Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Great Outings in Seoul with a Dog: Seongbukcheon (성북천) and Cheonggyecheon (청계천)

In part two of our ongoing series on places to take your dog in Seoul, we introduce another of Kongi's favorite walking spots, Seongbukcheon (Seongbuk Stream), and its more famous cousin Cheonggyecheon.

Your guides, Changmi (right) and Kongi
Both streams feature nice comfortable walking paths, creatively designed fountains, and a variety of flowering plants to sniff.

Cheonggyecheon starts off near the south end of Gwanghwamun Plaza and continues due east. The first part of the stream is the most developed and artfully landscaped but is usually full of people, especially on the weekends. Kongi and I usually stick to the less populated eastern section of the stream.

Me and my doggie at Cheonggyecheon

Unni proudly walking Kongi along Cheonggyecheon

Kongi likes to loiter under the bridges and check out the carp that congregate in the deeper water. She gets a lot of attention, especially from retired older gentlemen who praise her beauty and encourage her to try to catch some carp.

Hanging out under a bridge, eastern Cheonggyecheon
One of many local art pieces decorating Cheonggyecheon

Cheonggyecheon is joined by Seongbukcheon after about 4.5 km. From here you can turn north and follow the walking path along Seongbukcheon all the way to Hansung University Station. This path is used mainly as an exercise path by the neighborhood residents, and it is a good place to meet other doggies.  
Kongi admiring a river heron, Seongbukcheon

A special behind-the-scenes look at the making of this blog post
The path along Cheonggyecheon continues for 3.5 km from start to finish and is a great setting for a long, leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll. There is no need to worry about your dog overheating, since there are frequent opportunities to dunk her in the cool water. There are also a number of fountains in and around the stream that operate on regular timed schedules.

Cooling our heels in Seongbukcheon

Pretty fountain near the southern end of Seongbukcheon
Another fountain on Seongbukcheon

Yet another fountain on Seongbukcheon

Near the northern end of Seongbukcheon, you pass just south of Sungshin Women's University, where there is a sort of mini-Daehagno with lots of tasty food options, cafes, and shops. Just upstream from that, as the stream bends to the west, there are some outdoor eating options on a broad sidewalk along a quiet side street on the northern side of the stream. Unni and I like to frequent a coffee shop in this area called "꿈꾸는 콩" (The Dreaming Bean), which is operated by a good-looking young guy who seems plucked out of a Korean drama. There are a few tables set up outside, and the shopkeep seems very dog-friendly.

Kongi eyeing a fellow canine with suspicion

Next to this coffee shop are a number of eateries serving cold noodles and fried chicken; these also have sidewalk tables and are good options if you want to grab a beer and snack with your dog in the late afternoon. Unni reports that it is also possible to observe entertaining late-night drunken antics along this stretch of sidewalk any night of the week.

Kongi begging for table scraps

If you've make it this far north, you should also stop by the famous Unni's ceramic painting studio, Cerawork! The shop is on the north side of the stream just past the big Hi-Mart. You can take a lesson in ceramic painting, using your dog as a model! Just tell them Changmi sent you. If Unni tries to say that no dogs are allowed in the shop, you can just show her this incriminating photo: 

Here are some maps:

Total course length: 8km (Click image to enlarge)

Close-up of northern Seongbukcheon

 Stay tuned for next time, when we tackle Yongmasan Waterfall Park! Here's a sneak preview:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Great Outings in Seoul with a Dog: Bukaksan

In the brief time that is left to me before I move to the US, I am endeavoring to spend as much time with our dog Kongi (actually Unni's sister's dog) as possible. I bought a fashionable carry-bag so that I can take her with me on the bus or train, and we have been going on special outings every weekend. Since there seems to be no information on Seoul's official tourism pages about which places allow dogs, I thought I would share some of the best places we have found in which to walk or play.

Let Kongi be your guide to the best-smelling flower patches in Seoul!
Today we will be introducing the series of trails around Bukaksan, probably our favorite place so far. The southern end can be accessed via the trailhead near the Samcheonggak villa, or by following Seoul Seonggak north from Hansung University station. From the north, you can access the trails from the Bukak Pavilion or the Haneul-Gyo bridge on the Bukak Skyway road.

This is a great place to take a dog because not only is it less crowded for some reason, but it also has some sites of historical interest, allowing Kongi to learn something about the history of her homeland.

For instance, the western edge of the park features a scenic stretch of the old city wall, also known as Seoul Seonggwak.

Also, one section of the trail known as the "Kim Shin-Jo route" (in red on the map) passes by the site of the famous 1968 gun battle between South Korean security forces and a group of 31 North Korean commandos who had snuck all the way down from the border, intent on assassinating the President (this episode is most memorably depicted in the movie Shilmido). Kim Shin-Jo is the name of the only commando who was captured alive, who was later rehabilitated into society and became a Protestant minister. The site is dominated by a large rock formation pockmarked by bullets from the gunfight. Each bullet mark has been helpfully highlighted in white paint.

The trail generally winds uphill as it moves northeast, passing through a series of valleys and climbing several long Escher-esque staircases. Each landing features a nice wooden bench, tempting frequent breaks. This is a great spot in which to crack open a beer and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

At the northern end of the park, just before the Haneul-Gyo bridge, there is a scenic lookout picnic area with nice views of the mountains to the north of Seoul.

There is also a workout area with exercise equipment for people who still aren't tired out from climbing all those stairs.

From there, the trail joins the Bukaksan Skyway road. There is a nice walking path along this road that offers some good views of Seoul. This can be followed east all the way back down to the 1162 bus stop near the Haneul-Hanmadang and Seongbuk Park, another of Kongi's favorite hangouts.

Stay tuned for more adventures with Kongi in the near future!