Monday, April 11, 2016

the Iron Triangle in pictures

During my 3.5-hour, 21K-step walk on Saturday, I took a few pictures. Now that I've done the walk, I'm not inclined to do it again: it got rather crowded and unpleasant when I hit Jamshil, right around the Jamshil Lotte Hotel and Sokchon Lakes. I wish I had taken pictures of the crowd at that intersection (roughly Jamshil Daero and Olympic Daero); it was something.

It didn't help that there was lot of construction going on; thin metal safety walls had been put up, and these restricted the available standing space as we all waited for the crosswalk lights to turn green. When the light did turn green, it was unreal: two masses of people, starting on opposite sides of the crosswalk, converged and moved through each other like the stars in colliding galaxies. I ended up following a breakaway group of people who, instead of crossing at the crosswalk itself, went diagonally through idling traffic and hit the other side of the street past the wholly unnecessary safety barricades.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's begin at the beginning.

Start time: approximately 3:20PM, Saturday, April 9, 2016.

My Iron Triangle walk took me from Daecheong Tower roughly toward Daechi Station, but I swung right when I realized I didn't need to go all the way to Daechi (where I work) in order to follow the street leading to the Samseong COEX World Trade Tower. I was startled to see, as I walked along the artery that leads from "old Gangnam" to "new Gangnam," that there was a Woo Lae Oak restaurant just sitting there, minding its own business:

There's a Woo Lae Oak that's famous among the Koreans who live in northern Virginia; there may be other branches in Virginia and elsewhere as well. My brother David says the US-based Woo Lae Oaks are spinoffs—cousins, offspring, whatever—of the original Seoul-based restos. (I'm assuming Woo Lae Oak is a chain.) In the States, these establishments are pricey, and that's saying something because Korean food in the US is already too pricey.

Walking to the COEX Tower was easy. It turns out that Samseong-dong really isn't that far away. Judging by the time stamps on my photos, the tower is a little over a mile away from where I live. I can basically walk to my buddy Jang-woong's neighborhood. Here's a skyward look at the COEX World Trade Tower:

As befits a building of this size and heft, there are large works of art guarding the front entrance—sculptures of different sizes and styles. Like this one:

This next sculpture prompted me to tweet, "Well, Spike... we made it."

Having started at the first vertex of my triangle and having hit the second vertex so quickly, I hunted around for a way to reach the third vertex without having to consult my phone's GPS. Luckily, the signage in downtown Seoul is excellent, and right at the intersection of Samseong Station, there was a huge sign pointing down to Jamshil Station. I crossed the street, lumbered back down to the intersection, turned left, and began walking to the Jamshil district. I ended up on Olympic Daero, one of the main streets in Seoul that, as its name implies, celebrated (and still celebrates, presumably) the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. The street's median contains a long line of sculptures, all of which honor the exuberance of human striving. That said, the phrase that popped into my head when I saw the sculpture below, right across from the Sports Complex (Jonghap Undongjang) was "triumphant fisting."

I thought of my buddy Tom when I saw this next sculpture. Tom's a fanatic when it comes to Korean baseball. This sculpture felt a bit "meta" to me, given that it shows two guys playing ball...on balls.

This next sculpture obviously celebrates judo, which is called yudo in Korean, although the word comes from the same two Chinese characters:

I suspect my buddy Mike would call this boxing sculpture "totalitarian Gothic" because of its rough, imposing, muscular style. Then again, I've only ever heard Mike use his term when describing stone sculptures.

I'm pretty sure that, if any of my students were to see the following picture, they'd say, "Ooh! It's Kevin!"—then giggle uncontrollably. Little bastards.

The walk down Olympic Daero was long, but I eventually saw the third vertex of my triangle looming ahead—the Lotte World Tower:

I passed by the old Lotte Department Store/Lotte World Adventure, a building that used to be more prominent before the Tower suddenly appeared and thrust skyward like a god's huge, unwelcome erection. Here's a shot of the old department store's iconic entrance. It's not quite the Osaka Glico Man, but it's pretty distinctive and easily recognizable to Seoulites:

I still hadn't reached the Lotte World Tower yet, but I was almost there. Looking left, I saw the gold-plated monstrosity that was Lotte Castle, a ritzy apartment complex done in an architectural style that would make Donald Trump feel right at home:

The Tower bulked ever closer...

I didn't bother to take any pictures of the awful intersection I'd talked about at the beginning of this post. I also failed to snap any pics as I walked along Songpa Daero, which runs perpendicular to Olympic. Songpa Daero runs past one side of Garak Market, but the market is huge, and when I turned right to point myself back toward my own neighborhood, I ended up walking past its northern gate:

I had gone there in February with Ligament to buy seafood. That had been my first-ever experience inside Garak Market, despite having lived in this part of Seoul for several months, long ago.

By this point, I was getting tired, and it was somewhere around here that my phone's pedometer signaled that I had done 10,000 steps. It felt as though I had walked a lot more, but no matter: I knew I was only halfway done.

Again, I didn't take many pictures along this part of my walk. There wasn't much exciting to see. I crossed a wide creek and turned right (I cheated and saw this on my GPS), following the water. I had moved onto a walking/biking path that was strangely beautiful despite being right next to a loud freeway (probably the Yangjae Daero). I knew I'd have to follow the path a ways, then figure out how to turn left, cross over the freeway, and get myself onto the street that would be a straight shot up to my building, Daecheong Tower.

Fortunately, a footbridge appeared, thus solving the freeway-crossing problem.

Conveniently, the footbridge had a ramp that pointed straight down to my building. In the photo below, you can actually see Daecheong Tower off in the distance. It's the huge white building that's slightly right of center in the photo, hulking behind some cherry blossoms.

It was after 6PM at this point, and I was ready to call it a day. I walked the final stretch of road to my apartment, but right as I neared the entrance to the local park, I checked my pedometer and saw that I had racked up only 17K steps. Apparently, the Iron Triangle hadn't been all that big. Not satisfied with that step count, I decided to walk three or four laps around the park's outer loop. Each loop would be about 1,100 or 1,200 steps, so three laps would put me over the 20K mark, thus giving me a Namsan-caliber trek.

I've talked often about the local park, but I think this is the first time that you, Dear Reader, have had a chance to glimpse it for yourself. Here's one shot:

And here's a blurry one:

I like to think of this next shot, below, as "the road not taken," as it's the path that affords the walker a shortcut to the other side. The park is laced with many paths, and thus many shortcuts, all of which I refuse to take when I'm in an "outer loop" state of mind. The outer loop has meter markings on it for joggers, but the markings actually follow a path that's slightly shorter than the path I myself walk: the meter-marked path is only about 980 meters long, whereas the path I walk is slightly over one kilometer. Back when I was a Namsan-ing fool, I liked to think about the nearly perfect proportions of my walks: 100 steps a minute, 1,000 steps a kilometer, therefore 10 minutes per kilometer, which lined up with my previous measurements of 18 or so minutes per mile (about 3.2 miles per hour). These days, alas, I'm walking more slowly—more like 92 steps a minute. And as mentioned above, a single lap around the park is about 1,100 or 1,200 steps, so I can't rely on any metric-style 1:10:100:1000 ratios to make rate calculations easier.

Anyway, enough math. Here's "the road not taken":

Finally, this last shot of the curving path seems about as iconic a shot as I can manage with my lack of professional photographic skills. I always turn right when I first enter the park and embark upon the outer loop, which means the loop is always curving generally left as I walk.

I finished my laps around the park and went back to my place, having racked up over 21K steps. This might become my new Saturday thing, gods and personal fortitude permitting. Meanwhile, during the week, I'll try to maintain a minimum of 15K steps per evening. Since I walk with my coworker several times throughout the day, I can cheat by front-loading steps before I even walk home to do my laps.

As for the Iron Triangle itself... yeah, I'm finished with it. I learned a bit about Gangnam's geography from my trek, but there isn't much there that I'd care to revisit, especially close to Lotte World Tower. Too crowded. I still dream of moving back to the Namsan neighborhood next to Dongguk University so I can return to hiking on my mountain—the mountain that got me healthier and that can do so again.



The Maximum Leader said...

I think that the boxers are sufficiently done up in the Totalitarian Gothic style.

Charles said...

Gotta love that dust. Did you wear a mask?

Kevin Kim said...


Ah. Good.


No mask, alas. On my phone, said the day was "foggy," not dusty, so I naively went with that.

John (I'm not a robot) said...

I really enjoyed your photo essay of the long walk. Next best thing to being there. Keep 'em coming!

Charles said...

Yeah, I don't think understands what spring is like in Korea. HJ and I went for a hike on Saturday and dutifully wore masks, despite it being quite stifling. But the dust has been so ridiculous so far this spring, so we figured masks were the lesser of two evils.

That's Korea and her four seasons for you: generally miserable cold, dust clouds, muggy monsoon weather, and a brief window of beautiful weather in the fall.