From Seoul Land to Jamsil, the hard way

The route is simple. The easy way is to take the subway, and according to an online calculator, it takes 30mins and 1250Won and you feel lethargic and unhealthy after the trip. Let me show you another way, about 6 hours, free apart from some bananas, powerbars and 2 litres of water and plenty of patience. In return you will get some nice sceneries and fresh air. With all the nice mountains around Seoul, there’s no excuse not to do it the old fashion way.

Other more reputable sites will tell you what is in Seoul Land. I’ve only been to the zoo and only because it was free that day. Will it be a surprise if I said there are animals there? In confined spaces. With plenty of noisy kids. Discovering that there are no birds to fling on catapults. So collect yourself at the carpark, run up Cheonggyesan 청계산 due east, come down where Dallaenae-ro 달래내로 meets the expressway, and then crossing some shops and farms, proceed up the second mountain Inneungsan 인릉산 and end up somewhere in Seongnam, close to the airbase and then run along the river up north to Jamsil. 

 I love the Ambit. I had it recording at 1s intervals. I've used it up to 10 hours before, so the battery should be alright for this trip. 
I love the Ambit. I had it recording at 1s intervals. I’ve used it up to 10 hours before, so the battery should be alright for this trip. 
 Map of the entire trip plotted on a map from Google.
Map of the entire trip plotted on a map from Google.

For this trip, I took a backpack with some emergency kit and wore a Suunto Ambit. The screenshot above is what was recorded for the trip. The plots are quite rough but it should be able to hack together a plan for the trip. I find that the best map to use if you had a phone with you would be Daum or Naver since they have the map of the trails. Be aware that the maps are not entirely accurate, sometimes there are sub-path along the way that was created recently. Sometimes they are parallel paths and sometimes it looks like a whole mob went for a shit together and created a new path. 

 Section 1: Seoul Land to Gyeongbu Expressway
Section 1: Seoul Land to Gyeongbu Expressway

Now, to trace the path, take a metro to Seoul Land. Walk due south across the large car park, and run up to a slope where the cars enter and right behind the guard house there is a small path that branches out to the right. I didn’t find it in the beginning. The first time I took this route I bashed myself out of the jungle using another path. This new one is more “official”. What happens is that you walk along a nice concrete path till you get to an area that looks like an exercise area, but is actually the start of the trail, up the ridge of the hill which you will follow, and go uphill all the way to Cheonggyesan. For those that are a little more macho than others, you might want to try and run here, but I don’t think you will last the first small hill. There are a few peaks here, the flatter ones happen to all have helipads on them, but the tallest peak for this trip (where the Cheonggyesan icon is on the map above, has a stone landmark, and of course, a stall selling alcohol. Like most others on this route. 

 Guardhouse just next to Seoul Land car park, you will need to go up a small uphill road to see it
Guardhouse just next to Seoul Land car park, you will need to go up a small uphill road to see it
 Behind the guardhouse
Behind the guardhouse
 And it goes uphill from here. But this is the easy part.
And it goes uphill from here. But this is the easy part.
 I would say it is a nice cool day today, plenty of hikers, no way to get bored. But I only saw one person running this trail today. And it would be me. 
I would say it is a nice cool day today, plenty of hikers, no way to get bored. But I only saw one person running this trail today. And it would be me. 
 First of many temporary trail stores selling rice wine and tidbits
First of many temporary trail stores selling rice wine and tidbits
 This section goes around one of the lower peaks before Cheonggyesan. I didn't run here because the terrain was steep and there was a little traffic jam. The trail is wide enough for one row in most places. 
This section goes around one of the lower peaks before Cheonggyesan. I didn’t run here because the terrain was steep and there was a little traffic jam. The trail is wide enough for one row in most places. 
 Running is fine here, but beware the rocks. This is close to one of the lower peaks, you can tell because the trees here look like they have been battered by strong winds more than once in their lifetime. 
Running is fine here, but beware the rocks. This is close to one of the lower peaks, you can tell because the trees here look like they have been battered by strong winds more than once in their lifetime. 
 First of 3 or 4 helipads that I will see today
First of 3 or 4 helipads that I will see today
 This is the toughest part of the hike, not too dangerous. Relatively speaking. 
This is the toughest part of the hike, not too dangerous. Relatively speaking. 
 Time for a banana break. And yes, I do recommend hiking poles. Uphill they do help transfer some of the load to your hands and provide the 3 point contact for stability, and running downhill they help with balance and you can slalom like skiing. 
Time for a banana break. And yes, I do recommend hiking poles. Uphill they do help transfer some of the load to your hands and provide the 3 point contact for stability, and running downhill they help with balance and you can slalom like skiing. 
 Not sure if these electronic turnstiles are working. There was only one set that I encountered. It could be for counting hikers. 
Not sure if these electronic turnstiles are working. There was only one set that I encountered. It could be for counting hikers. 
 And finally the peak. Actually this is Isubong 이수봉 peak and not Cheonggyesan. Who cares, Cheonggyesan is not on the way for today anyway. And it is all downhill from here.  
And finally the peak. Actually this is Isubong 이수봉 peak and not Cheonggyesan. Who cares, Cheonggyesan is not on the way for today anyway. And it is all downhill from here.  
 Probably the nicest route for the day, Azaleas in full bloom. 
Probably the nicest route for the day, Azaleas in full bloom. 
 Signs of civilisation after Cheonggyesan
Signs of civilisation after Cheonggyesan
 End of part 1
End of part 1
 Part 2: Inneungsan Trek
Part 2: Inneungsan Trek

Once I get to Gyeonbu Expressway, shops start to appear. This is a good place to refill your water, but then it will not be a free trek anymore. Up to you. You know your limits. This is also where you can pick up some outdoor gears, some discount shops or outlets are here, and of course if you want to hang around like the locals, you can have some barbecue and alcohol after a long hike. I didn’t have too much time to stop, and I still had more than half a tank of water in my camelbak mainly because I have been drinking off two bottles of water on the side of my backpack. Still feeling strong, I walked through the village, I don’t have the name of the village, but relied on Daum Maps on my iPhone to get me through to the next trail head for Inneungsan. On the map it does look like this second mountain is longer trek than the first. 

 Going under the Gyeongbu Expressway
Going under the Gyeongbu Expressway
 Navigating using Daum Maps
Navigating using Daum Maps
 iPhones are useful, but since you don't want to keep it on all the time for battery drain, compass like this makes a lot of sense if you know which direction you should be moving. 
iPhones are useful, but since you don’t want to keep it on all the time for battery drain, compass like this makes a lot of sense if you know which direction you should be moving. 
 After crossing village houses, and farms, I finally get to the trail head for Inneungsan. This trail is a little less popular, and I wouldn't see many people at least for the first hour. It goes through a rural road so a map is important or you will probably never find the path. I've been here before so I have a bit of photographic memory left. 
After crossing village houses, and farms, I finally get to the trail head for Inneungsan. This trail is a little less popular, and I wouldn’t see many people at least for the first hour. It goes through a rural road so a map is important or you will probably never find the path. I’ve been here before so I have a bit of photographic memory left. 
 The start is easy enough, more foliage than Cheonggyesan, and quite obvious that the trail is less used since it is narrower and also less of the soil shows through. All along the way there are barb wires splitting the ridge into two, and on the other side is army territory it seems.
The start is easy enough, more foliage than Cheonggyesan, and quite obvious that the trail is less used since it is narrower and also less of the soil shows through. All along the way there are barb wires splitting the ridge into two, and on the other side is army territory it seems.
 Did I just mentioned military?
Did I just mentioned military?
 And another one. In fact there are lot of them around this mountain. 
And another one. In fact there are lot of them around this mountain. 
 Inneungsan peak. A helipad.
Inneungsan peak. A helipad.
 This was after the peak and it was downhill for at least an hour or more. I ran most of the way downhill, but around here I could feel my lower back starting to call out from fatigue. 
This was after the peak and it was downhill for at least an hour or more. I ran most of the way downhill, but around here I could feel my lower back starting to call out from fatigue. 
 Once you get to a clearing turn to the first left and you'll cross this grave site. Right after that you're back to reality. And it is Seoul again once more. I didn't take too many photos on this mountain precisely because once you have been running 4 hours everything gets boring . 
Once you get to a clearing turn to the first left and you’ll cross this grave site. Right after that you’re back to reality. And it is Seoul again once more. I didn’t take too many photos on this mountain precisely because once you have been running 4 hours everything gets boring . 
 Through a village at the end of the trail
Through a village at the end of the trail
 Section 3: From Seongnam to Jamsil - on road
Section 3: From Seongnam to Jamsil – on road

It was a relief to get to the area called Sinchon-dong close to Seongnam. But the best part of the trek is behind me now, and the rest of the way would be just running on pavements and breathing carbon monoxide. What you enjoyed for the last 20km is now going to be given up in the 10km run to Jamsil from here.

 Yawn. At Sinchon-dong going up through Segok-dong.
Yawn. At Sinchon-dong going up through Segok-dong.
 Crossing the river towards Garak Market
Crossing the river towards Garak Market
 Garak Market, now this would be a nice place to stop for a meal, but I have other plans. 
Garak Market, now this would be a nice place to stop for a meal, but I have other plans. 
 Incidentally this is where I stopped recording my Ambit tracks. Time for some cargo loading after a long run. Legs are tired. But the mind is refreshed. 
Incidentally this is where I stopped recording my Ambit tracks. Time for some cargo loading after a long run. Legs are tired. But the mind is refreshed. 

So till another adventure…

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Hong Kong: Sai Kung East Country Park

Now this is the starting part of 100km MacLehose trail. I did not intend to finish all of it this time and I did not take too much notes on the day of the trek itself. In short, total distance covered is around 25-30km over two weekends in searing heat and full of uphill and downhill. Bonus would be the hidden beaches, at least in the morning until the yachts from Hong Kong drop their anchor and noisy daytrippers hang around for a bit of sunburning. Recommended, but bring more water. I love it… Here goes…

Continue reading “Hong Kong: Sai Kung East Country Park”

Hong Kong Trail Part 5, Hong Kong: Shek O Road to Big Wave Bay

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View of Shek O from the ridge

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Highlight of this trip: Dragon’s Back ridge, which is what you think it is: trail on a ridge

And what a way to end the Hong Kong Trail. On this last stage, officially named Stage 8, but for me this would be the fifth section, the sun would be out in full force. I’ve been doing this long enough, my backpack and shoulder bag is rather standard by now, including dinner packed to enjoy when I get to Shek O later in the evening. Except this is the second time I’m out with a new GPS, and this is Garmin’s Colorado 300. Hardly new, but as a replacement to my old eTrex Vista, it is years more modern. The way to get to the start of today’s walk is still very fresh in my mind. Take a metro to Shau Kei Wan, and at the Bus Terminus, jumped into a No. 9. The fare is around 6.90 HKD and all this bus does is to go up Chai Wan/Tai Tam Rd and then on to Shek O Rd all the way to the town that bears its name. The only tricky part here is I need to get off at the right bus stop. On the map, the coordinate of the stop is somewhere near (22.227375, 114.239611). I didn’t have my GPS out at this time because everything is packed shut in my backpack and I wanted only to take them out when I get to the stop. I remembered what the stop looks like, but with the speed buses go in these out-of-the-way roads, it is difficult to anticipate.

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GPS plots of Section 5, from Tai Tam Bay to Shek O via Dragon Back ridge

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Tai Tam reservoir in the background, on the way up to Dragon’s Back

At the stop, amidst tourists an local hikers and families I start to put everything into hiking configuration – camel bak piping, gps latched on bag, etc. I must say that this is the day when it seems everyone attempts Dragon’s Back trail. I see families with kids barely able to walk, and mainland chinese tourists overdressed in their faux-Burberry shopping attire. And these for a trail that’s rated as strenuous? I think I have to be up against an easy day today. Its noon by the time I start, and the first kilometer up to the top of the Dragon’s Back are steps and relatively tree-cover free. If you remember the last post in Section 4, this part of the Shek O Country Park has a lot less tree cover than the part closer to Chai Wan. There are some shade, but a nice had is in order for sure. Around the coordinate (22.229759, 114.24293) the trail branches into two and there is where the first rest stop lies, the right path leading up the hill to the top of the ridge, while the left goes in parallel but at the same altitude as the branch.

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Two pictures of Shek O from the start of the ridge

Continue reading “Hong Kong Trail Part 5, Hong Kong: Shek O Road to Big Wave Bay”

Hong Kong Trail Part 3, Hong Kong: Happy Valley to Tai Tam Reservoir

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From the top of Quarry Bay on the way up to Mt Butler

Part 3 for me would be equivalent to section 5 and 6 of the Hong Kong trail, but with a twist. I will start at sea level in Happy Valley, walk up the hill along Stubbs Road and Wong Nai Chung Gap Road, and join up the Hong Kong Trail where I left off the last time, walking up Jardine’s Lookout and to Mount Butler, before coming downhill all the way to Tai Tam Reservoir water system and ending at Tai Tam Road where I will take a bus back to civilization. A little bit like Man vs Wild, but less drastic.

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GPS plots of the path looking from Causeway Bay. Waypoints in capitalized scripts are my own GPS waypoint.

Packed lunch I made myself, and a 1.5L Camel bak and my usual grab bag filled with a tripod, and landscape filters, though I don’t think I will make use of them today. Brought a D3s with 24mm f3.5 PC-E as the primary lens, and a macro and another spare lens just in case. And for audio recording, I needed the Sony PCM-D50 PCM recorder. I also packed in a rolled up waterproof jacket and all sorts of rain covers just in case. The weather today was not that great. Some weather forecasting service predicted rain, and some sunshine, but I think looking out my window all I could see was just heavy fog coming from the ocean.

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Recreation boats stacked up on Wong Nai Chung Reservoir (22.257078, 114.19507)

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Like all reservoirs I’ve seen throughout this trail, they all have lower than usual water level. This is Wong Nai Chung Reservoir.

Sure enough, the walk up from Happy Valley along Blue Pool road is a long slug up the mountain, and looking up I was able to see the mountain and quite likely most of Mount Butler will be up in the clouds. There are no sun today in the dense fog coming in from the sea. Before long I reached Wong Nai Chung reservoir up along Wong Nai Chung Gap. This reservoir is surrounded by apartments, and like most of the reservoirs I have seen so far in Hong Kong, the water level is way below the highest water line. Doesn’t seem as though there’s a drought here. At this reservoir there are boats tourists could rent to paddle around the small lake formed by the dam. I had to rest a little bit as the walk up was quite tiring, sweating in a sub 20C weather.

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Here’s a substation just after passing the reservoir, before hitting Parkview apartments

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Guess I shouldn’t get too close…

A little bit up hill, just when reaching Hong Kong Parkview apartments is the left turn branch off up to Jardine’s lookout. It started off with dense forest and a sign indicating Osborn’s Memorial. A Plaque stands there erected by the Canadian army telling a story which I read, and something about this guy that saved his comrades. Was a good break from the uphill climb. There are plenty of places to look out to the city, but today the peak where I was is just up above the clouds so all I could see was white. Everything was white. Nothing but white. I could see that the clouds are coming from the sea as it flows up along the mountain and crests at the top. The trail goes along the spine up to Jardine’s lookout, the first peak. It is marked with a geological marker and this is where I stopped for lunch as it is already 1pm by now. Started my walk around noon. I marked my GPS so that I can get back here in the future for the HK view when the weather is better.

Continue reading “Hong Kong Trail Part 3, Hong Kong: Happy Valley to Tai Tam Reservoir”

Hong Kong Trail Part 2, Hong Kong: Aberdeen to Happy Valley

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Boarding the water taxi at Aberdeen

The second part of my trek on the Hong Kong trail will be quite interesting. I start off at the town of Aberdeen on the other side of Hong Kong island, go through Aberdeen reservoir, up the mountain, and end up hopefully in Happy Valley. Looks straightforward enough, but I have lost my Nokia E71 since the last trip, so I will not have the luxury of blogging live and viewing googlemaps when I get lost. However, I stick to my theory it’s not easy to get lost in a small little island.

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The only thing you will see are tug boats like this one and water taxis here in Aberdeen.

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GPS plots of the path from Aberdeen to Happy Valley

Just for the record, I will be attempting Section 3 & 4 today on the official Hong Kong trail maps. The start is easy enough, I’d catch bus 76 from Causeway Bay to Aberdeen at the foot of Yue Kwong road. But made a earlier stop at Wong Chuk Hang Road to have a look at the boats between Aberdeen and Ap Lei Chau Island. It’s good I still remember where to go to get to Aberdeen Reservoir Country Park. Walk along Aberdeen Reservoir Road up hill, in fact the road up to the main gate is steep enough for anyone to stop for breather more than once. The gate to the reservoir is at (22.253006, 114.15855). And I’m back at the Aberdeen Lower Reservoir visitor centre, a familiar sight from the last trip.

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The walk up to the reservoir and country park entrance. The slope is not a visual trick. It IS steep!

The walk from Aberdeen lower reservoir to the upper reservoir is relatively easy with a little bit of slope. There are barbecue pits all over the path, so I guess this the very young to the very old that I saw on the way up here would be coming here for a barbecue. The pits near to the entrance are the most busy, and if you would like to have a little peace while browning those chicken wings, the barbecue area close to the Upper Reservoir was empty when I was there. This, compared to the full house at the pits closer to entrance. The two reservoirs look like they are a little short of water on the way I was there, yellow soil was visible, indicating drop in the water level. Various lines indicate the different water levels it was holding over the months, similar to tree rings. In fact, I don’t think I remember the last time it rained in Hong Kong.

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No kidding! I still believe all these fire warning are not updated regularly. I’ve seen more flammable forests in my life than this one.

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Upper Aberdeen Reservoir

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Water levels here has seen better days

Continue reading “Hong Kong Trail Part 2, Hong Kong: Aberdeen to Happy Valley”

Hong Kong Trail Part 1, Hong Kong: Peak to Aberdeen

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Two IFC Tower from the Peak

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This section of the trail is going through mainly Pok Fu Lam reservoir system

I have always thought that the Hong Kong trail was at least 100km long, but I was brought to realize that it is only half of that. It is Maclehose Trail that is of that distance. Then again, the closest one to where I live should always be the one to try out first. So, the rough plan is this (there is never a real plan when it comes to a good hike) I will break it down to either 4 or 5 sections that I can do in a day each (finally it ended up that I will need 5 days to cover it all), and time it so that I start off around noon, and end up before sundown someplace where I can extract myself back to civilization, which for me means a public transport of some sort. That should put the daily distance between 12-15km. My GPS and a camera will come along to document the trip. The Hong Kong trail is an interesting one, and what a way to present a long hike but like this: start off in the picturesque vista up on the Peak mingling with the tourists and ending the hike couple of days later at Shek O beach right on the eastern end of Hong Kong island.

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Google Earth view of the first half of the trek

However, let me start by saying that I suck at writing, and especially checking for typing errors – but it has to be done. I start the hike by taking bus 15 from the bus terminus at Central, next to the Hong Kong Airport Express station. This bus is filled to the brim with tourists, but guess tourists would be the first group you’d expect to be taking that bus up to the Peak. The bus winds its way up till it reaches Peak Galeria (22.270343, 114.14996). This is one last chance to top up that big bottle of water, and some ice cream and coffee before I dive into nature.

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Private apartment buildings in Central

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View of Hong Kong Central from Lugard Road

Continue reading “Hong Kong Trail Part 1, Hong Kong: Peak to Aberdeen”

Taipei, Taiwan: Waterpipe Trail


Anyone who has been to Taipei knows that it is surrounded by mountains. I would bet that it is true on all sides, but I am only sure about the north, just before getting to the sea of Japan. So it goes something like this: a colleague asked me where I was going for the weekend and I muttered out something abotu Yangming Mountain and recommendations start coming and I took note. In Chinese, in my bad chinese, I believe one of the route that interest me is called the water pipe trail. It is not visible on the satellite maps, as it is a walking path up the mountain and ends up at the Chinese Cultural University, that large complex of building on the top of the mountain. Water pipe as it runs along a large pipe bringing water down the mountain. As I have now done the trip, I can say that it is a black water pipe that was constructed by the Japanese about 100 years ago.

This trip took me two tries. First was on a saturday and it was cut short by rain. Figured out rain, jogging shoes and mountains don’t get along too well, and so I postponed it. Sunday was different. Woke up to a bright cheery day, even though the weather forecast was not that optimistic. And so, I go again…

The easy rule for this adventure was to take public transport all the time and having a rough idea where I was going, minimum use of Google Maps and GPS was allowed. I knew had to get to the end of Zhongshan Rd (that would be section 7). On Saturday, I got off Beitou MRT station and walked 3 hours before I got there, thanks to 4 MRT station overshoot, essentially bad planning. But this is part of the thrill. This Saturday reconnaisance trip indicated that it would be possible to take a bus from Taipei Train station directly to the foot of the mountain at Section 7. Bus 220 does that.

Trial Starting point at Tianmu town
Continue reading “Taipei, Taiwan: Waterpipe Trail”