Monday, April 08, 2019

the long-ish walk

It took me a bit longer than five hours to schlep from Yeouido back to my apartment next to Daecheong Station. I started off at the National Assembly building on the extreme west side of the island because that's where a website said the springtime flower festival was happening. I think I wandered through parts of that festival, but to be honest, the site wasn't nearly as crowded as I thought it would be. You'll see what I mean in the photos below. All the same, Yeouido was crowded enough to motivate me to walk the hell out of there as quickly as I could. The people began to thin out once I left the island and kept heading east along the Han River bike path. The rest of the path looked to have about the normal amount of foot and bike traffic for a beautiful Sunday in spring.

I recall how sparse the traffic was during my 2017 walk, except whenever I neared a major city. Much of that walk was quiet, with only intermittent bikers whizzing by. Sunday's walk was much more noisy, with tent cities having sprung up—as if the place had suddenly become Portland or San Francisco, but without the drugs, dung, theft, and rape—in all the available park space along the Yeouido segment of the bike path. I saw young women with flower garlands in their hair, and soon enough, I stumbled upon an impromptu garland-selling station that had been set up along the bike path. I wanted to take a shot of the garland-laden table and the girls selling the cute decorations (fake plastic flowers, all), but I think I stood still too long when composing my shot because one of the girls saw me and gave me a big, glowing smile, which I captured quite by accident. That may be my favorite photo in this collection. Thank you, O Serendipity.

The pics below are all large (about 640 pixels in width on a 72-dpi screen), but you can click on the landscape ones to enlarge further (1500 pixels). Actually, you can click on all the pics, portrait or landscape, but the portrait pics won't enlarge any further than 600 pixels if you click on them because 600 px is their original size.

First shot: this is where I got out of the cab and began the uphill walk to the street that led to the National Assembly. Traffic was fine until we were within about two kilometers of Yeouido. We skirted around the main exit to the island, drove a bit farther along the expressway, then took a direct exit to the National Assembly. I told the cabbie to let me off when we were within walking distance of South Korea's version of the US Congress (except that, in Korea, the National Assembly is a unicameral body, not bicameral like in the States).

Cherry trees were everywhere; there was no avoiding them:

I think this marked one boundary of the flower festival:

See what I mean about how the place wasn't that crowded? We're at the lawn in front of the National Assembly building. Several events were scheduled to happen there around 2 p.m.; I arrived around 1:45, and I didn't stick around for anything, not wanting to be deluged in booming voices from giant speakers.

Behold the lack of crowd density:

I saw these ajummas, perhaps part of some performance troupe, and couldn't resist taking a picture as one of the ladies walked in a stately manner toward where I was standing:

A fountain that I had somehow never noticed before, with eternally vomiting lions:

The National Assembly building, with a slice of the fountain:

The National Assembly building, front and center:

A young YTN reporter, prepping with her crew, her shirt fashionably untucked except for at the front—a move that only a cute chick can get away with:

Below: cherry trees a-blooming. The Korean term for "cherry blossom(s)" sounds like butt-goat, so that's what they are in my mind. Welcome, then, to the butt-goat festival.

I tried to get an angle that would produce an "avenue" effect, showing off the line of cherry trees heading east along the street:

Getting closer to my target: the Han River bike path. The sign below is pointing to some sort of art market, which I think I passed through. There wasn't much there; the market turned out to be a few hastily put-together stalls selling very little that looked worthwhile.

Next to the art-market sign was this silly photo-op threshold:

In the shot below, I'm by the river, but I've trained my camera on a shallow pool in which kids and adults are playing. This is obviously a family-oriented day: lots of fathers are taking pics of their kids as the kids whiz by on bikes, skates, or their little feeties. In a bit, you'll see the tent cities, filled with couples and families who staked out a small patch of ground on which to sit all day... not very entertaining, in my opinion. I've done something similar during July 4th events on the DC Capitol grounds, and I can't say I enjoyed the crowds, nor did I enjoy the long, long wait for the evening festivities to begin.

The pool:

Here's one shot of the tents:

I'm still in Yeouido at this point, so the paths are all crowded. I don't suffer from agoraphobia, as far as I know, but I don't like spending long periods among too many of my kind. So I kept up a steady walking pace and chugged my way eastward, eager to get where it was quieter:

And here we are, at my favorite moment of the day. I wasn't very slick in my attempt to snap a secret pic of the flower girls selling their garlands. One of the young ladies noticed me and flashed her pearly whites:

Tents were placed in every available space:

I'm leaving Yeouido now. Near the east side of the island, the bike path goes under some long overpasses, so this part of the walk is in the shade. That was a relief: the day had been sunny, and I regretted not having worn my toshi sleevelets to protect my forearms from burning. In the end, I didn't end up burned, but the sun was warm wherever I received direct sunlight. Being under those roadways allowed me to enjoy some soothing coolness. Note that the cherry trees almost seem to be following us, like that drunk friend who tugs on your shirt and drool-drawls, "Hey, don't go yet! We can do a few more rounds!"

I noticed some stairs and a weird, complicated metal structure that looked and felt a bit steampunkish, so I took the following photo. I think the complicated whatever-it-was was a group of electrical boxes for the wiring in that neighborhood, but I can't be sure. It all looked very artistically rusted.

Note the colorfully painted bleachers, where people can sit and cheer the river while it flows:

Fast-forward a few hours, and I'm nearly done with the walk. I didn't bother to photograph the other parts of the route because I've already done that several times for you, and I didn't want to bore you. I took the following shot, though, because of the blossoming cherry tree:

When the cabbie picked me up, and I asked him to take me to the National Assembly building, he laughed and said, "You're going to the festival, right?" I said yes, and he gestured around my neighborhood: "But you've got cherry trees all around here!" I nodded and didn't argue. I suppose I could've said, "Good God, man! What was I thinking?"—and gotten out of the cab.

As you see below, there are indeed many cherry trees close to where I live. This path converted itself very nicely into a sort of lovers' lane:

And this final shot, which will probably look more impressive when you click and enlarge it, shows the Jamshil Lotte World Tower rising phallically above a horizon of cherry trees by my apartment building. Sick of cherry trees yet?

And that's the end of that photo essay. Happy springtime to you all. May buxom Oestre bless you with her ponderous bosom of wonders, filling your veins with elixir vitae.

ADDENDUM: I didn't stop to rest, and I drank nothing along the way. By the end of the walk, my feet were achy, but there were no blisters and no firecrotch, luckily, so all is well. I think I lost three kilos during the walk, which is normal; all of that is water weight and not anything substantial. I'll regain it all shortly. I'm not sure how advisable it is to walk five hours without drinking anything, especially given how sweaty I am, but I survived with little more than a very dry mouth. Once I was near my apartment, I ducked into a convenience store and loaded up on drinks. Long walks make me more thirsty than hungry. Once home, I ended up being too tired to do any shopping or cooking, but I did do my laundry, then I sat down and watched "A Vigilante" with Olivia Wilde, which I'll be reviewing soon.


John Mac said...

Love the photos. Brought back some nice memories of walking that same stretch of river, at least as far as the Banpo bridge. Springtime was always my favorite in Korea. Well, in Seoul anyway. Down in Pyeongtaek it always smelled like manure in April.

Anyway, your post brought this old song to mind:

If you're going to Yeouido
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to Yeouido
You're gonna meet some gentle people there
For those who come to Yeouido
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of Yeouido
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

Charles said...

I think the whole pitching-a-tent-on-a-tiny-patch-of-ground thing might be related to having kids, so you have some sort of "home base" for them to come back to and nap when they get tuckered out. At least, that is the best explanation I can think of, because I've never quite understood the fascination with it.

We're still waiting for the cherry blossoms to come out in full up here on campus, although they were in full bloom down at the subway station over the weekend. Is it just me, or does it feel like the blossoms are a bit early this year?

Kevin Kim said...


I saw lots of families in tents, but there were also couples and singletons. One couple had a largish tent in which they had set up a table on which was a cute little tablecloth, a bottle of wine, wine glasses, and some French-looking edibles like fruit and cheese. Very posh.

Lots of screaming kids, crying babies, and yapping toy-breed dogs. Sort of a happy madhouse.

John Mac,

I'm guessing that Pyeongtaek is largely farmland if you're getting all the smells of nature.

Yeah, spring in Seoul is quite nice... at least when the micro-fine dust isn't clogging our lungs.