Korea trip 2022-3, day 11 – 7 Jan

J’s friends HK, KJ, J and I caught two trains to Seodaemun station (to the west of the CBD), where we joined a hiking group. My previous experience of Korean hiking groups is that they walk very fast, except when they stop for photos, which is less often than I do. Inwangsan is one of the mountains on which the city wall is built. It has two peaks. We climbed the first but one of the group was suffering from a dicky knee so we decided to come down one of the valleys. (We had also joined a hiking group (whether the same one) on a previous trip. Because I was in less condition then and wanted to take photos, the Koreans complained about how slow I was, so we left the group (I have no memory of where we came down) then caught a taxi to the ending point.) We had an extensive lunch banquet in a restaurant in a back-back-back alley near Gwanghwamun. I took a brief excursion round Sejongno Plaza and Gwanghwamun gate (the are in front of which is being redeveloped). We caught two trains home then had a quiet evening. KJ returned home but we have been joined by another friend from Busan.  

Foggy, with a hint of sun early afternoon, extensive snow on the ground in the mountain, 18040 steps (approx 12.6 km). Food: banquet lunch including, marinated crab, spring onion pancake and grill fish; miscellaneous for dinner. 2 trains, hike, 2 trains. 

Returning to a destination probably involves a mixture of revisiting places previously been to, and new places. In this case, I’d been here before, but this particular hike on this particular mountain on this particular day had been planned before they knew we’d be here. Even so, there are multiple trails on the same mountain. We might have gone somewhere different. It turns out that we largely retraced a previous hike.

Because Seoul metro lines criss-cross a lot, it is possible to take two different routes to/from the same destination or nearby. Our trip there was to Cheonho on line 9, changing to line 5 to Seodaemun. Coming back from Gwanghwamun (walking distance from Seodaemun) didn’t involve returning to Seodaemun but rather taking line 3 to Garak Market and changing to line 8 there. (Though if our hike had been more of a loop and our restaurant nearer to Seodaemun, we might have done a simple reverse journey home.)


Korea trip 2022-3, day 9 – 6 Jan

J’s friend HK picked us, then KJ, then drove to her place in Seongnam city (first city in Gyeonggi-do south-east of Seoul Special City area, but still within the greater Seoul area). She lives near Namhansan (the major mountain south-east of Seoul). My plan is to go there later, but we went today for lunch and a short walk around the temporary palace (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namhansanseong). We ate dinner at HK’s apartment, then went for a walk, during which it started snowing.

Hazy, misty, cloudy, snow, -9 to 5. 10412 steps (approx 7.2 km). Food: samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) and kimchi and potato pancakes. Car, walk. 

I needed a relatively restful day. We have switched accommodation from J’s brother and sister-in-law’s apartment in south-western suburban Seoul to her friend’s apartment in a new development. Weather forecasts varied between ‘rain’, ‘rain and ‘snow’ and ‘snow’. I probably won’t get excited about ‘rain’.

HK’s apartment complex is huge – 39 buildings, up to 24 storeys each, with 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 apartments in each, so nearly 4,000 apartments and 10,000+ people. Our development in Sydney has two-storey houses or duplexes/townhouses.

Korea trip 2022-3, day 8 – 5 Jan

Bus to Mok-dong, trains to Gongdeok and Ichon, walk to Han River then via Hangang Bridge to Nodeulseom (island) walk then lunch. Bus to Seoul Station, walk along Seoullo (former elevated road redeveloped into linear park) and Docking Seoul. 2 trains and bus.

Hazy for most of the day, clearing mid-afternoon, -10 to 3. Steps 21350 (approx 14.9 km). Food: kimbap for lunch, fried rice for dinner. Bus, 2 trains, walk, bus, walk, 2 trains, bus.

Today was slightly frustrating. I wanted to go to Seoullo and Nodeulseom, probably in that order. Seoullo starts near Seoul Station, but our line doesn’t go directly there. Fine, I’ll change at Gongdeok. Except Gongdeok Station is *huge* (it is one of three(?) stations with four intersecting lines) and it doesn’t help that two of those lines are colour-coded in some shade of green, and I ended up on the wrong one. But that one went to Ichon, which is reasonably close to the second place I wanted to go (a more direct way of getting there is by bus from Seoul Station, but that requires getting to Seoul Station in the first place). The second frustration was the weather, which was fully but lightly cloudy for most of the day, then cleared while I was on my way home. At least the bus between Nodeulseom and Seoul Station was unproblematic. On the way home, I decided to go three stations in the other direction to change once at a station I have been to before, rather than change trains twice (including at Gongdeok again) (but at least I would have found out where the platform I’d been meant to be on the first time, was).

(Transfer stations like Gongdeok are basically two, three or four separate stations joined by tunnels, rather than being integrated in any way. Sometimes they are more logical (like Dongdaemun Plaza Station, which is three in a long row; others cross at right angles), but Gongdeok was impossible.)

The third frustration was the safety barriers at Seoullo. Just occasionally they had spaces in the glass panels which were big enough to take photos through but small and high enough not to easily drop anything through (including oneself). Otherwise, it is necessary to take photos through the glass. Generally, I didn’t.

(Google continues to be imaginative. In the second picture, the track should be along the north bank to the bridge, the south to the island, then around the island, then north along the road. I didn’t set foot on the south bank and I didn’t walk across the river even once.)

Korea trip 2022-3, day 7 – 4 Jan

Trains to Techno Park, Woninjae, Incheon, then Skytrain (monorail) to Wolmido, sea front/amusement park and hike to first lookout point, Skytrain to Incheon, Chinatown briefly, trains to Sindorim and Sinjeonnegori, taxi. 

Clear and warm at times, -10 to 3. Steps 12,408 (approx 8.6 km), Food: buffet breakfast, pork cutlet for lunch, marinated beef bbq for dinner at home with Myung-hee. 5 trains, monorail, taxi. 

Korea trip 2022-3, day 6 – 3 Jan

Bus to Sinjeongnegori station, train to Sindorim, change to Bupyeong, change to Central Park (Songdo, Incheon), pizza for lunch, I walked around the lake park and J went shopping, galbi (barbecued marinade pork) for dinner. 

Our first overnight trip away. It is probably just possible to visit Wolmido (former island, historical site off Incheon, with park and amusement park) and Songdo (anther former island, now a major development) in one day, but J had the idea to stay overnight. 

Clear, occasionally cold when windy, -12 to 1. Steps 16,339 (approx 11.4 km). Bus, 3 trains. Food: prosciutto and rucola pizza, galbi bbq. 

Korea trip 2022-3, day 5 – 2 Jan

Clear and warmish in the sun with no wind, cold in the shade and very cold when the wind occasionally blew, -9 to -1. Bus to Mok-dong, trains to Dongdaemun Plaza and Hanseong University. Walk from Hyewhawmun (north-west gate) to Naksan Park, then to Daehangno, met J, walked to Ihwa Mural Village, 2 trains to Solleung (near Gangnam), dinner with a university friend of J and her husband (who I am Facebook friends with and who is a supportive fan of my photography), also met their son, who I had met the first time I lived here, 2 trains and taxi home. Steps 24,114 (approx 16.8 km). Bus, 2 trains, hike, 2 trains, 2 trains, taxi. Food: sashimi mixed rice; mixed seafood soup. 

After a disappointing day following the old city wall on Friday, it’s back on the agenda. This portion is impossible to miss. Except that in 2015-16 I did. Then, I walked north from the east gate, got to a point where the wall stop and I couldn’t find where it continued. This time, I started at the north-west gate and walked south. I got to the same point, at which there’s a modern gap in the wall the width of a modern road. That’s it, the continuation of the wall is just metres away. From various points I could see the portions between the north-east, north and north-west gates, which are spectacular, and I’ve just got to do. Ihwa Art Village, which is on every list of things to do, was a big disappointment, unless there’s some other part to it. An area right at the top of the hill (now cafes, restaurants, lookouts and the park near it (which I didn’t explore this time but remember from last time) are highly recommended though, as are the randomly chosen Cafe 369 near the north-west gate and Ohana restaurant at the top of the hill.

J’s sister-in-law MH arrived back from another country, where her husband is working and their son graduated from university (studying in English at a university there). 

Korea trip 2022-3, day 4 – 1 Jan

Bus to Mok-dong, train right across to Gandong then another to a station near there (Purple line 5 splits into two – we might have caught one train but were on the other), picked up by one of J’s nieces, apart from a trip to a coffee shop, we were at J’s oldest sister’s apartment all day, with oldest sister, her husband, his mother, their two children, spouses and two children each, second sister and her husband, and older younger brother’s wife (all of whom I’ve met before; the youngest nephew is too young to remember me – I last saw him at his first birthday); reverse transport (one train) on the way home (in three days of being out and about, I’ve spent about AUD12 on public transport).  

We were planning to meet J’s family for lunar new year (and still are), but her first sister organised about half the family to meet today. Plans are in progress for most/most/all to meet for lunar new year.

Clear and relatively warm (or less cold), temperature -4 to 4. Steps 5104 (approx 3.5 km), bus, 2 trains, car; car 1 train, bus. Food: lunch, rice cake soup; dinner – everything plus rice dumpling and mushroom soup. 

Korea trip 2022-3, day 3 – 31 Dec

Bus to city to collect backpack, which I’d left at the restaurant last night, two trains and taxi to Mangwon (west of city) to meet friend KJ, lunch, walk to Mangwon Han River park, Battleship Park, walk along river to Sky Park, then past World Cup stadium to KJ’s apartment, dinner, two buses home

Cloudy but dry, cloud cleared late, temperature -9 to 5. Steps 24,884 (approx 17.4 km) (which would otherwise have been a record, except for yesterday) (much flatter than yesterday; the road up to Sky Park isn’t onerous). Bus, 2 trains, river and park walk, 2 buses. Food: lunch, hanjeongshik (rice with many, many side dishes to be mixed together); dinner sushi, fish roe and kimchi soup, stir-fried beef and bean sprouts

(Google Maps’ location tracker isn’t very accurate – the walk across the Han River just didn’t happen. Possibly Naver or Kakao maps is more accurate, but I’m used to this now.

Korea trip 2022-3, day 2 – 30 Dec

bus to Mokdong, train to Dongdaemun Design Plaza station, Dongdaemun gate, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Namsan, Namdaemun gate, Namdaemun market, Sejongno, met Inyoung at a coffee shop in Gwanghwamun, light festival, bus home

Temperature -7 to 2, clear, mostly calm. Steps 35,114 (approx 24.5 km) (by far a new record). Bus, metro, hike, bus. Food: nacho cheese burger on Namsan, meat patty and sweet like a churro in Namdaemun, seolleongtang (sliced beef, green onions, noodles and rice in broth) in Gwangwhamun. 

High on my list of things to do was the Seoul City Wall trail. The wall was built in 1394 and is in a variety of conditions from (mostly) original, added to or rebuilt in old times, (mostly) destroyed or completely obliterated by modern development. I have been to most places along the southern portion, but not Bukhaksan to the north, so this was theoretically a way to string them all together. I had found an online copy of the guide book, and had assumed that printed copies would be relatively easy to find, but the tourist information booth at Dongdaemun Plaza didn’t have any and suggested going to the City Wall Museum, which was out of my way. But there was a map in Korean. 

Along the way I visited (to some degree) Dongdaemun gate, the Cheonggyecheon, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Jangchungdan Park, Dongkuk University (I had applied for jobs there – imagine the walking and photography I would have got done), Namsan, Seoul Tower, Dongdaemun gate, Dongdaemun market, Gwanghwamun Plaza and a light festival (there was also a light display at Cheonggye Plaza). My wife J (having done her own things for the day) joined me for dinner at a small restaurant behind the Sejong Centre and a short wander around the festival. 

My original plan was to continue with the city wall walk tomorrow, but after 35,000 steps and getting lost once (I should have stuck to my original plan), the next leg (ha!) (from Namdaemun to Seodaemun and Inwansan) is going to have to wait. We have been invited to hike on Inwansan by J’s old hiking group later in this trip, but my experience of Korean hiking groups is that walk super-fast and don’t allow stopping to take photos (which, for me, is the point of going anyway). Then on the bus home her friend KJ rang and suggested meeting tomorrow at Sky Park (Hanuel Gongwon) near the World Cup Stadium, which we’ve been to before but it’s big and there are many parts I haven’t been to. Shortly after, I realised that I didn’t have my backpack (which I probably hadn’t needed anyway). We got off the bus and J very cleverly traced the random restaurant we’d been to by searching for seolleongtang Ganghwamun and recognised it from any other restaurant in Ganghwamun. Yes, they had my backpack and we could collect it tomorrow morning. 

Korea trip 2022-3, day 1 – 29 Dec

Suburban Sydney driver service to Sydney Airport, 10.20 scheduled/10.50 actual flight to Incheon 19.00 scheduled/18.41 actual, airport bus to Gimpo airport then taxi to my wife’s brother and sister-in-law’s house in suburban Seoul.

As an Australian, I get 90-day visa-free entry, but as a COVID measure I had to apply for an electronic travel authority. I applied several weeks ago, and got an email with a big green tick and ‘application complete’. When we got to the airport, I showed it to the check-in person, who said I needed a second email with ‘K-ETA granted’. There was no other email and he checked the ETA system and couldn’t find mine. He said I’d have to apply again. I logged on (hooray for mobile phones) and after entering my passport number and email address got a message saying ‘A valid authority already exists’. I showed that to the man, who meanwhile had called his supervisor who checked in a different way and that worked. So I was through. (There was also a second, related procedure I had to do online but that went without a problem. We had our temperature checked but didn’t have to answer any questions about ) I also had a minor delay in getting my hiking boots through the scanner. (My wife got an actual visa in order to operate bank accounts, mobile phones and possibly other things here.)

South Korea has an extensive network of airport buses to various places around greater Seoul and most cities further afield. We took a bus to Gimpo Airport and a taxi to my wife’s brother and sister-in-law’s house (approximately Mok-dong). When she gave the address, the driver told her to repeat it to the GPS app, which processed her speech into a destination … then dropped us a block away, which we had no hope of recognising in the dark (though we knew we were very close). BTW J’s brother is currently working overseas and her sister-in-law is visiting him, so we have their place to ourselves. 

There were small patches of snow on the ground and a forecast of snow overnight, and there’s a tiny amount on the roads this morning. There is no more on the 1-2 week forecast.

Mornings are very dark in the middle of winter. I’m typing this at 7.30 the next morning, and the eastern sky is just beginning to lighten. Compared to it being full daylight when we left home at 6 am yesterday. In fact, the daylight map on the plane showed that the sun sets in Seoul before it does in Sydney, even though Seoul is further west. 

4040 steps, car, plane, airport bus, taxi. Food: airline bibimbap and spicy pork.