Friday, May 5, 2017

Hiking Seoul City Wall, the Hanyang Do-seong

May 3 - Buddha's Birthday, May 4 a sandwich day, May 5 - Children's Day = If classes cancelled on May 4 (TH) and made up at an alternate time, then a 5-day weekend is formed. Done!

Hyehwamun - Malbawi Information Center

The weather was gorgeous and I had to be outside, so started walking ... and ended up walking along the Seoul City Wall from Hyehwamun, the northeastern gate and one of the 8 gates of the Seoul City Wall, to Malbawi Information Center on the way to Sukjeongmun, the gate north of the Cheongwandae (the Blue House). Read a book there for a few hours and then walked back home, thinking I would return the next day and hike further the trail behind the Blue House.

Waryong Park / Malbawi Information Center - Site of Donguimun/Seodaemun Gate

The next day I was back with ID card in hand to sign in at the Information Center so I could hike from the trail behind the Blue House and end up at the Changuimun Gate, about a 2 hour hike. While hiking the incredible scenic trail, I conceived the idea that I might as well just keep going and hike the whole Seoul City Wall. Two hours later, after handing in my ID hiking pass at the Changuimun Gate, I crossed the busy street that bisected the wall and started climbing the trail that went up Inwangsan. Wow, this was the most scenic part of the whole 18-kilometer trail! It was also the part where the wall was newly reconstructed in new white cement-stone, and evidence of an older wall totally eluded me. That said, despite history being recreated and looking white-washed and pure, the walk was quiet and ethereal. And I pretty much hiked by myself as it was the "sandwich day" between two national holidays. 

Just before passing beyond the Malbawi Information Center with walking ID in hand and entering the "no picture zone". Facing south, in the distance Namsan Tower stands on Namsan where the southern wall bands the city.
Since the Seoul City government is promoting people to walk the wall and offers a small badge for people who accumulate stamps from 4 areas (Sukjeongmun, Donuimun, Sungnyemun/Namdaemun, Heunginjimun/Dongdaemun) and I had received the stamp at Sukjeongmun, I thought I'd just collect all 4 stamps. Well, couldn't find the booth/office/place for receiving the stamp at Sungyemun. Not finding the booth was pretty consistent too as once the wall dipped down and was severed by modernism and development, the trail disappeared into urban bedlam. Construction, traffic madness, people chasing elusive ideas or narrow timetables ... couldn't find the stamp location. And the next morning when continuing the walk, couldn't find the location of the booth/office/place for receiving the stamp at Sungnyemun/Namdaemun Gate. I did find in the vicinity an adamantly closed Information Center kiosk with the dirtiest windows imagination ... like they hadn't been opened in weeks. Gave up the stamp idea. What good would come of getting a badge anyway? Humph.

A comment though on the wall and the semantics about the great fortress wall of Seoul. Eight years ago people talked about the 10 existing kilometers of the original 18 kilometer-long wall. Now, however, the marketing for the wall has radically changed. The wall is referred to as being 18 kilometers long, while in fact it is not. Yes, the extensive segment on Inwangsan has been built and other places radically rebuilt and/or repaired, but the wall certainly is not 18 kilometers long. The urban swell requires many roads to pass in and out of the city and major gaps in the walls exist to allow the city to be permeable with the rest of the country. In fact, most people on the roads aren't even aware of the wall on the higher slopes that "completely encircle the city". And, on the proposal submitted 2012 Nov 23 to UNESCO for the wall to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage (which it now is), the proposal clearly stated that 10.8 of the original 18.6 kilometers had been restored or well maintained. 
[Signs liberally posted along the wall walking path: Hanyang Doseong (Seoul City Wall) runs 18.6 km along Baegaksan, Naksan, Namsan and Inwangsan ... and passes through many historic sites including the four large gates, Sungnyemun, Heunginjimun, Sukjeongmun and the site of Donuimun.]
Anyway, the largest gap takes, according to the hiking map, 40 minutes to link the wall from the site of Donguimun Gate with Sungnyemun/Namdaemun Gate. I skipped this traffic hopscotch and still claim I hiked the whole wall in three days, which I did. 

The following statue is located at the end of the Bugaksan hike, after returning the security ID. Opposite the statue and across the street begins the next segment, the climb up Inwangsan.

Statue of Superintendent General Choi Gyu-sik and Assistant Inspector Officer Jung Jong-su

Choi Gyu-sik, born in Chuncheon Gangwon-do in 1931, entered the police service in 1961. As a chief officer of Jongno Police Station, he received classified information on January 21, 1968 detailing a North Korean commando unit composed of 31 troopers which included Kim Sin-jo was moving southward from the Paju area in a surprise attack on the South Korean Presidential Office, Cheongwadae (the Blue House). Choi Gyu-sik deployed police officers under his command to block the attack. The unit almost reached the Cheongwandae (currently, in front of the Cheongun Silver Center), but were stopped by armed commandos to inspect them, whereupon the North Korean troopers opened fire with machine guns and hand grenades. In the battle, Choi Gyu-sik was wounded in the heart and abdomen but ordered his men protect Cheongwadae before dying, which they succeeded in doing. In fulfilling his duties and giving his life in the line of duty of his government, Choi Gyu-sik was posthumously promoted to Superintendent General and awarded the Order of Taegeuk Military Merit

Assistant Inspector Officer Jung Jong-su, born in Sangju Gyeogsanbuk-do in 1935 and entering the police service in 1960, also died in the battle. He was posthumously promoted to Assistant Inspector Officer and awarded the Hwarang Order of Military Merit. The tombstone a few meters from Choi Gyu-sik's commemorative statue has been erected on the site where the two officers died while resisting the North Korean troopers infiltration. The bronze statue overlooks the road to Cheongwadae as in a symbolic showing that their spirits live on to protect Cheongwadae.

Climbing up Inwangsan ....

High up on Inwangsan looking back toward the wall already hiked (north).
Looking toward Namsan (south).
Continuing down ... heading south.
... southward ... it's quite a meander ...
A favorite shot on the Inwangsan descent. Namsan in the distance.
Getting lower and the mountain starting to level out.
Wow, I wouldn't like to hike this segment clockwise! Power thighs definitely needed!

Sungnyemun/Namdaemun Gate - Heunginjimun/Dongdaemun Gate

The rebuilt Namdaemun. It's only been open a couple years since it was burned by an arsonist in 2008. Quite an amazing shot at 9:24am on Children's Day ... virtually no traffic! A true miracle!!!
Climbing Namsan, looking westward.
On Namsan, a direct view to the north and the mountains I was on yesterday.

This section of the wall is the most popular. Here the wall is linked by large parks and culture trails to village areas, very crowded village areas, and to market to the continual flow of traffic, shops, street vendors,  and cultural interests (street artists, vendors selling locks for couples to "lock their love" on a gate, cultural performances like pansori or the guards reenactments). There are even several buses (all of them packed!) and a cable car to expedite the lazy to get to the top of Namsan with little effort. Yes, it is Children's Day, but wow, after the quiet of the other segments of the city wall, the thriving mass of people flocking to the Namsan section was a bit of a surprise.

"Locking Love" on a gate near the peak of Namsan. There used to be just one gate for proclaiming eternal love and now there are several sections. The cheapest padlock sold by a vendor in this area is W8,000, and they're plastic-like. The guy has enough to send his kids and grandkids to Harvard!
Namsan Tower from the first "Locking Love" gate.  The 5 pillars are actually part of an advanced ancient lookout system for alerting citizens of an invasion. 
Arrived just in time to see the 11am mini re-enactment of the defense soldiers coming on duty to serve on the lookout for the enemy invaders.
Sentinels standing guard ... My question, but shouldn't they be facing the other way in order to carry out their protection duties?
Descending Namsan and looking back ...
This whole section of the wall had frequent gaps in it to expedite traffic and urban life, and while the brown culture-referencing signs point walkers where to go to pick up the next severed segment, the signs are not always present. The most clearly marked gap was from Jangchung Gymnasium to Gwanghuimun Gate, a 15-minute walk through snaking back alleys. The two worst areas are from the moment the Inwangsan trail hit the urban area (utter madness and huge amounts of construction aiding the madness) and the gap from the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park to Dongdaemun itself. Too many ultra-tall buildings and a mad network of urban streets and no signs directing the way. I was very dependent on naver maps to figure out these urban yarn ravels. 

Heunginjimun/Dongdaemun Gate - Hyehwamun Gate

This is also a pleasant popular place to stroll, very popular for dating. Some little coffee shops and restaurants are speckled along the wall, and if the hiker doesn't exit from "inside" the wall to the "outside" on the steep descent, he/she will end up not at Hyehwamun Gate but suddenly find him/herself in the vibrant, pulsing Hyehwa area filled with shops of cutesies, culture restaurants and unique coffee shops. If you're seeing the beautiful wall and scenery in the shot below, then you've gone too far ... but why not get some great food in Hyehwa?

Hiking the 18 km Seoul City Wall in ... 1 day!

Though I hiked the city wall in three days, technically I hiked all but 40 minutes (Hyehwamun to Waryong Park) in two days, and I think the whole wall could could be totally done in just one day. The full one-day hike would probably take 10-12 hours, not rushing but steadily walking, allow for two 30-minute meals, and of course be walked counter-clockwise. (To walk in the clockwise route, a person would need power thighs!) I did a lot of back-tracking and a fair amount of asking directions and wandering in the gap areas, but if I hike the trail again, I could certainly know a lot of little "tricks" to make the hike smoother and faster ... and testing my theory that it could be comfortably done in a single day.

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