Friday, January 15, 2016

A New Year's Trip to Ganghwa(강화) County in Incheon

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Let’s go to Ganghwa!

I was taken aback when our Pastor said that during our late breakfast on New Year’s day.

I thought it was way too-spur-of-the-moment but it didn’t take me 48 years to say…. OK!

Some other 8 members of our church congregation also decided to go with us. When we were preparing to go, it dawned on me that we had roughly 4 hours of sleep. We tried to rejuvenate some energy that we lost last night to the parlor games we played in celebration of the New Year’s day. Thanks to the delicious food we prepared, we feasted on the left over from last night’s celebration and it somehow perks us up. Pastor said that Ganghwa County is just about an hour drive from the Vision Center in Seoul where we stayed overnight to celebrate 2016. I was so excited because it was my first trip of the year. I have no idea about the place, I haven’t read anything about it too, so I thought discovering new places is such an exciting thing to do.

Since it was holiday, traffic was pretty horrible, and it was foggy too. I was hoping for a better weather on New Year’s day but the odd was against us. Plus it was windy and cold, like it’s below zero I guess.

After about one and a half hour, we finally arrived at Ganghwa County. I didn’t know that it’s located in Incheon. All I know about Incheon is that the airport of Korea is located there plus it’s a home of several other tourist spots such as the Wolmidong and Chinatown. I never heard of Ganghwa before.
We went directly to Ganghwa Peace Observatory (강화평화전망대), the only place in the island where you can get a glimpse of North Korea. I suddenly remembered our trip to DMZ last year, in fact the topic about DMZ inspired this particular trip.

At Ganghwa Peace Observatory
(c) JC Cerico


The observatory is located inside the Civilian Control Zone which is just 1.8 kilometer away from North Korea. It used to be a military lookout and eventually turned into a tourist spot. Apparently, the observatory starts accepting visitor since 2008, before that, entry to the area was strictly prohibited.

On the first floor of the observatory building, there are some lookout points where we can see the North Korean village. As I’ve said, it was foggy that day, so we can’t see much of that village. Through the help of the binoculars which are readily available in the lookout point, our eyes tried to brave the fogs. We only saw the nearby village of North Korea but not the mountains.

View from the lookout point at the first floor of Ganghwa Peace Obervatory

On the second floor, we enjoyed the photo and video exhibition about Korean War. Not that we enjoyed the war scenes, we liked how they preserved these important pictures and videos for educational purposes. Foreigners like us and Korean visitors too can just imagine the war that had transpired through the exhibits.

I also liked the idea of putting up a paper tree made of memos. These memos contain the messages of hope for reunification. I also saw this during our trip to DMZ. Koreans have a way of expressing their thoughts in a very creative manner.

Reading the messages of peace and unity at Ganghwa Peace Observatory
(c) JC Cerico

On the third floor, there are more telescopes available so people can view North Korea in detailed. We tried to get a glimpse of North Korea through these telescopes but it was really too foggy. Thankfully, they have posted photos of what you supposed to see in a particular angle, at least we were able to check out North Korea through the high definition photos they posted.

More telescopes at the third floor of Ganghwa Peace Observatory

Outside the observatory, you can see the Shrine where people remember their families in North Korea.

Shrine outside the Ganghwa Peace Observatory

Aside from the Peace Observatory, Ganghwa has more to offer to its visitors. There’s a museum nearby which shows the history of Ganghwa and the comparison of its past and present status. However, we were amazed by the number of boulders that have been raised up in the area near the Ganghwa History Museum. These uncut boulders are called dolmens. It is believed that these dolmens were used as a tomb during the 1st millennium BC.

The Dolmen Site at Ganghwa

The place is called Ganghwa Dolmen Sites, one of the most important treasures of South Korea, in fact this place was designated as a World Heritage by UNESCO. After looking at the hundreds of stone dolmens in the site, I realized the weight of the site to the country, or rather the world. These boulders are actually sacred because accordingly, during the Megalithic Culture era, they used these as grave markers and for ritual purposes.


One of the many dolmens in the site

We just actually witnessed a parcel of history right at that moment. As we looked at every dolmen in the site, we have somehow connected to the social and political systems, beliefs and rituals, arts and ceremonies of the prehistoric people.

A type of house in the prehistoric era

There are a lot more to visit in Ganghwa, but we had already consumed the whole day to tour around the area. We were already tired coming from the New Year’s celebration, so we decided to go home after we had a sumptuous dinner in one of the restaurants in the area. We were all sleepy on our way home but our first day of the year worth that memorable trip.

16 comments:

  1. That looks like a fascinating trip. That tree of memos was really neat, too. I'd love to do some more traveling once my kids get older.

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  2. Wow, sounds like such an amazing and interesting trip. I can't imagine being that close to North Korea. Pretty crazy stuff happening over there right now.

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  3. I enjoyed your post. The dolmens are incredible!

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  4. This is so interesting, I love seeing photos from other places in the world. I have to agree with above comment, those dolmens are awesome. I've never seen any before.

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  5. I feel so ignorant. I've never even heard of Ganghwa before! It looks like an incredible place. I love the memo tree.

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  6. What a fun trip!!! I have not heard of Ganghwa before but it seems like a great place to visit!

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  7. Wow it looks like an interesting place. I've never heard of it but it seems wonderful!

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  8. You have captured nice pictures. Memos with a hope a reunification looks very memorable in this observatory.

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  9. Bummer that it was a foggy day, but this sounds like such a wonderful place to visit - very touching!

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  10. I've traveled quite extensively in Europe but never in Asia...I'm becoming more interested in traveling to these places lately...

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  11. Thanks for all the pictures, Ganghwa is one of the places I would like to visit soon

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  12. I have never heard of this place before but it looks like it was a lot of fun!

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  13. I have big dreams of traveling someday! This looks like a great place to visit. I am glad you had a good time.

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  14. It is great that you had the opportunity to travel there! I am saving my pennies to be able to have an experience like this.

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  15. How fascinating! I would love to visit this place. I can't imagine being able to see North Korea this way.

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  16. Looks like an informative trip. Sorry I wont be visiting anytime soon though...dont think its very welcoming right at the moment!

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