Namhansanseong Provincial Park

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September 13th 2015
Published: October 1st 2015
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Namhansanseong Provincial Park is located very close to Seoul. It stretches over the cities of Seongnam and Gwangju. It even has its own stop on the subway. We took the pink line to Namhansanseong Ipgu (entrance) and came out of exit 4, and headed straight. We kept walking and walking for maybe thirty to forty minutes, along the road. I'm sure that there must be a bus that you are able to take to make the journey quicker and easier. I had never been to Seognam before, can't say that this part of the city was anything to write home about, it was pretty old and generic. We reached the entrance to the provincial park and headed in the direction of the South Gate.

We passed quite a couple of temples on the way, and we saw signs for more temples, too. We wanted to try and hitch a ride on a little van going to one of the temples to have a rest. The trail started to get steeper, but it wasn't too bad. It was the start of a good work out. It took around another thirty minutes to reach the South Gate. It was cool to look up as we were hiking and see the gate standing above us, looking all imposing. We passed under the gate and took the trail to the right, which lead us up to the fortress wall. We took a quick peak at the top of the South Gate and then continued to the left. As I looked to the right, I could see the wall continuing in the opposite direction.

We followed the wall on its course. The hiking was a bit up and down. The weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny. I was surprised at how much greenery there was about. The views from the wall was all trees, it was just masses and masses of forest. It was hard to believe that I was so close to the city, it felt like I was in the 'real' countryside of Gangwon-do or Jeollanbuk-do. The path was quite wide, which was nice. There were also some gorgeous flowers growing along the side of the path. We walked for about half an hour to reach the east gate. The path got a bit steeper and it required some concentration going down the stairs. We emerged out on to a road, which was a little busy, crossed it and continued on our way.

While it had been great going down, it was a bugger to go back up. However the view was gorgeous. I could see the wall running along in the countryside. There was also a strange tree, which had some kind of legend attached to it, but I totally forgot what it was about. The rocks also had some Chinese characters carved on to them. I wish I was able to understand what they mean. We walked a bit further and came across Jangkyeongsa Temple. The temple was not one of the original two, but was built later, around 1624, when the fortress wall was being built. These temples were special in that they were not only built to house the monks building the wall, but they were used as military temples. This meant that the temple maintained an armoury and gunpowder stores. The temple was ready and able to defend the fortress if necessary. However in 1907, the temple and it armoury was destroyed the Japanese. I had a look around the temple. It was pretty and quite small.

Back on the route, we continued on and on. The next part was pretty steep. There were some hidden gates, which were small entrances/exits in the wall. They were not part of the original design, but added later. It was hard for the enemy to distinguish them from the rest of fortress wall. We also passed a Sentry Station site. There were only a few small stones remaining, now. But in the past, there would have been a small wooden building with a tiled roof and an open front. It was bad enough in the heat, I bet it was hell on earth to be a sentinel in the winter. The site is slightly more elevated than the surrounding area. We reached the top of the hill and came across a very amusing sign about Namhansanseong Breastworks. The 'breastworks' were apparently the defensive parapets at the upper deck of a fortress. They protect soldiers from enemy fire, while allowing them to shoot arrows and fire guns at the enemy effectively.

As we continued our walk around, we could see southern Seoul stretched out in front of us. I could make out the Lotte Skyscraper as it towers above all the other buildings in the area. There was a part of the fortress wall, where you can see the old original wall and the newer reconstruction. It was funny seeing them side by side. We passed the north gate. The hike was getting a little tedious now, as it was all up and down, up and down. We looked at the section leading away from the North Gate and all thought bugger. Uphill again! We could see what looked like a smooth path below us, which appeared to gently rise. So after inquiring that it did lead to the West Gate, we took that for a bit.

The route between the North Gate and the West Gate was fairly quick and only took us about half an hour. We went for a look out of the West Gate, as the door was open but the view wasn't great, only trees. However, as we walked further along the view did get a lot better and we could see for miles. We continued on for about another half an hour and we reached Suoejangdae, which was technically the end of our hike. Sueojangdae was defence commander's post. It is a two story military building that was used for observation and directing battles. It was built in 1624 along with four other similar facilities, however Sueojangdae is the only one that survived to this day. The commander would have had an impressive view of the surrounding area. The building was really impressive and a great place to take a rest. We sat enjoying the sun and eating some snacks.

From the old command post, we headed back the way we came. There signpost and we headed in the direction of Jongno, which is where we wanted to be. We headed down the trail. I think we went a bit wrong on part of the trail, as the path got a lot narrower and it seemed like were traipsing down a dried out old stream. The ground was still a bit wet and slippery in places. We felt like we weren't on the proper path, but there were people behind us. So maybe it was a legit path or these people had just been dumb enough to follow us. We emerged on someone's farm, oops!

We then found the road. This area seemed really new, lots of nice new buildings, some modern and some traditional in style. There was one gorgeous hank style building that I would love to live in. We made it out of the little village, and found the bus stop that was in the car park. We lined up for bus number 9, the queue was pretty long, so it was standing room only by the time we got on. The bus journey took about 20 minutes. The road was very twisty, and I felt a bit sick, which is unusual as I don't get travel sick. The bus went past where we had started the trail. It didn't stop at the station where we got off the subway, but pretty near, so we had a 5 minute walk down the road to reach it.

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