Ungilsan, Seoul, South Korea: Autumn Hike

DSC1197-2010-10-23-21-48.jpg

Ungilsan in Autumn: Achieved by focusing much closer than the subject itself and let the bokeh work its magic.

DSC1242-2010-10-23-21-48.jpg

DSC1179-2010-10-23-21-48.jpg

Although I was using a wide angle lens, the slope on the left and right is not an optical illusion.

This trip started as a routine mountain hike a little outside of Seoul at a place called Ungilsan (운길산) mainly because it is possible to get there by taking the suburban line 1 metro to a station with the same name. At least on the map it looks like there is a mountain to climb over there. And it looked like one of those popular places to go on weekends as there are quite a number of overdressed korean hikers (nothing new here). The metro line is supposedly quite new, going all the way to Yangpyeong town and going upstream along the Han River.

Ungilsan metro stop is new enough to be built less than a year or two ago. Just outside the station is a large map of the hiking paths that lead off the station. I counted at least 2 or 3 high peaks and many smaller routes. There’s no real need to memorize it for me since all routes would be new to me. Best would be to follow the crowd. The path starts by going back where the train came from, past many village restaurants on your left. This is where it is possible to load up on lunch by buying a kimbap or two (Korean maki rolls). Then the road goes under the train track and through a small village. Very quickly it starts to go uphill through some woods.

DSC1145-2010-10-23-21-48.jpg

At the village at the bottom of the montain, some of the lower peaks around Ungilsan

DSC1160-2010-10-23-21-48.jpg

Some parts of the hike is quite like an easy walk.

Continue reading “Ungilsan, Seoul, South Korea: Autumn Hike”

Advertisements

Islands off Incheon, South Korea: Muui-do

DSC0955-2010-09-23-21-15.jpg

Revenge of the killer seagulls. Just lucky timing, on the way across from Jamjin-do to Muui-do.

DSC0930-2010-09-23-21-15.jpg

Fishing boat at Yeongjong Pier with Incheon City in the background

DSC0970-73-2010-09-23-21-15.jpg

Panorama of Incheon City in the horizon from Muui-do

It seems that autumn is finally upon us. Temperature has dropped to 20C on a sunny day like today. Looks like the right time to explore some islands off the city of Incheon. Island hopping is a term I wanted to use, but it is technically not really any hopping at all, since by public transport I would be lucky to even get to one island per day. What more, everything is in Korea here so I will have to guide by chance and by the grace of my GPS. Good light also means I can ditch my big camera and go light with a D300, lunch and plenty of water. Always ready for an adventure.

Muui-do-2010-09-23-21-15.jpg

Google Earth capture of the entire journey mapped by a GPS. Green path is the actual route taken throughout the day.

Getting to the island is a multi-transport discipline. On my research, it looks like the easiest way to get there is to get out of Seoul and get on the express train to Incheon Airport an then hop onto a bus. The alternative way going through Incheon and then a ferry ride to the Airport island looks to be a longer journey. In most cities, Seoul included, the authorities have this idea that tourists are beings meant to be fleeced, so for example a metro ride to Incheon city proper is less than half of what it cost to go to the airport. Price aside, I’ve said that getting out of the city to the airport by Metro is not an easy task. There are some signs at metro station that looks like you could get a A-REX express train to Incheon Airport at Seoul Station, but don’t make the mistake I did. There’s no train going to the airport as of 2010. The line should be ready in the future, but just not now. I wasted 1 hour looking for that phantom train. Some maps indicate that the line is there, but some doesn’t. Best way seems to be to get to Gimpo Airport using Line 9 and then hopping to the A-REX to Incheon Airport without getting out of the station at Gimpo Airport stop.

Outline for today therefore, to take metro to Incheon Airport and then onto one of the island next to it by bus. End the day with a ferry ride into Incheon city before dark. It doesn’t really matter how it turns out. What is clear is that I will have to take a bus over a causeway to Jamjin-do and then hop onto a ferry to Muui-do. Will make up the itinerary as I go along…

DSC0933-2010-09-23-21-15.jpg

Incheon City from Yeongjong Pier

DSC1006-2010-09-23-21-15.jpg

So now at Incheon airport, it takes a little bit of investigation to know where to go next. I used up at least 1 hr here figuring out that it is impossible to walk to the pier (2km away) because of the airport security, so a bus is the best option. Go to departure area on the 3rd floor and take bus 222. Unfortunately there is no way to know whether the bus is going to Jamjin island or to Yeongjong pier for the ride into Incheon city. Just have to take your chance or ask the driver.  Bus fare seems to be 1000W as I didn’t really pay attention to my stored value card as I put it on the sensor.

However I was one of the ones that got on the wrong bus as the first one I took was going to Yeongjong pier on the return trip from Jamjin-do. When I got there, it was time to wait for the next bus to go to the island I wanted to go in the first place. Good time killer is to hang around the pier and look at all the tent-restaurants that sprouted out at the parking lot, full of drunk Koreans munching on BBQ pork and kimchi.

After half and hour, it was time for the bus to start moving again. Somehow I have a feeling that there’s not more than 2 buses that services this route going from one end of the Incheon Airport island (that would be Yeongjong Island) to the other end. The bus goes through the airport to pick up more passengers (or victims) and then darts to the west, where I wanted to go, confirmed by my GPS. Right after the airport the bus turns left into a small lane full of korean restaurants, seemingly built so that patrons can look at the sun setting over the sea. After a while, going through a tight road and avoiding carks parked on both sides of the road, the bus goes over a causeway connecting Jamjin-do with larger Jeongyong-do where the airport is located. The bus stops in the small island just before the ferry point. Roads here are tight, as real estate is not plentiful. A building sells 3000 Won return tickets to Muui-do for pedestrians.

DSC0940-2010-09-23-21-15.jpg

Ferry connecting Jamjin-do with Muui-do

DSC0942-2010-09-23-21-15.jpg

Four lanes of cars, they go in on the left then make a u-turn at the end of the ship and get out the same way.

Continue reading “Islands off Incheon, South Korea: Muui-do”

Gyeonggi Province, South Korea: Suwon City Fortress

DSC6126-2010-09-22-20-40.jpg

Suwon old city wall

DSC6049-2010-09-22-20-40.jpg

Architectural detail: An old door with armored metal sheets taken at one of the secret entrances into the city along the wall.

Alright, I’m here now in a new country, ready to explore the place out and what a better place to do this than during the golden weekend. We are now around end of September, and this is what the Korean calls their Thanksgiving and what happens is that the whole of Korea goes on holiday for a whole week. Equivalent to the lazy christmas week for the Americans and a shorter version of the French summer holidays. Offices will be closed. Everyone will either go home to visit their elders or gravitate towards the summer playground of Jeju Island. Whatever it is, I’m not about to go far on this long week, in fear of highway traffic jam, lack of return tickets on trains and flights, and overpriced hotels. Hell, I’ve not even had time to visit any place around Seoul yet. So its time to do a little research on Wikipedia and Google Maps for the best place to visit for this long weekend.

DSC6074-2010-09-22-20-40.jpg

Suwon City, nothing special about it. This is the view from the top of the hill where the wall passes through.

DSC6134-2010-09-22-20-40.jpg

Old city walls separate the ordinary residents from the Kings that live inside the wall. Not true of course, just cooking things up.

GESuwonTrek-2010-09-22-20-40.jpg

Map view of the walk. Train station is on the bottom left. Wall is that baloon formed by the orange line.

The old town of Suwon looks interesting. What it is, in short, a town with a core that has its ancient city walls intact. From the map it looks a lot smaller than the city walls of, say Nanjing or Xian in China, but perhaps they don’t have as crazy an enemy to protect against; who knows. Best of all, Suwon is just an hour or two out to the South of Seoul allowing travel by Metro in the morning and returning late in the evening. So the plan was hatched. I will need to plot a GPS course this trip while walking the whole circumference of the city wall, which looks achievable in a day.

Continue reading “Gyeonggi Province, South Korea: Suwon City Fortress”

Hong Kong MTR


Started off my new project weekend, to photograph the station names of every single MTR station in Hong Kong. I don’t know how long it will take to do them all, but 3 or 4 weekends may be just enough. The idea is simple, take a camera, one lens and stop at every single station and then move on to the next.

There has not been any over eager security guard asking me to stop photographing so far, and to keep things interesting, I’ve got 2 months of backlogged podcasts to keep me company while continuing the task. The only thing I learnt is that there is a limit to the time you can spend in the metro, once you pass the gates. Its about 2.5 hours. And I spent a little more than that, and the Customer Service office let me out without a penalty. Otherwise it would cost a little more than 20HKD. I believe it was 21HKD that they mentioned.

Chai Wan MTR Station

There’s no deadline to this project. It will be completed when its completed, and I will figure out then what to do with all the database of photos! Today I managed to shoot 512 NEF files!