Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Weekend In Seoul Part 2...fearless ajummas, mountain kittens and Soju...

One of the beautiful temples in the heart of
Bukhansan National Park
The next morning was foggy as I made the subway trip to Dobongsan station in the north of Seoul. I had been assured I would be able to find my way from the subway station to the start of the trail I was after in Bukhansan National Park, I just had to ‘follow the hikers’. I had spotted a few on the train but at 9am as I ventured out of the station, there they were, the swarms of visitors I had been warned of. It could easily put you off, but as a fast walker and with a series of trails from the Dobongsan start to enjoy, it got much quieter and is definitely a trek worth doing. 

TOP TIP: make sure you visit Bukhansan on a week day and early in the day to avoid the crowds.

The trek took me up past colourful temples and quiet plateaus to the Jaunbong Peak 731 metres high, where surprisingly I found a kitten roaming the rocks. Unphased by the height, well so I thought, it was happy to take a cheese cracker of mine.

Not happy with having to head back just yet, I ventured towards the next peak, noticing in the distance some railings on a practically vertical trail up a rock face. Hoping that I wouldn’t end up there, my gym trainers weren’t the most ideal walking shoe but none the less served me well, until I hit the ‘death’ trail that is. Being passed by a number of little old Korean woman who seemed to have balls of steel and climbed that peak like it was a weekend stroll, I was not going to be beaten by a couple of ‘ajummas’.

Slightly fearing for my life, my previous rock-climbing skills came in very handy as I utilized the cracks and crevices to pull myself up half of it. Knocking a bottle of water from my backpack down the side of a mountain into the abyss only reminded me that my life was in my own hands. Blood, sweat and nearly a few tears were shed to see one of the most stunning views of Seoul. The fog had lifted, the women in front of me were still on some sort of mission and I was alone at the top of a mountain. Calm and peaceful, it was certainly not something I had expected to do during my trip here but it was the most awe-inspiring view I had seen in a long time.

At the top of Dobongsan Peak
I gradually made my way back down with my now fearless attitude, slipping and sliding on the damp leaves and gravel. I passed the endless numbers of hikers heading up there, thanking myself for heading up early to avoid them. My trek back was somewhat easier, although in my fearless state I now felt like I could take on the world.

Evening came and after meeting my old friend from uni and my guide for the weekend, Laura, I enjoyed some local street food, and Soju, a Korean liquor that I didn't enjoy. Even chasing it down with some local beer didn't help. Impressed at her Korean language skills with the locals, my Mancunian friend was to become my Korean cuisine mentor and food orderer for the weekend, a welcome relief after my first attempt at ordering food when I arrived. 

Human frogs, zombies and a whole lot of padlocks in part three here

Missed a bit? Check out part one of my weekend in Seoul here

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