Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seoul Fortress Hike

One thing I learned during my pre-trip research is that hiking is a huge pastime in Seoul. The city is a sprawling metropolis, but the surrounding mountains provide myriad hiking opportunities. I took advantage of the so-called Seoul Fortress hike, mostly due to its close proximity and the history behind it.

The main part of the hike traverses Bugaksan, a mountain to the north of Seoul that overlooks the President's official residence (Cheongwadae or the "Blue House"). Because of security concerns, you have to fill out an application and provide some identifying information to enter.

You spend pretty much the entire hike on the old Seoul Fortress wall. It's an interesting peek into the city's history. You can even see where wall-building technology changed. Or perhaps these are sections of the wall that were later rebuilt.

Soon into the hike, you come across Sukjeongmun, the great north gate. I already posted a photo of the gate's exterior in a previous post. Here, you can see the gate's interior. Unlike the other gates around the city, you can actually go inside.

Bugaksan provides fantastic views. Unfortunately, photography is mostly prohibited due to the high security—there are guards stationed at regular intervals. With that in mind, I'm not sure how I managed to capture the shot below. You can see the section of wall that I had already hiked.

This stone marks Bugaksan's 342m peak. Don't worry. The guard at this spot indicated that photography was allowed. The peak had a nice view of Namsan Tower to the south.

The descent after the peak turned out to be very steep. I'm glad I did the trail east to west instead of the opposite direction. The map below shows the basic route. I started at the white line (road) just below the gate at the bottom (Sukjeongmun) and ended at the gate up top (Changuimun).

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nexus 5

Only a geek would create a photoblog post about a new phone.

I'm up for an upgrade on December 1. But forget all that now. This phone is unlocked and works on pretty much any carrier. It also introduces the new Android version 4.4, otherwise known as KitKat. I haven't had much time to play around with it yet. For sure, it will be nice to have a powerful phone again (my aging Galaxy Nexus is still decent, but was slowly showing its age).

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hanok Villages

There are two great places in Seoul to see the traditional Korean house known as Hanok. One is an actual residential area called Bukchon. For a while, I understand that the residents of Bukchon were modernizing their homes, but the city has provided incentives for people to restore them to their original glory. As probably the last neighborhood in Seoul with a large concentration of Hanok, this is a great idea.

In another part of town, you'll find the Namsangol Hanok Village. These aren't replicas or recreations. Rather, they are actual Hanok that have been relocated and restored. The village is like a window back in time.