I think my favorite thing about Seoul/Korea is the hiking everywhere! There are parks and trails all around the city and surrounding area, and of course even more out in the countryside. I will do my best to explore as much as possible!
The first climb was Bugaksan. This is a small mountain, one of 4 that are built into the Seoul Fortress Wall. By the name, the Fortress Wall used to surround the whole city and Bugaksan was the northern gateway, but now that Seoul has grown (so so huge), most of the wall is actually just around the city center.
I met a guy named Ryan from the Philippines to do the hike and practice Spanish together for the day… And what did we do first? Get lost! Not for very long though but it was a bit difficult to find the trail head. We started from Waryong Park which has a few other trails and followed the path to Sukjeongmun, the North Gate.
Before arriving, we had to go through a security checkpoint and pick up IDs for this part if the walk. Because Bugaksan looks over important areas and particularly the Blue House (like the White House, but blue), you aren’t allowed to take pictures from certain viewpoints. Still, I was able to get a bunch of good ones! There were young military officers (probably 18-19 years old) scattered on the route in posts and just walking around everywhere so I always had someone available to double check on the restrictions.
The wall was built super fast back in its day by means of recruiting people from all regions of the country. Apparently along the wall you can find engravings that represent each region and the section they contributed. I didn’t see this but I will keep looking. What is easy to find is the different type of stones that were used in the three construction periods. Rocks, rectangular rocks, and super cut square rocks. Why did it sound more interesting from the history video than when I say it?
Also along the path you can find the 1.21 Incident/January Pine. This is the souvenir from an attempted attack from North Korea in 1968, and they have the bullet holes marked in the tree. It was 31 North Korean soldiers that made it that far in before getting caught. In my mind I just think, what were they really expecting to accomplish with so few people in an area with such heavy security? Suicide mission? Or maybe there were more and where did THEY go?
Classical music played from speakers along the path! If this happened every time I went hiking, it would be amazing! Definitely eases the muscle pain from climbing stairs. Forget the view and exercise, I just went for the music!
I also really liked that at the gate, you can go upstairs to see the upper area. Even though the little door is locked and the whole thing is closed off, there is a sign on the floor inside that says Do Not Sit on the Floor. How would anyone manage to do that anyway?
We finished at the Northwest gate of Changuimun by walking down (thankfully not up this side) millions of stairs!!!!
After nearly falling down the steep stone stair From snapping the last pictures, we made our way down to Cheongwadae (the Blue House) for a view from the front. My favorite part here: one military officer standing in a box in the middle of the intersection. Just one. Must be a very long shift for him.
For lunch we went to Namdaemun Market – where you can find anything and everything it seems! I finally picked up my missing plug adapter for $1, we chatted with one vendor about ginseng, and had lunch in one of the many food alleys. Spicy fried squid and a tofu stew, plus rice, extra sides, and poached egg which comes with every order! Yummy yummy.
Ryan and I parted ways after that and I wandered down to Changgyeon stream. It runs through thr city center but they paved the banks for people to stroll and sit in the shade under the bridges. It’s just low enough to ignore the traffic and the buildings above and really feels like a nice escape from the busy city. It’s a few kilometers in total, and I walked maybe half until I hitched a ride on the subway back home again.
Whew! So that is last Thursday… Almost up to date!