I got up late and spent the morning leisurely cleaning and relaxing about the apartment. I got ready and headed out for my first hiking adventure in Korea around 1:45pm. The mountain that Erin had picked was only 2 subway stops away, so I just stuck to that mountain. I also looked it up and the Official Site of Korea Tourism had this to say:
At 287 meters high, Mt. Achasan is an easy 30-minute hike, which is perfect for beginners. In fact, many people walk up the mountain wearing casual clothing. It offers hikers a bird’s-eye-view of the Hangang River and the downtown area.Well, sounds good to me! I headed to the subway station with my camera bag (holding only my large camera and my point-and-shoot in the small compartment), a bottle of water, my phone (for directions), and a FiberOne bar (snack, of course!). It's really pretty inconvenient to walk around holding the last 3 things in my hands, but I didn't have a backpack, nor the desire to trek all over Seoul to find one at a good price. So, I just went with my hands full and wearing tennis shoes (rather than hiking shoes like every good Korean owns...). I was also sporting my "I love Korea" shirt!
When I got off at the correct subway stop, I followed the directions I had gotten online as best I could, but also followed the crowds of Koreans in hiking gear with poles and backpacks. (These Koreans get into their hiking!! They all look like professionals.) I walked for about 20-25 minutes trying to locate the base of the mountain, and on the way passed many shops selling hiking gear. One place that looked pretty trendy had a small 20L backpack for 43,000W and I thought about getting it, but something held me back.
A little further on, a small shop had a display of brightly colored backpacks, so I wandered in and asked to see one. It had about 5 compartments, with an additional 5 secret small compartments. It was way better than the other one! I asked the price and he said 25,000W. Uh, heck ya!! I asked if he took card, but he said cash only. Bummer... I tried all my stuff in the backpack and sure enough, it fit the camera bag well and had little pockets for all my other doodads, plus room to spare. The shop keeper brought a calculator to me and said "if card..." and punched in 25,000 on the calculator, then + 3,000W. I thought about it for a sec, then agreed. It was a great bag, and less than I expected to spend (my goal was 30,000 or less).
All kitted out in my fancy new backpack (the shopkeeper graciously cut the tag off so I could use it immediately), I followed his directions up a pretty steep hill. I saw tons of people heading towards an entrance, so I followed suit. Of course there was a sign, but it was in Korean so I just assumed I was in the right spot.
I passed a troop of girls passing out papers and one started to say something to me, then got a look at me and giggled instead. I smiled and laughed. It was so cute. I saw another girl doing the same thing, and asked what they were doing. She explained in not terrible English they were doing a campaign for environmental awareness. I asked if they were asking for donations, and she said "No money!" and was about to hand me a flyer when the same little girl from earlier ran up and held out a paper and a pen in a tube and said "For you!" I laughed and took the paper and pen.
The first interesting thing I passed was a station where it looked like you could have free water. I assume it was actually clean (most water in Seoul is not), since people were flocking to it and refilling like 15 bottles. There were actually old ajummas with carts full of bottles and refilling them all. If I had known I probably would have done that too! Beats buying a Brita. Haha!
I don't think I've mentioned this before, but there are workout machines all over Seoul. On the side of the road, in the park, next to buildings, everywhere, there are these machines that people can just, well, use! And, of course, in case you don't get a good enough workout on the mountain, those thoughtful Koreans installed a whole little section for the workout machines both at the bottom and the top of the mountain! So nice...
I started to just head in the direction most people were going, and although there were signs and arrows, I couldn't read them. Even if I could, being such a noob, I wouldn't have known which way to go regardless! So, I just kept on the main trail. At one point, many people veered off to the left and started going up these extremely steep rocks (the trail I was on was dirt with slats to walk on). I decided to just stick to the safe path rather than risk my neck on the rocks. I started huffing and puffing about halfway up, took a breather and drank some water, then kept on. At many points there were arrows pointing in different directions; I either followed the crowds, or the signs that said "top." Eventually I had to take to the rock path since the dirt one ran out. My first glimpse of the view was amazing. And it only got better!
Reading more about the mountain now that I am home, I'm not sure if I actually even made it to the top, but I'm going to claim that I did. I got pretty high and I didn't want to accidentally wander onto the neighboring mountain that claims more difficult trails, so I took some photos at the point that I felt was pretty high and had the best views.
|My new friends|
|Mr. Kim and the other one arguing|
I let go as soon as possible; I mean, for all I knew I had agreed to marry him rather than have coffee like I thought. We started to walk down and I saw a photo op for a pic with the pagoda, so asked them to take a photo (I had no one else), and they did but also wanted another photo with me. I let them, but accidentally made an awkward face when he took the photo so it's not getting uploaded!
The way down was much easier than the way up as far as time and length. It was a little treacherous since we walked down the steep rocks that I had avoided on the way up. It was a pretty good shortcut. At one point, Mr. Kim wanted to hold my hand again. So weird... I kept telling myself "Koreans hold hands, it's not a big deal..." which is true, I see lots of Koreans holding hands that are obviously not bf/gf. But, still, I'm American and it's weird.
|Korean Traditional Tea|
Relieved to be back on my own, I leisurely made my way back to the subway. After the large cup of makgeolli, I was feeling pretty good. But when I got home I realized that my bed had not been replaced, and I had stripped it for no reason. I had to completely put it back together before I could sit down. I was exhausted, and slightly annoyed at the bed situation. Oh well. A sandwich for dinner and now watching old school Batman. So far, a good weekend with some surprising new friends(?). Here are some extra photos that didn't fit in the main body of the blog, but deserve to be shared.