Friday, January 28, 2011

The Gu - part one (Dobang, Dongdaemun, Dongjak, Eunpyeong, Gangbuk)

Here we go with the gu!

For the rest of the Gu Project, check out Gu Two - (Gangdong, Gangnam, Gangseo, Geumcheon, Guro), Gu 3 (Gwanak, Gwangjin, Jongno, Jung, Jungnang), Gu IV: The re-re-re Gu-ining (Mapo, Nowon, Seocho, Seodaemun, Seongdong), and Gu V: Damn Gu-ed! (And here the series ends with Seongbuk, Songpa, Yangcheon, Yeongdeungpo, and Yongsan)




Whats the picture of?


Dobongsan (Dobong Mountain) in the winter.

Where is this gu?


Northeast Seoul, just west of Nowon.

What’s this gu best known for?

Well, it’s named for Dobong Mountain, so I’m gonna go with that. Until 1995, Dobong-gu comprised all of northeast Seoul until it was partitioned into Dobong, Nowon, and Gangbuk gu. It also contains the worst E-Mart in Seoul at Changdong Station.

When did Jaehak first go there?

February of 2007 or so.

How were epic walks involved?


I’ve walked from my longtime home base in Nowon to Changdong Station several times. It ain’t far.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?

No, unless you are really in to hiking.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?

In Da (Mountain) Club

Dongdaemun-gu



Whats the picture of?

The crowded market streets outside of Cheongnyangni Station, the 3rd biggest train station in Seoul.

Where is this gu?

East of downtown.

What’s this gu best known for?

Being near central Seoul, yet by no means being of central Seoul. A working-class district on the fringe of the center of power. Kinda the Queens of Seoul. Strangely, Dongdaemun Market, Dongdaemun Gate, and Dongdaemun Station are hugely famous in Korea, and none of them stand in Dongdaemun-gu.


When did Jaehak first go there?

Not counting subway transfers, I didn’t go until 2010.

How were epic walks involved?

I walked from Cheongnyangni Station in Dongdaemun-gu to Hongdae in 2010.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?

Not unless unless you’re taking a train to Gangwon or the east coast from Cheongnyangni.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?

Not really, but there is one on Chuncheon, and the trip there originated at Cheongnyangni Station.



Dongjak-gu



Whats the picture of?

A panorama of the most urbanized portion of Dongjak, taken from a ridge on the border of Gwanak-gu.

Where is this gu?

South of the River, it’s the buffer zone between ritzy Seocho and dilapidated Yeongdeungpo.

What’s this gu best known for?

The large National Cemetery and the sprawling Noryangjin Fish Market, Seoul’s largest.

When did Jaehak first go there?

During a rainstorm in the summer of 2010.

How were epic walks involved?

I crossed the gu from east to west on a walk from Express Bus Terminal and Yeouido

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?

Maybe. The fish market is cool.

Is there a related blog post?

I mention my fish market trip here.

Eunpyeong-gu




Whats the picture of?

The headwaters of a small stream near Eungam Subway Station. The stream ends near Seoul’s World Cup Stadium.

Where is this gu?

Far Northwestern corner of Seoul

What’s this gu best known for?

The northern part of the gu is in the foothills of Bukhansan, Seoul’s tallest mountain. Bukhansan trails can be accessed from Gupabal station, though I’ve never hiked the west/Eunpyeong portion of the mountain. Eunpyeong also has a fairly lively district near Yeonsinae station.

When did Jaehak first go there?

Last week.

How were epic walks involved?

I went to Eunpyeong specifically for this project. I walked from Gupabal station south to Hongdae, in Mapo-gu, where I dined on Taco Bell.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?

Nah, it’s way too far flung, unless you were staying at the Grand Hilton, which is in this gu, or taking the less-used western approach to Bukhan Mountain.

Is there a related blog post?

There is not.



Gangbuk-gu




Whats the picture of?

Bukhan Mountain, Seoul's tallest.

Where is this gu?

The name “Gangbuk” means “north of the river.” Gangbuk-gu is very much so, on the north-northeastern fringe of town.

What’s this gu best known for?

Gangbuk is the main gateway to the aforementioned Bukhan Mountain. It’s also the home of Suyu, a fairly lively bar and restaurant district.

When did Jaehak first go there?

April of 2007, the first time I climbed Bukhan.

How were epic walks involved?

My “epic walk” habit was practically invented in Gangbuk. My first particularly long walk in Seoul started at home in Nowon and wove through Suyu and Mia, both in Gangbuk. This was in the summer of 2008.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?

Bukhansan in well worth a day.

Is there a related blog post?

Yep, there is one about a horrible Korean Night Club in Suyu.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Gu Project (and my ability to show restraint from the many puns I could be using here)

For the completed Gu Project posts, check out part one (Dobang, Dongdaemun, Dongjak, Eunpyeong, Gangbuk), Gu Two - (Gangdong, Gangnam, Gangseo, Geumcheon, Guro), Gu 3 (Gwanak, Gwangjin, Jongno, Jung, Jungnang), Gu IV: The re-re-re Gu-ining (Mapo, Nowon, Seocho, Seodaemun, Seongdong), and Gu V: Damn Gu-ed! (And here the series ends with Seongbuk, Songpa, Yangcheon, Yeongdeungpo, and Yongsan)

Fair warning - the project I’m working on now is a bit nerdy, but it’s also pretty cool. You know, like Michael Cera or Carl Sagan or Weird Al. Over the next few posts, I’m going to be talking about Seoul. Not surprisingly, as I’m not working, I’ve walked across more of Seoul throughout the course of the last month than I had over the past few years. As a walking nerd/city nerd/geo nerd, that’s saying something. If you are into cities, geography, Korea, travel, photography, my lame life, or nerdy blog projects, you should stick with me. If you aren’t, you’ll be able to tell if I’m still doing this in the first paragraph of each post and you can bail. Let’s face it, whatever you do after clicking on my page is your business.

Every city partitions itself into different units. New York has 5 boroughs. Paris breaks down into 20 arrondissement. Chicago, ever the political machine town, boasts 50 wards. Green Bay proudly houses 101,025 drunken assholes that consider ketchup on hot dogs a necessity. Here in Seoul, the locals call the different districts gu, of which there are 25.

Over the coming days (or hell, who knows, weeks? eons?) I’ll be writing about the Seoul gu. My original plan was one long post on all 25 gu. Later, I realized that even I wouldn’t want to read this monstrosity. My next plan was 25 posts, one per gu. This also struck me as a horrible idea. This would only make sense if I were to launch an entirely new side-project blog, and we all know I’m far too lazy for that. As evidence, check out my thriving fashion blog. Most likely, we’re looking at 5 posts, 5 gu per, if for no other reason than it’s mathematically simple.

Each post will contain one picture per gu, as this seems most democratic. Also, I know you don’t want tons of pics from each gu. Based on Blogger’s stats, my Seoul photoblog and most of my other photoblogs (except Samseong-gung, for whatever reason) have all been flops. Regardless, it will be more fun for me to choose one representative picture of each gu rather than just making this a photoblog.

End communication.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Parable (well, not really) on the Dangers of Trains

Sorry, nothing truly new today. While organizing my documents (an awesome endeavor for the unemployed) I came across this old gem. I wrote this a million years ago in my Euro days. If you're a romantic, I should point out that I wrote this piece in a Paris cafe while the girl I was with read Voltaire. No joke. For the sake of such romance (and, let's face it, laziness) I haven't changed a word from the original cafe version. Enjoy, and if you've known me long enough, revel in the nostalgia.

“Frankfurt!” The word shouted in an angry German accent abruptly ended my slumber. I slowly stirred and examined my surroundings. I was in a train’s couchette. Mary was asleep to my left, while Amy awakened on the comfortable chairs to my right. I had slept on the cold, hard, dirty floor in between, like a dog. I was therefore more motivated than my traveling companions to stand up and greet our Teutonic agitator.

I stared, face to face with the man through the window of our couchette. He was old, thin, bald, dressed in all black, and seemed not far off from sketchy. He banged on the door and once again shouted, “Frankfurt!” before moving on down the aisle of the train.

“So?” I said to Mary and Amy, both of whom were now sitting up. I sat down next to Amy and lit a cigarette, always a good breakfast. We glanced out the window of the train, seeing the sun rise behind the Frankfurt skyline, while discussing how excited we were to be there. After all, we would be in Munich and Oktoberfest in a mere two hours. I was looking forward to adding a litre of Hofbrauhaus or two to my power breakfast.

Two more of our friends had taken this night train ride from Paris. The five of us had spent the first half of the evening in this couchette, drinking wine and telling stories. However, Mike and Allison had decided to find a different couchette to sleep in; five people in one seemed an impossibility. I wondered whether they had been awakened by any crazed old Prussians.

Mary closed the window shade, and I was on my way back to floor city for a nap when the conductor appeared at our door. He spoke very little English, but re-established the fact that we were in Frankfurt. I explained to him that we were going to Munich and that we expected the train to be leaving the station shortly. He reiterated, in broken English, that Frankfurt was the end of the line, and a different part of the train had split off, bound for Munich. This shocked us all to our feet.

We did not take long to discover that Mike and Alison were not on the same part of the train as we, and were presently barreling toward Munich. We searched the train in vain, as Mary and Amy fell into denial, insisting that our mates remained somewhere in the Frankfurt station.

I noticed that due to the timetable, with a train leaving for Munich in a quarter hour, that we had no time for denial. Mary predicted that Mike and Alison would not try to meet us in Frankfurt, as it was not our intended destination. We had no choice but to buy tickets to Munich. Because the next available train was of course not another slow, smoky night train but instead an efficient German bullet, our Eurail passes were worthless and the price was high.

The girls quickly fell asleep on the speedy U-Bahn express, while I strolled about. I really was hungry, despite the cigarette breakfast, so I moved to the bar car. This car, at the front of the train, was alive with Germans preparing for Oktoberfest, though I seemed to be the only paying customer. It seemed that each of the fellow patrons of this bar were clad in lederhosen, and they had brought coolers full of large sausages and larger beer bottles in anticipation of King Ludwig’s annual rager. This display of revelry at eight a.m. assured me that, regardless of finding our friends in Munich, Mary, Amy, and I were assured of a wonderful drunken good time.

Of course, we ultimately had no reason to worry about the prospect of finding our well-traveled friends. Nevertheless, when we were all on the platform at Munich, we could almost understand the excitement that Germany herself had felt when she was reunited.
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