24-Feb-2008 -- This particular confluence has a special place in me, as it was the first confluence I ever visited. It was because of this spot that I bought a costly GPS receiver - something of a rarity in the country back then - and started visiting confluences all over the Korean peninsula, and eventually to other places.
Seven years have gone by and much has changed. I still have that receiver in fully working condition at home, but nowadays I carry a handheld GPS navigation unit with full map of Korea and a GPS logger that constantly records my position with me at all times. I won't get lost following mangled directions, and if there's a confluence nearby, I won't be missing out.
Another thing that's going to change soon is my marital status - I'll be getting married in a couple of months and the topic of honeymoon trip came up recently. I felt this to be another fine opportunity to visit more confluences, but I needed a rehearsal with my new equipments; you'll note that I was still using my old GPS receiver on my last confluence visit. So on this Sunday afternoon, I convinced my girlfriend Sarah to come with me for a confluence visit. What better spot than 37N 127E? It was also the closest one from her house, anyway.
Things have gotten a lot easier this time around. Seoul Subway Line 1 has been extended all the way down to Cheonan, two provinces down, so the subway stops at Pyeongtaek station along the way. You can look up online for accurate bus route information and real-time bus arrival times, removing most of the guesswork needed for getting close to the confluence. After getting off the subway at Pyeongtaek station, Sarah and I got on the bus #98 near the station, across the street from Pyeongtaek Tourist Hotel. It dropped us off at 'Sanggungwon' bus stop about 15 minutes later, which was about 1km due north of the confluence.
Following the on-screen directions on the navigation unit, we walked south. The narrow streets had only the rice paddies and occasional barns adjoining them, just like how I remembered it. The only striking differences were that the paddies were barren, not green, and we were facing blistering cold winds of February instead of warm breeze of June. I felt that I didn't pick the best day to come here, but since we were already so close, we decided to carry on. I felt a bit of sympathy for Sarah.
About twenty minutes in, the confluence marker icon for 37N 127E started to appear on the screen of the navigation unit. Soon, we were told to be within 10 meters of the confluence . The GPS logger's data tagged the visited spot to be 37D 00' 00"N, 127D 00' 00"E, so the navigation guided us to the accurate spot (I couldn't confirm this coordinates on screen immediately - see next paragraph). The confluence was in the middle of the rice paddies, as expected. Looking around, the only noticeable infrastructural change since my last visit was the road that went through the middle of the rice paddies [Picture #1] [Picture #3]. It used to be unpaved, narrow one, but now it's paved and wide enough for passenger car to pass through. As a matter of fact, a white sedan passed by us while we were taking photos.
Now, the curious thing about the navigation unit I was using was that, while it was receiving WGS84 coordinates from the satellites, it automatically converted them to BESSEL coordinates for display. This was because the electronic maps available for South Korean region are based on that system. Consequently, the confluence showed up as 37D 59' 49"N, 127D 00' 08"E on the screen due to this difference in coordinate systems. Since I wanted to make sure that we really indeed visited the confluence, we checked out the BESSEL version of the confluence as well. It was only about 370 meters away in the northwest direction.
After 5 minutes of walking, we came to this confluence as well, and again, it was in the middle of the rice paddies. It was then that the display showed 37D 00' 00"N, 127D 00' 00"E. More pictures were taken, but since we were getting pretty cold, we did not hesitate to leave the place once the mission was accomplished. We walked north to reach the main road where the bus stop was, and took bus #81 to come back to Pyeongtaek station. Returning home, we had a nice, hot dinner.