Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Inevitiable Gu IV: The re-re-re Gu-ining (Mapo, Nowon, Seocho, Seodaemun, Seongdong)

For the rest of the Gu Project, check out part one (Dobang, Dongdaemun, Dongjak, Eunpyeong, Gangbuk), Gu Two - (Gangdong, Gangnam, Gangseo, Geumcheon, Guro), Gu 3 (Gwanak, Gwangjin, Jongno, Jung, Jungnang), and Gu V: Damn Gu-ed! (And here the series ends with Seongbuk, Songpa, Yangcheon, Yeongdeungpo, and Yongsan)

Mapo-gu



What’s the picture of?

Hongdae lights.

Where is this gu?


Western Seoul, north of the river.

What’s this gu best known for?

Though it’s the home of Seoul’s largest soccer stadium, Mapo is most famously the gu that Hongdae is in. Hongdae, for those who don’t know, is one of the biggest nightlife districts in Seoul, full of clubs, bars, and restaurants.

When did Jaehak first go there?

I went to Hongdae with some coworkers within my first few days in Seoul.

How were epic walks involved?


An epic walk from World Cup Stadium through Hongdae and on to points east last year kinda re-energized my distance walking habit.

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

Probably. Hongdae is worth at least one night out when visiting Seoul.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?

Sure. I’ll go old school here.


Nowon-gu


What’s the picture of?

Eunhaeng Sagoeri, AKA Bank Intersection (Or Gingko Tree Intersection). This is taken from the roof of my former apartment building.

Where is this gu?

In the far northeast corner of town.

What’s this gu best known for?

Clearly, this gu is most famous for hosting me for over three years. In fact, the only other neighborhood in the world that holds the honor of housing me for so long a time is Lawrence’s own Prairie Meadows. Nowon is also the home of Noblock and Mojito. It’s the only neighborhood in which I’ve broken a finger, and it has happened twice. There are also some mountains around too, a bunch of English academies, and a couple solid bagel places.

When did Jaehak first go there?


For a job interview on December 22, 2006. Then, I moved there on January 1, 2007. No, I didn’t have to look up the dates.

How were epic walks involved?


A large portion of them began or ended here.

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


Bar Mojito is cool. There’s a Bennigan’s and a movie theater. Most every restaurant that I ever loved here closed. Short answer: no.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?


Egad. A million. Lets go with this one since it was a fave from last year.


Seocho-gu






What’s the picture of?


Apartment blocks and Central City Mall, taken from the Hannam Bridge.

Where is this gu?

South-central. Between Gangnam-gu and Dongjak-gu.

What’s this gu best known for?

It’s rich, so it’s often considered to be part of Gangnam. Seoul’s largest bus terminal is here, and in fact it’s called the Gangnam Express Bus Terminal. At Gangnam Station, the businesses on the west side of Gangnam Road are actually in Seocho. Thus, a lot of the best bars and clubs in “Gangnam” are in Seocho. The French Village (Seorae Ma-eul) lies in Banpo-dong, a district of Seocho. For whatever reason, most of the restaurants in this area are Italian. Disaster struck Seocho in 1995, when the Sampoong Department Store collapsed and killed 500 people. Unfortunately, the owners of the store were not amongst the dead, as their greed, negligence, and stupidity directly caused the collapse. Google it. It's an unbelievably sad and shocking story.

When did Jaehak first go there?


Right at the start. My first job was in Seocho, as was my first apartment. Both the job and apartment were comically awful, but Seocho itself is a good location to live in.

How were epic walks involved?


In something of a proto-epic walk, I walked from Seocho to Itaewon in October 2006. I've walked through Seocho several times since then.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?
Possibly. Seocho is fairly central, and if you were taking a bus out of town, Seocho is the best option.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?

Again, I'll go way old school. This blog isn't so much about Seocho as it is about me as a Korea n00b. Strange to think there was once a time when I cared about fan death or North Korea.


Seodaemun-gu




What’s the picture of?


The Independence Gate.

Where is this gu?


West of Downtown, northeast of Mapo.

What’s this gu best known for?


Seodaemun Prison, most likely. It was used by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea during the first half of the 20th Century. Seodaemun also contains Sinchon, another major entertainment/nightlife district. Sinchon is in the front yard of Yonsei University, one of Korea’s big 3.

When did Jaehak first go there?

November 2007, when I went to check out out the Prison Museum.

How were epic walks involved?

The walk from World Cup Stadium and Hongdae moved on the Sinchon.

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

Seodaemun is a cool gu, lots of historical stuff and nightlife. However, it gets a bit overlooked - nearby Jongno has much more in the way of sightseeing, and neighboring Mapo is bigger in terms of nightlife.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?
There is not.

Seongdong-gu



What’s the picture of?

A hill near Oksu Station

Where is this gu?


North of the river, east of Yongsan-gu.

What’s this gu best known for?


Seoul Forest, one of the largest parks in Seoul. Wangsimni has a major subway station and a large mall. Eungbong-san is a fun hill to climb with an excellent view of Jungnang Stream flowing into the Han River.

When did Jaehak first go there?


2009, when I went to Seoul Forest.

How were epic walks involved?


Same 2009 trip to Seoul Forest.

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


Seoul Forest is quite a nice piece of green space. Seongdong-gu also has a lot of riverfront for walking and biking.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?

Not as of yet.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gu 3 (Gwanak, Gwangjin, Jongno, Jung, Jungnang)

For the rest of the Gu Project, check out part one (Dobang, Dongdaemun, Dongjak, Eunpyeong, Gangbuk), Gu Two - (Gangdong, Gangnam, Gangseo, Geumcheon, Guro), 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)


Gwanak-gu



What’s the picture of?

Seoul National University (Korea’s highest rated) and the surrounding Gwanak Mountain ridge line.

Where is this gu?
South-central yo.

What’s this gu best known for?


The aforementioned Seoul National University. Also, Gwanak Mountain.

When did Jaehak first go there?

Last Thursday. Really. Gwanak turned out to be the very last gu I visited.

How were epic walks involved?

I walked from Sillim station to SNU to Dongjak-gu.

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


Maybe. Gwanak-gu, with its namesake mountain visible from nearly everywhere in the district, is a pretty gu. The SNU campus is fairly lame architecturally, but it’s surrounded by mountains from almost all sides, so the campus is beautiful despite the fact that 88% of Korea is stuck in the the 1972-1983 architectural void. Hiking wise, my buddy Don, the mountain nerd, tells me Gwanak Mountain offers top notch views,but the overall hiking experience is weak.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?


No, but I genuinely liked Gwanak-gu. If it weren’t so far from where I live, I’d spend a lot more time there.

Gwangjin-gu






What’s the picture of?


The frozen-solid Han river on the coldest day in the history of the world, taken from the Cheonho Bridge. The tall building is Techno Mart.

Where is this gu?

Southeast-ish, though north of the river.

What’s this gu best known for?

Techno Mart, I presume. It’s Seoul’s second largest electronics market, and easily the biggest on the east side of town. Gwangjin also contains East Seoul Bus Terminal, Seoul’s second largest. The Konkuk University/ Star City Mall area has a lot going on shopping and eating-wise. Just north of that is Children’s Grand Park, one of Seoul’s biggest parks, featuring a (weak) amusement park and an outdated zoo.

When did Jaehak first go there?

Way back in 2006, to check out Techno Mart.

How were epic walks involved?


Gwangjin has played a role in a few epic walks. My longest walk through Gwangjin was probably my Nowon to the Han River walk, which was a slog.

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


Probably not. Techno Mart is cool, but Yongsan Electronics Market is better.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?

No, but I like Gwangjin.



Jongno-gu




What’s the picture of?


The Jongno skyline from Samcheong-dong, a hill featuring traditional Korean hanok houses.

Where is this gu?
Downtown, baby.

What’s this gu best known for?


Where to start? Gyeongbok Palace and Changdeok Palace, the two most important palaces in Korea, are both there, as are two others. The Blue House, where the modern Korean president lives is there as well. Jongno also boasts Insadong, a popular tourist attraction and the most traditionally “Korean” area in town. Jongno Street has a wide variety of restaurants and bars, as does Hyehwa. Dongdaemun Market, one of Seoul’s most famous, also stands in this gu. Jongno also contains Gwanghwamun, which is probably the most important urban square in the country.

When did Jaehak first go there?

Definitely in 2006, within my first week of living in Seoul.

How were epic walks involved?


Too many long walks have involved this gu to count.

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


No question. Shunning this gu, particularly as a first-time visitor, would be unthinkable.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?


I’m sure there are others, but I noticed this one from 2008.


Jung-gu




Whats the picture of?

Namdaemun Gate. The singular symbol of Seoul. National Treasure Number one. Burned down in 2008.

Where is this gu?

Right downtown. Jung means central.

What’s this gu best known for?

City Hall, Seoul Plaza, the Seoul Art Museum, Namdaemun Market, Seoul Station, the Myeongdong shopping and entertainment district, being the general center of tourist Seoul.

When did Jaehak first go there?


My first week here, in October of 2006.

How were epic walks involved?


Most recently? Myeongdong to Gangnam in November.

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

Undoubtedly.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?


There's a few pics of it here

Jungnang-gu



What’s the picture of?


The Jungnang Stream.

Where is this gu?

On the east edge of town, between Nowon and Gwangjin.

What’s this gu best known for?

Likely it’s namesake stream. The stream has walking/biking paths along it, stretching from Uijeongbu city north of Seoul to the Han River. Jungnang also has a minor intercity bus terminal. Most importantly for Seoul residents, Jungnang has the only Costco in Seoul that’s north of the river.

When did Jaehak first go there?

On a 2008 Costco run.

How were epic walks involved?

I’ve walked the entire length of the Jungnang Stream, including the portion through this gu.

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

Probably not, but the stream is a nice place to walk.

Is there a related blog post I could check out?


Hmm, this trip ended in Jungnang

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Back on the Road

Looks like I'm posting on last blog before I hit the road. I planned on doing the third gu post as I have all the requisite information in my e-mail, but I can't figure out the Korean intricacies of my Korean web cafe computer well enough to transfer my pics. So it goes.

Tonight, as I have a history of doing, I'm writing from the web joint below the Incgeon Airport Guesthouse and next to the Zuro Hof, aka the Incheon Airport Guesthouse bar. Basically, I'm coming at you live from one of my favorite places i the world.

To my knowledge, this is my sixth time staying at this hotel. Each time, I came here from Seoul via subway. Each time, I was on my way somewhare else the following day. Within hours of staying at this place, I've found myself in Bangkok, Tokyo, Manila, Singapore, Lawrence, and tomorrow Cebu, Philippines. There's little wonder why I love this particular building so much.

Tomorrow, not including study abroad, begins my fourth internationl trip during a period of unemployment. Considering the fact that I am not independntly (or dependently) wealthy, this makes me pretty awesome. Sure, I have a job lined up that I start in a few weeks. This is no Euro 2006, when I had no job prospects in sight and did simply because some frequent flier miles and a valid credit card. Still, it's pretty awesome.

I have a 4 hour layover in Hong Kong tomorrow. Hopefully I can throw up the third gu post there. Of course, I won't bother looking for wifi until I eat at least 11 pounds of dim sum.

Good times, good times. I'll write soon. Hopefully I didn't sound like too much of a dick tonight. I just love this hotel.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gu Two - (Gangdong, Gangnam, Gangseo, Geumcheon, Guro)

For the rest of the Gu Project, check out part one (Dobang, Dongdaemun, Dongjak, Eunpyeong, Gangbuk), 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)

Gangdong-gu




What's the picture of?


A random apartment building. I also took a picture of the local Hyundai Department Store, but amazingly it was even more boring than this.

Where is this gu?

The far east end of Seoul. Gangdong means “east of the river.”

What’s this gu best known for?


The Cheonho area, home of the Hyundai department store. Also, being serviced by the 8 line and the 5 line after it splits in two - easily the most worthless subway lines in Seoul.

When did Jaehak first go there?

I went for a job interview last month.

How were epic walks involved?


I walked from this gu and then crossed the Cheonho Bridge over the Han River on pretty much the coldest day in the history of the world. In my next post, the Gwangjin-gu picture is taken from this bridge on that day.

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

I was here for years before I went there. I have no intention of ever returning. There’s a more interesting version of anything that can be found in this gu elsewhere in town.

Is there a related blog post?

No way.


Gangnam-gu



What's the picture of?


The Gangnam skyline, as seen from Namsan.

Where is this gu?

Gangnam means “south of the river.” Gangnam-gu is on the south side of town, and a bit east. Out here, the generic term “Gangnam” can refer to the wider region including Songpa-gu and Seocho-gu. It can also refer to the entertainment district immediately surrounding Gangnam Station (though most of the better bars and clubs are actually in Seocho-gu).

What’s this gu best known for?

Style, according to Psy.  Money. Regarding specific areas, Gangnam-gu holds Apgujeong, Daechi-dong, Coex, Samseong-dong, Cheongdam-dong, and Garosu Street. All of these places are famous for being rich. Tehran Road is flanked by skyscrapers housing tech companies and financial firms. Apgujeong and Daechi are the very definition of nouveau riche. Gangnam in the broad sense was undeveloped farmland in 1970. Gangnam Station is the busiest subway station in Seoul, despite servicing only one line. Unlike most of Seoul (and most Korean cities,) Gangnam has wide straight streets in a grid pattern.

When did Jaehak first go there?


September 28, 2006. My very first night in Korea was in a shady hotel in an alley behind Gangnam Station. I have a long and complicated relationship with Gangnam.

How were epic walks involved?


Several epic walks have involved Gangnam. Most recently, I walked from Bundang (a suburb of Seoul) to Gangnam, a 13 mile trek.

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


If you want to see the Korean ideal of the future, this is the first place to look. In 2007, I avoided Gangnam, probably went twice all year. Now, it seems I end up there every other day. No trip to Seoul would be complete without spending at least an afternoon there.

Is there a related blog post?


Tons. The most famous one remains Indecision Clouds my Vision, though the original version is old as the hills.


Gangseo-gu



What's the picture of?

A large middle-of-nowhere field, kinda between the built-up area by Gimpo airport and the more “inner” portion of Gangseo.

Where is this gu?

If you’ve read about the last three gu I’ve covered, you can probably guess that Gangseo means “west of the river.” Gangseo is really more south of the river, as the Han River has a general horizontal orientation. It is, fittingly, the westernmost gu of Seoul.

What’s this gu best known for?


Gimpo Airport. Gimpo was the primary point of entry to Seoul and Korea until Incheon Airport opened in 2001. Now it’s a mostly domestic airport, and it kinda looks like how Chicago Midway looked in the 80s.

When did Jaehak first go there?

March 2007. No surprise, I went there to go to the airport to fly to Jeju Island. South Korea is small enough to make any other domestic flight ridiculous given high speed rail options.

How were epic walks involved?


Because Gangseo is so far from anywhere I’ve ever lived in Seoul, I didn’t walk there until this Gu Project had begun. I walked from Gimpo Airport to Mokdong, in neighboring Yangcheon-gu.

If I were in Seoul for one week, should I bother?
Only if you were flying to Jeju next.

Is there a related blog post?

I mentioned it here.



Geumcheon-gu



What's the picture of?

This is the only pic in the Gu Project that features someone I know, in this case my buddy Eric. This is a mall in Gasan Digital Complex. The streets of Geumcheon-gu were every bit as empty as this mall. This was at 7 p.m. or so on a Sunday. Eric and I legitimately thought that the North may have invaded.

Where is this gu?

Far on the Southwest side. This gu only has 3 subway stops.

What’s this gu best known for?


Presumably, the Gasan Digital Complex. Also, there’s a popular Youtube vid amongst expats called “Kicking it in Geumcheon,” though the song refers to a district in Paju city north of Seoul, not this gu.

When did Jaehak first go there?

A couple weeks ago, for the express purpose of this project.

How were epic walks involved?


I walked from Times Square Mall in Yeongduengpo-gu to Gasan Digital Complex.

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


Absolutely not. This may be the worst gu in town. It’s in a remote corner AND there’s nothing to do. We couldn’t even find a single place to get a beer other than 7-11, and it was too cold out to bother with that.

Is there a related blog post?

Come on.



Guro-gu




What's the picture of?


A neon sign on one of Guro’s busiest streets, which was a fairly desolate area filled with warehouses and condiment factories.

Where is this gu?

Southwest corner of Seoul
.
What’s this gu best known for?

Guro Station is where subway Line 1 splits into Incehon-bound trains and Cheonan-bound trains. Yep, a railroad intersection. Guro is the Barstow of Seoul. Guro also has a lot of abandoned factories, a nice-looking high-rise area right on the Yeongdeungpo border, and possibly the best Lotte Mart in Korea.

When did Jaehak first go there?


Likely in the summer of 2010.

How were epic walks involved?


I’ve had a couple walks through Guro, mostly originating at Eric’s place. My first experience in Guro was a walk to Yeouido.

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


That’s a negatory, good buddy. Southwest Seoul (Guro, Geumcheon, Gangseo) are pretty much the dullest parts of town.

Is there a related blog post?

I walked through Guro on my way to Incheon on the epic walk to end all epic walks. 
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