Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Korean Adventure: Suwon

During my visit to Seoul we happened to spend a fair amount of time in Suwon.

Each morning, we leave the hotel at 7:30 for a short walk to Yeongdeungpo train station, where we catch the 8:00 am express train south. By 8:30 we are in Suwon.

Suwon is a suburb of Seoul, if you can say that a city of 1.2 million people counts as a suburb of another.

One of the big highlights of my trip to Seoul occurred in Suwon: our hosts took us to a very traditional Korean restaurant for dinner. All total there were 15 of us ; we sat on cushions on the floor at a long low table as course after course was brought to the table. I lost count somewhere around course 20. Much of the food was food I had eaten before, like Bulgogi and Galbi while some was extremely exotic such as Nakji Bokkeum and Hongeohoe.

One afternoon, we decided to take the opportunity to see a bit more of Suwon.

We took a cab to Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO world heritage site. This part of the walled city dates back to the late 1700' s and has been well preserved. You could spend hours walking along the city walls, visiting the guardhouses and gates and vieewing the beautiful buildings.

The fortress walls are massive and it was fun to pretend we were Korean crossbowmen defending the city from Manchurian warriors.

We were getting hungry though, so we walked into central Suwon, a bustling area full of market shops and busy streets. My colleague called his friend, who suggested a popular local family restaurant just two blocks away. We had to ask a couple of passersby for directions as it was down a side street but soon we were there.

"Chicken and beer?" said my friend and "yes! " we said so in we went.

This dinner was a very local experience. Sitting at a plain table, we soon each had a stein of local Korean lager and the plates of chicken started arriving. Indeed, this dinner was as advertised : chicken and beer.

The plates of deep fried chicken were straight from the fryer in the front window and were hot and tasty and easy to wash down with the beer. There was every sort of piece, for nothing goes to waste except the bones to be tossed in a small bucket in the middle of the table (and I'm sure those weren't wasted either)

Full and tired, we headed back to Seoul and the hotel. Just before we got there, we took a detour to walk down a side street, which we knew already was "the special street," the sort of street you could see in Amsterdam or Bangkok if you desired (or so I am told) . Even knowing what it would be ahead of time, it was still rather a shock to these sheltered eyes, all the more so for the fact that it was just 100 yards from the hotel and mall entrances, if you knew where to go.


  1. So maybe Seoul is not such a good place for vegetarians?

    1. No vegetarians in my group.

      However, there are lots of vegetables consumed. Kimchi with every meal, of course (including breakfast!). At one banquet, there was an unbelievably delicious dish involving raw potato which was grated/julienned into fine curly strings and served with a sesame sauce. Another time I had a soybean soup that tasted rather like Miso Soup, and another time I had a cold radish soup that I liked quite much.

      So perhaps there's hope. But yes, I'd be careful... :)