Tuesday, December 20, 2016

a walk to the Han in 26 images

Of the 79 shots I took during my two-hour walk to and along the Han River, here are the best 26. I had wanted to select 25, but I somehow doubled up my count when I was emailing these pics to myself for download.*

There will be blogged commentary along with the pics, as per usual, and if you hover your cursor over the images, there will likely be some "title" text (i.e., a sort of caption) as well. All the vertical (portrait-style) pics are at full size (600 pixels for a 72 dpi display); all horizontal (landscape-style) pics can be clicked to enlarge them. Once you click to enlarge, you can enlarge them to their fullest size by right-clicking each enlarged image and selecting "open image in new tab." This will be true for only the 20th and 23rd images in this series.

I normally walk the creekside trail toward the nearby city of Gwacheon; I live close enough to the edge of Seoul that, if I walk a couple hours in one direction, I can leave Seoul entirely. Walking in that direction had become such a habit, over the past few months, that I had almost begun to forget that there was a completely different world available to me if only I turned 180 degrees and walked the other way. My normal walk takes me far along the Yangjae-cheon, a local creek. Going in the opposite direction means following the Yangjae-cheon to the larger Tan-cheon, which is a tributary of the Han River. Were I to walk long enough, I'd be at the Han, at which point almost all of the city's downtown points would be available to me, given enough time and leg-energy.

After having threatened or promised to do this walk-to-the-Han months ago, I finally did it this past Sunday. All in all, I have to say that the promenade isn't a pretty one. I much prefer my normal Yangjae-cheon creekside stroll toward Gwacheon City. Walking toward the Han means walking downtown, into the thick of Seoul, where all the buildings and bridges and vehicles are. But while this jaunt isn't pretty, it's very impressive because it gives me the chance to see all that mighty construction. Massive, looming structures—mostly bridges—flank the Hanward path along the Tan-cheon and the south side of the Han River, and it's hard not to feel small in the presence of all those tons of concrete and steel, each structure representing years of collective effort and toil. And that's much the same feeling I've had when walking into a cathedral in Europe, knowing that those stones had to be moved to that holy spot, then stacked in place, by hard labor. A cathedral is a massive act of forced and unforced devotion; the bridges and buildings in Seoul are much the same, but in the service of one's fellow men, not of a deity.

First image—the curving arrow tells me which way to go to reach the Han River:

Below: I took a picture of these tall plants, whose name I don't know, because I began to admire their defiance. Almost all the other foliage, except for the trees, seems to have been beaten down by the incipient cold... but not these guys. Stubborn and proud, these plants stand tall and bravely say "Fuck you!" to the falling temperatures. I wonder how long they can remain bloodied but unbowed.


In the pic below, there's... well, I'll just let you stare into the image until you see it staring right back at you.

Sorry for the lack of focus in the next image, but I was using my digital zoom. I took several signpost pics like this—most of which I haven't included in this series—to show, jokingly, that I was still on the right track. (The joke is that it's nearly impossible to get lost when you're walking next to waterways.)

And this shall be a sign unto you:

Massive structures, dominating my path:

In quainter English, these bundles of sticks would be called "fagots" or "faggots":

I passed by a whole army of these yellow cars emblazoned with the name and logo for Ottogi (it should really be romanized as "Oddugi"), a popular food brand:

"Mrs. Kim, we found your kidnapped boy. He seems to be all right. More than all right, actually; his captors have fed him so well that he's grown to the size of a building."


A shot eastward, back toward Jamshil and the Lotte World Tower:

There were parts of the path where a clear distinction was made between where the walkers go and where the bikers go. This is Korea, however, so some obnoxious bikers (kids, mostly) biked along the walking path. Here's a placid scene:

And here is a milestone whose significance eludes me:

An ambulance makes its way along the path, probably to rescue one of the idiots who ignored the "walking path/biking path" signs...

This building, below, fascinated me because it had been built so perilously close to the bridge. I had to wonder how noisy it was inside:

I suspect a sewage pipe, but this could just have been for runoff... or maybe it's the pipe for the chemicals that produced the mutant monster in the movie "Gwaemul." I had to look backward to take this photo:

Even though this next pic is out of focus thanks to my digital zoom, I like it because it shows a congress of birds acting all sinister... hatching their plots, so to speak:

And what flat-headed, alien-faced beast is this, crouched at yon far riverbank?

Signs cautioning you, in a somewhat humorous way, about curbs and not speeding:

Me and my increasingly gray hair:

Something of a relief to be out from under all those bridges, but there are more bridges ahead.

Click to enlarge the boathouse below:

I was delighted when I saw the tunnel in the image below. Seoul has a distinct lack of good graffiti, unlike Europe and the US. Seeing this burst of aggressive creativity made my day:

And here's the sign for my bridge: the Dongho. I had decided to end my walk right around here and take the subway back to my place; Apgujeong Station was at the bridge's south end, where I was; Oksu Station was at the north end, which would mean crossing the bridge to cross the river and reach that station. I chose to do that.

Click on the image below to see some truly immense bridgework:

On the Dongho Bridge and moving across the river now:

Ahead and to the right: the covered platform of Oksu Station. Of course, there was no way to just march across traffic and get to the station. In the land where no goal is ever reached by going straight from Point A to Point B, I had to keep marching forward until I reached a set of stairs on my side (the left side from my perspective). I would then have to go down the stairs and turn right before I could reach Oksu Station. A set of escalators would take me right back up to the bridge's level, but now I'd be able to reach the train platform.

The covered platform:

The stairs down to street level:

...and that's my walk. I didn't actually go straight to Oksu Station: instead, I hit the Daiso (Japanese-style dollar store) beneath the station, shopped for a while, then finally took the subway back to my abode. I did consider continuing on to Namsan, which really wasn't that far away. But with daylight failing, I thought it best simply to return to my apartment. A six-mile walk is rather short by my standards, but it was enough for a cloudy Sunday.

All in all, an interesting adventure, but not one I'm keen to repeat, given how generally ugly the walk is. While the size and weight of all that massive construction was truly fascinating and intimidating, it just wasn't my cup of tea. Give me a small creek and lots of green, and I'm a much happier guy. Still, this Han River walk wasn't a waste of time; it was good to break routine and discover something new. New to me, anyway.

*I can't simply plug my phone into my computer and download pics directly. The app I'm supposed to use, Android File Transfer, has gotten so unstable as to be unusable. This is as much a hardware problem as it is a software problem (my computer simply fails to recognize that the phone is plugged into it, and/or it fails to recognize that the phone has a folder full of pics waiting to be downloaded), although I suspect software is the more fundamental issue. Upshot: I have no choice but to email pics to myself, open the emails in my laptop, then download them from the laptop so that I can use Photoshop to reduce them and get them prepped for display on the blog. It's a tedious process, but until AFP is improved, it's the only way for me to transfer pics.


John John McCrarey said...

Enjoyed the pics and commentary regarding your Han river walk. And it was nice so see some familiar places in a "been there, done that" kinda way.

I've never been able to figure out how to get photos from my phone directly to my computer either. I just upload them to Facebook, and download from there. Heh, it works although I guess my FB friends must wonder about the periodic random photos posted without caption or explanation.

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks for having the patience to slog through my tour! I'm thinking of putting all 79 pics up on Google Drive, then blogging a link to that slide show.

Surprises Aplenty said...

The grass is phragmites. In Ontario it is a fast-growing invasive. Here, I imagine elephants hiding in it.


Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, Brian. Looks to be phragmites japonicus. Some Korean somewhere is upset that it's not coreanus.

Heh. I wrote "anus."

Charles said...

Thanks for taking us along on the walk.

Kevin Kim said...


You're quite welcome. That was my first time ever crossing the Han on foot. A red-letter day.