Sunday, May 26, 2013

Island Fortresses, Buddhist Temples Make for Unique Tour of Incheon

It's a brillant idea to move around every once a while.

Source: Chosun Ilbo

Incheon city bus tours cater to a range of tastes and can prove quite enlightening, as two Malaysians with an interest in Buddhism discovered recently when their day trip from the western port city led them to picturesque islands, ancient temples and more.

Pung and Ho, both 27, became friends while studying Korean at a language school in Seoul. The two men have been living in the country for eight months and were keen to learn more about Korean Buddhism. After hearing that one of three themed bus tours from Incheon includes the nation's oldest temple, Jeondeung Temple on Ganghwa Island, on its itinerary, they signed up immediately.


Their tour departed from Incheon Station -- tickets can be purchased at the tourist information center there -- and took them to Chojijin Fortress, Gwangseongbo Fortress, Jeondeung Temple, and Ganghwa Agricultural Center and Ginseng Center, before dropping them off back at the station.

When they arrived at the first fortress on Ganghwa Island after about an hour's drive, a friendly guide was there to greet them. The guide offers free tours of the site for those who crave more detailed explanations.


Chojijin Fortress was built in 1656 during the reign of the Chosun Dynasty to protect the island from marauders. It was the scene of fierce battles against France in 1866, the U.S. in 1871 and Japan in 1875. Bullet marks remain on the walls of the fortress and in the bark of nearby trees.

The bus then whisked Pung and Ho to Gwangseongbo Fortress, which also saw hard-fought battles during the invasions by the three aforementioned foreign forces. Visitors can learn about the fortress’s history while strolling through a copse near the front gate.


Next, the bus headed to Jeondeung Temple, which includes several treasures including Beomjong Bell.


The following stop was Ganghwa Agricultural Center, where visitors can learn about traditional farming culture and the future of the agricultural industry. The center has two exhibition halls. Visitors can see local specialties, such as Ganghwa wormwood and ginseng, in one hall, while the history of local agricultural practices from the Neolithic Age to the Three Kingdoms period in Korea are displayed in the other hall along with farming tools.

"It was a good experience to learn about how rice is produced," said Ho.


The final destination was Ganghwa Ginseng Center, where people can buy various grades of ginseng, ranging from famous six-year-old plants to cheaper medicinal herbs.

Ganghwa is the home of Koryo ginseng, whichwas first cultivated during the era of King Gojong of the Koryo Dynasty. The climate and soil are crucial to producing high-quality ginseng, and Ganghwa is well-known for having the optimal environment to cultivate it.


"I will definitely take another tour with a different route next time," said Pung.

For more information on the Incheon city tours, log on to either the tour bus website at http://citytour.visitincheon.org, or the city's information center for foreigners at http://www.icice.or.kr.
 

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