This week’s adventure took us to Suwon. While it lies just a few stops along the subway, a problem with the trains meant we were destined for a bumpy ride a la intercity bus. Whew, that was an experience and a half! A full bus left us gripping on for dear life as the bus stopped and started, stopped and started and sped along to the city. I have to say, the bus was much more efficient than those in my experience in Canada picking up passengers and then picking up speed. We were able to use our T-money cards, which was nice. Just like the subway, you scan your card as you enter and exit and it calculates the price of the trip. And when I say scan, I don’t mean swipe or scanning a bar code. You just put the card near a reader and it takes whatever info it needs. On the subway, you place it on a little pad and then pick it up again. Very quick and easy!
We arrived in Suwon and decided to seek out the famous fortress of the city: a wall that once lined an ancient city and now runs around a small portion of today’s Suwon. This led to a different kind of adventure: the experience of a crappy map and a crappy phone. Having only a tiny map in our lonely planet book and a very un-smart phone meant we were trying to find our way solely by instinct and… well, that’s about it. We made our way to the top of a hill and found an area with lots of families and a few attractions like a small animal exhibit (chipmunks included) and a fountain. Which way to the wall? Your guess is as good as mine. We started up a hill in a park area (trees on one side, houses on the other). A little ways up, we decided, no this is just a park path and not the fortress. Back down into the core of the city we went.
The next day we went, once again, in search of the Fortress. A ha! It was right near our hotel! After paying 1000 won ($0.90 CAD) we climbed a whole lot of stairs up to the top. Some trees were in bloom and the views were great.
As we continued our walk we realised to our dismay, the park we had walked in the day before was right behind the wall! If we had chosen to go left instead of right we would have stumbled upon the wall after a 5 minute walk.
Moral of the story: when travelling in Korea, the features of a smart phone are not a luxury, but a necessity. GPS and google would have meant a more productive and enjoyable experience. Of course, if you want to be all retro and stuff… you could also try one of those paper map thingies…