Sunday, 4 April 2010

Gung-ho in Ganghwado?

Ganghwado is Korea's 5th largest island

This was one of several visits I made to Ganghwado, which is an anvil-shaped island off Korea's north-west coast (the -do in Korean means 'island'). I also spent a weekend there doing a temple stay in November 2008.

The island is less than two hours drive from Seoul, but is quite rural.

One of the sites to see is one of Korea's largest dolmens, Bugeun-ni.

the top stone weighs 50 tonnes

Along with dolmens at Gochang and Hwasun it is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

There are also other smaller dolmens on the island at Gocheon-ri.

This is a typical, more contemporary, Korean burial mound.

Like much of Korea's west coast, Ganghwado has tidal flats. This area ranks amongst the world's five largest tidal flat areas.

Something else we visited while on the island was the Ganghwa Peace Observatory.

The building has four storeys and a basement, and amongst other things includes an observatory (of course!), an exhibition space, and a restaurant.

It was a restricted military facility until September 2008, when it partially reopened for public access.

Located on the northernmost point of the island it offers unrestricted views across to North Korea.

note the barbed wire

The observatory was established "to promote mutual understanding between the two Koreas and built unified Korea which will be peaceful and prosperous".

North Korea is only 2 km away.

It's a reminder that Korea is the only divided country in the world. The two countries are separated by the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) since the end of the Korean War in 1953. An armistice has never been signed.

Difficult to know whether villages like the one below are real or "propaganda".

zooming in on North Korea

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