was 33,000 won for two people, and it came with two live abalones, a live octopus, and plenty of clams.

Eurwhangni Beach is the most popular beach in Incheon, so there are plenty of places to stay and eat nearby. There are lots of restaurants, cafes, and convenience stores. At this time of the year, the water was lukewarm and it was pretty muddy, so while it wasn’t the most refreshing place for a swim, it was still better than nothing.

There were some seagulls.

 This was a path that ran parallel to the shore.

Eurwhangni Beach Admission Fee: free

Parking Fee: free

Operating Hours: 24 hours

The day got hotter quickly, so I decided to head indoors. My favorite museum is the Museum of Korean Emigration History 한국이민사 박물관. Because Incheon is a port city, it was the nation’s first emigration departure site. The first Korean immigrants went to Hawaii in 1902. At the time, Hawaii had a rising demand for sugarcane, but were no longer able to depend on Chinese laborers due to the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The first group consisted of 121 immigrants, but over the course of the next few years, roughly 7,500 individuals went to Hawaii to work on the sugarcane plantations. The second floor focused mainly on this diaspora, and the harsh lives of the Koreans once they got to Hawaii, while the second floor focused on emigration to South America.

Museum of Korean Emigration History Admission Fee: free

Parking Fee: temporarily free

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

Average Viewing Time: one hour

Language: Korean, English

Contact Information: mkeh.incheon.go.kr

Since the Museum of Korean Emigration History is located inside Wolmido Island 월미도, I thought it would be fun to walk around the park nearby, but it was way too hot, so I went to Chinatown first. Chinatown is made up of many medium sized buildings, so there was plenty of shade. It was the only naturally forming Chinatown in Korea, and it began in 1883 with the opening of Incheon Port. The Chinese settlements there began thriving by the 1900s. It was known as Cheonggwan Street at the time and was the largest commercial district in Incheon, growing to a population of about 10,000.  There’s so much to do in Chinatown besides eating Chinese food.

There was the Jjajangmyeong Museum 자장면 박물관. I learned about how jjajangmyeong was first developed by Chinese laborers from the Shandong Province who needed a cheap and quick meal, and how over the meal has developed into a modern cultural icon.  This museum is located in the former Gonghawchun Restaurant which was a thriving Chinese restaurant built in 1908.

Jjajangmyeon Museum  Admission Fee: 1,000 won / adult  or (1,700 won for a combination ticket to the Jjajangmyeon Museum, Open Port Museum)

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

Average Viewing Time: 30 minutes

Language: Korean, Chinese

Contact Information: icjg.go.kr

Since I purchased a combination ticket, I wanted to check out all the nearby museums before they closed. The Open Port Museum 인천개항박물관 is located in a former Japanese First National Bank, which reminded me of the museum that I had been to in Mokpo, which was another large port city. With the opening of Incheon harbor in 1883, many European, American, and Japanese official settled in Incheon, leading to a lot of great modern architecture. Jemulpo had been a quiet fishing village in Incheon but later became a crossroads of western culture. This area had the first modern style park, hotel, theater, school, railway, mint, postal office, and more.

Open Port Museum  Admission Fee: 500 won / adult  (or 1,700 won for a combination ticket)

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

Average Viewing Time: 30 minutes

Language: Korean, English

Contact Information: 032) 760-7508    www.icjgss.or.kr/open_port

The Modern Architecture Museum 인천 개항장 근대건축전시관 is located nearby. It had a lot of similar information to the Open Port Museum, but focused a little bit more on the actual buildings. Many of these buildings still exist today around Chinatown, so it was fun to look for them after reading about them in the museum.

Open Port Museum  Admission Fee: 500 won / adult (or 1,700 won for a combination ticket)

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

Average Viewing Time: 30 minutes

Language: Korean, English

Contact Information: 032) 760-7863    www.icjgss.or.kr/architecture

The last exhibition hall I checked out in Chinatown was the Korean-Chinese Cultural Center 한중문화관. It had a lot of interesting items to look at, but not much in terms of explanation. There was a circus type performance going on outside, and the Cultural Center often has free performances.

 

Korean-Chinese Cultural Center Admission Fee: free

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

Average Viewing Time: 30 minutes

Language: Korean, Chinese

Contact Information: 032) 760-7865

 

For dinner I got some standard Jjajangmyeong and tangsuyuk.

Then took a walk around Jayu Park, the first modern park in Korea.

Since it was cool enough to walk around at night, I went back to Wolmido, which is perfect for a night stroll. There are two amusement parks here that are only about 5 minutes apart from each other by foot, and they are connected by a boardwalk. There’s a large musical fountain by the boardwalk that goes off once an hour.

 

Next time, I plan out checking more of the islands of Incheon, and the Songdo region.