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Photo essay: Ara and Hangang Trail -
Incheon to Seoul

   

Incheon to SEOUL (50km, 31mi) Ara Canal and Hangang Trail
Points of Interest: Seoul weekend riverside recreation scene.

  Chinese gate, Incheon Main street in Chinatwon, IncheonBefore Incheon was primarily identified as an international airport it was a major port and international trading center.  But it history is much older than that.  It was inhabited during the stone age and became a recognized district as long ago as the 5th century in the Three Kingdoms Period.  Over the next 1000 years it went through several name changes until is was given its present name in the 15th century.
  Bukseong-dong Community Center, Incheon Restaurant and businesses, Chinatown, IncheonIncheon was the first port opened to International trade in 1883. During this period it had two foreign concession, one governed by the Qing (Chinese) and adjacent to that, one governed by Japan.

Bukseong-dong, is Korea's only Chinatown. The buildings are mostly brick, red is a featured color and there are still numerous Chinese restaurants, food stores and assorted merchants, and the design, decoration, and motifs add to the ambiance..

  Stair One, Incheon Street light, Chinatown, Incheon Seonrinmoon (Paeru), Chinese Gate, IncheonSome of the features that add to the character of the district are a couple of stair ways, Chinese gates and the street lights.

 

  Samgukji (Three Kingdoms) Mural Street, Incheon Samgukji (Three Kingdoms) Mural Street, IncheonSamgukji (Three Kingdoms) Mural Street (left), which has artwork on both sides of the street, is a couple blocks long.  The murals depict people and events (many violent) of the Three Kingdoms Period.  Unless you know the history or read Hangul, it is hard to draw much information from the displays because all of the text is in Hangul.
  Lion Dance Team pacticing, Jung-san School for Chinese students,  Incheon Lion Dance Team pacticing, Jung-san School for Chinese students,  IncheonOn the same street is the Jung-san School for Chinese students.  As we passed their Lion Dance team was practicing (right).
  Shimteo Garden, Chinatown, Incheon Shimteo Garden, Chinatown, IncheonChinatown's Shimteo (garden) was built as part of an effort to revitalize cultural exchange between Korea and China, and to provide a place of rest and relaxation for tourist.  It's design is based on the Zhuozhengyuan (The Humble Administrator's Garden) and Liuyuan (The Lingering Garden), two of the four famous classical gardens in China. The Chinese ambiance is created by planting some of China's favorite plant species, including rose, bamboo and peony trees.
  Boundary Stairs between Sino-Japanese Concessions, Incheon Japantown, IncheonBetween the Qing and Japanese concession is boundary road and the boundary road stairs (left).  To the west of the boundary is Chinatown and mostly brick building.  To the east is Japantown and most wood buildings.  While Japantown retains it look, the presence of Japanese commercial activity disappeared with the defeat and withdrawal of the Japanese at the end of World War II.  At the street level much of the space has been filled with Chinese businesses.
    Japantown, Incheon Japantown, Incheon Japantown, Incheon Japantown, Incheon
  Incheon also has a prominent place in the history of the Korea War.  By June 1950, ROK and UN forces were pinned down in the southeast corner of the country, in a defensive position behind the Busan Perimeter. To weaken the North Korea army an attack was planned for midway up the west coast at Incheon. The was great skepticism prospects for the plan because of the difficult tides and many obstacles. The invasion was commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, the Commander of the United Nations Command.  It was successful and resulted in a decisive victory and strategic reversal in favor of the UN and ROK forces.
  Looking over Stair Two to Incheon Harbor Incheon HarborIn 2003 history repeated itself in a way when the Incheon Free Economic Zone was established as Korea‚Äôs first free economic zone. The zone is a specially designated area to create the most favorable business and living environment where foreign nationals can live and invest freely and conveniently.  IFEZ is planned to be a self-contained living and business district featuring air and sea transportation, a logistics complex, an international business center, financial services, residences, schools and hospitals, and shopping and entertainment centers.
  Building covered in bottle caps, Incheon Incheon underground shopping mall Incheon underground shopping mallOther modern aspects of Incheon include a unique building covered in bottle caps (left) and an infrastructure that seems to be a part of most urban areas in Korea, the underground shopping mall (right)
  Bucheon, Korea Watering plants, Bucheon, KoreaA neighboring suburb to Incheon is Bucheon. This commentary probably doesn't do it justice.  It seems quite normal with the requisite infrastructure of schools, colleges, museums, health care facilities, churches, temples, a subway line, gardens, parks, a full spectrum of shops seemingly covering everything that someone could possible need, an Emart, planter boxes of flowers (right), etc.
  food samples at Emart racks of hanboks at EmartEmarts are a cross between Costco, Target, and Sears.  Noteworthy are the food samples in the grocery section.  A particularly colorful part of the clothing section is the display of hanboks (traditional Korean dress).  Beyond these the had contemporary fashion, house wares, jewelry, electronics, sporting goods, appliances, etc.
     
 

Park and park activities along Ara Canal, Korea

Bicycling, Ara Canal Trail, Korea

Stamp booth for the Four Rivers Trail passport, KoreaThe bicycle trail network starts 5km north of Incheon Chinatown, at the Ara Canal. From this point in the northwest of Korea, there is an 800km trail system to Busan in the southeast of the country.  There are also branch trails that lead in other directions.

There is a "passport" for the trail system.  Every 20-50km there is a red "certification" booth with a rubber stamp unique to that location inside.  As you travel along you can check in at the certification centers and collect the stamps showing your presences and fill the pages of the passport.

The purpose of the Ara Canal, completed in 2011,  is to allow boats (mostly tourism oriented) to access the Han River, without sailing through the heavily militarized zone adjacent to the boarder with North Korea, at the mouth of the Han River. There are locks at each end so that the waterway doesn't drain or have a rushing current as the ocean's tide changes.

  Visitor center, Ara Canal, Korea Park near visitors center for Ara Canal, Korea Visitor center, Ana Canal trail, KoreaTypical of a major public works project in Korea no expense seems to have been spared in the upland areas. On the Ara Canal there is an impressive a visitor center, park and amenities around the head of the trail, and for the length of the project there are other recreation activities and installations.
  Elevator for bicyclists to access bridge, Ara Canal, Korea Rowers on Ara Canal, KoreaTo allow trail users of one side of the canal to get over to the trail on the other side of the canal, there is an elevator that will take people and bikes up to a high bridge, which has a bicycle facility that allows them to safely cross the bridge.

On the river rowers in racing shells train (right).  Sailing and swimming don't seem to be on the list of activities options here.

On the river bank the local approach to a day trip out of the city is to bring a tent and set up house keeping.  Tents for day use along Ara Canal, KoreaIt doesn't seem to matter that the next tent is probably closer to your than your neighbors are to you in the city -- there is certainly less privacy.  Maybe it is a way to be with people, not away from them.

  Art along Ara Canal Trail, Korea Art along Ara Canal Trail, Korea Art along Ara Canal Trail, Korea Art along Ara Canal Trail, Korea Art along Ara Canal Trail, Korea
  Art along Ara Canal Trail, Korea Along the length of the canal there are a number of art installations: a couple of sculpture gardens, a field of colored pinwheels, and some stand-alone sculptures.  To generalizes, they tend towards cheerful, colorful and whimsical. Rest area, north end of Ara Canal Trail, Korea

At the junction of the Ara Canal Trail and the Han River Trail there is a rest area with seats, shade and the second certification station (right).

  Hangang (river) bike trail, Korea Hangang (river) bike trail, KoreaFrom the Ara Canal, through Seoul and up several of the tributaries, the entire south bank and much of the north shore of the Hangang (river) have been developed for recreational activities.  The most linear elements are paths for walking and cycling.  The spot developments include exercise courses, sports fields, skating ovals, swimming pools, wetland trails, rest stations, view points and more.
  Hangang (river) bike trail, Korea People-friendly water feature, Hangang (river) bike trail, Korea People-friendly water feature, Hangang (river) bike trail, KoreaWhile swimming and the Han River don't seem to be desirable, there are a few people-friendly water feature between the trail and the river (right).  Even as the sunset in October people were still out playing in the water.
  Hangang bike trail, Seoul, Korea Warning sign, Hangang bike trail, Seoul, KoreaBecause for many decades the primary use of the shores of the Han River in Seoul was for at grade and elevated highways, now, in many places the bicycle path is tucked under the roadways.  On the bright side it the covered path makes for drier cycling on rainy days and is a very effective sunshade from the summer rays. Access tunnel, Hangang bike trail, Seoul, Korea

It also makes for some dramatic "risk", "hazard" or "danger" signage (right).

The massive concrete barriers dictate that a number of the access points to the path are through tunnels (left).

  Hangang bike path, trailside cafeteria, Seoul Hangang bike path, trailside cafeteria, Seoul Hangang bike path, trailside cafeteria, SeoulThe land under the floating expressways is also used by entrepreneurial locals to set up trailside cafeterias for hungry and thirsty bicyclist.  Generally you can't get the healthiest and hardiest of Korea cuisine, but you can grab a few carbohydrates out of a package.
    Amidst the behemoth concrete roadways the designers have found vistas to develop and created areas to stop, relax and pursue alternative recreation.
  vista, Hangang bike path, Seoul Dog meet-up, Hangang bike path, Seoul benches, Hangang bike path, Seoul go board, Hangang bike path, Seoul Climbing wall, Hangang bike path, Seoul

In one place the trail-side furniture is a table with a Go board and adjacent stools -- you need to supply your own stones.

  The Jungnangcheon (stream) tributary to the Hangang has bicycle and pedestrian facility on much of both sides of the waterway.  A lot of it runs through areas with a lot of high rise residential building so it provide substantial open space for the local residents.

Near the mouth of Jungnamcheon is a sculpture garden. A few pieces are shown below:

  Jungnangcheon (stream) sculpture garden, Seoul  Jungnangcheon (stream) sculpture garden, Seoul Jungnangcheon (stream) sculpture garden, Seoul Jungnangcheon (stream) sculpture garden, Seoul
     
 

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