Restored from a draft written a week ago
My first weekend and most probably my only weekend in South Korea went nearly event-less. Most of the people who travel to Korea from our company, stay here for atleast a month to three. I was traveling with my boss, our trip was planned for two working weeks, which means there is only one weekend in between the traveling weekends. Though the customer wants us to stay here longer, the management and policies have a different thought, and also its boss's 7th or 8th trip to this place, so there is no point in asking him to stay back either.
Having heard much about Korea and the absence of English here, I was mentally well prepared to use my observation skills to the maximum. Where there was no English, I had to do with pattern recognition and bookmarking landmarks for routes. I travel to work daily with the boss. The problem started only when it is the weekend. Unlike me, everyone has been to this place earlier, and nobody would be interested to accompany me for a second time. And since most of the Indian junta here stay longer here, they are in no immediate hurry to start exploring places. So I had to make my own weekend plans. I planned Suwon Fort for Saturday and Hans River Cruise for Sunday.
Saturday, post lunch I set out for a long walk towards the Suwon Station. I was told, the Fort and Station were close by. I reached the station and looked around for markets close by hoping to find Namun market. Talking to people, asking for directions wouldnt help here, unless you know to speak and understand Korean. My colleague picked up few Korean phrases the last time she traveled here and when she began using them, she had to give up, bcos responses came in Korean which she couldnt follow.
Some kids whom I assumed would atleast know few basic words in English, ended up laughing when I asked them few where-how questions about the place. After multiple failed attempts of asking around, I decided to take the bus. I managed to track the routes and bus numbers on few maps there( thanks to my BMTC experience in hand), but nobody could tell me how to get a bus ticket there, I saw everyone use a card to swipe through when they entered the bus. Couldnt find a ticket collector either. I was embarrassed to get into the bus and ask the driver too, what if he too didnt understand English, which would most likely happen. A gal helped me to get a card for 2500 Korean Won, but she couldnt explain how I could recharge the card ! After lingering around in the bus stand for some time, I decided to walk to Hwaseon Fort. The walk seemed never ending, and there was no sign of the fort near by, though I could see the hills far away. And since I was determined not to use a Taxi service, I started walking back to the Station. I clicked few pictures on the way back to keep me occupied and not feel about my failure. I reached home and after talking to few Indian people during dinner, learned that one has to drop a minimum of 1000 won in the box near the driver and there is no concept of ticket. If you have bus card, the cost is comparatively cheaper.
Sunday I decided not to try Hans river after Saturday's local failure. To reach Hans, I had to take a taxi to the station, then catch a metro and then taxi again to the destination, it sounds simple, but I wanted to first gain expertise in touring around Suwon before venturing out of the town on my own further. This time, I had got the numbers of the bus I had to take from the place I live. As an additional measure, I got few questions written down in Korean with the help of my Guest House Care taker. I also asked my room mate to show me few pictures of the fort from the direction in which the bus would arrive, so that I could alight at the right bus stop. As I sat in the bus towards my destination, I was expecting my plan to fail for the second time. Sometimes Murphy gives you surprises as well, especially when you expect him to appear suddenly, I had the best time ever in my life exploring the place on my own. After 2 hours of shopping in Namun market which was close by, I rushed towards the hill to climb up to the fort. The path to the fort looked long and tiring, but after putting so much efforts to get there, I just didnt feel like giving up at the foot of the hill :) I also met a friendly English speaking Korean guy who introduced himself to me at the top of the hill, though initially I avoided him, as I was quite worried about talking to strangers. After spending few minutes with him and his friends ( 4 gals) at the top of the hill, I decided to leave the place. Instead of taking a bus back to the Guest house, I took a bus to the station to test my bus route skills. I returned home feeling accomplished about my Fort visit, though I knew it was so little I did in the only weekend I was there in Korea.
There is always a next time, somewhere and sometime, I tell myself when dreams turn short lived.
This is the final fort structure at the top of the hill, Its called the Hwaseong Fort. I have seen beautiful pictures of this fort lit after sunset. Though my initial plan was to capture a sunset and a lit fort, it was summer, and 7 pm was still bright. All other structures which are built around the fort are similar, only the sizes and orientation and their location differ. It gets boring after some time to keep seeing the almost same structure.