Three Things Thursday

It’s back! And to kick start Three Things, here are three things…

… you can climb up in Korea.

Thing 1: Namsan

I’ve written about it before, and there are numerous photos of the iconic N. Seoul Tower at the top of it, but it can’t be stressed heavily enough: if you live in Seoul it’s virtually treason not to visit.

남산 (nam – south + san – mountain) is one of the four mountains that flanked the city and supported the fortress wall which encircled the original Joseon capital, known throughout the Joseon era as Hanyang or Hanseong – fortress city on the Han river. This was the southern boundary of the city from the late 1300s and for much of the following 500 years of Joseon rule. The shiny towers of modern day Gangnam (강남: gang – [of the] river + nam – south) and much of the sprawling south of the city has only been developed in the post-war boom. As a result, Namsan is now smack in the centre of the thriving modern metropolis that is Seoul.

Cable car on Namsan

Cable car on Namsan

As Matt, the dedicated writer of Discovering Korea explains far better than I can, the park atop the mountain boasts an array of facilities for all to enjoy. In the teeming urban jungle, it’s important to have somewhere close at hand to unwind with a stroll through nature, and Namsan’s gentle trails are so picturesque as to be enjoyable at any time of year. Spring and autumn are especially beautiful as the abundance of trees and plants show off their blossoms or autumn foliage. In summer, the shaded walkways offer shelter away from the dust and sweltering heat of the city streets, and from December to March the stark branches and hidden, iced-up streams offer an understated, wintry beauty.

Wintry beauty Icy streams

Icy streams, wintry beauty

Thing 2: Bukhansan

Bukhansan is another impressively sized mountain to find in the centre of a city. The three peaks the park was originally named for rise well over 2000 feet, and while Namsan is a gentle stroll, some of Bukhansan’s trails are a definite hike, including the highest: Baegundae.

The level of difficulty by no means prevents the descent of hordes of brightly dressed walkers onto the paths. From the onset of spring (starting last weekend from what I could glean on the subway) larger and larger numbers tackle the various routes up, over and around the park.

Running from the centre of the city and out to the north, Bukhansan National Park covers a huge area and is within easy reach of 20 million inhabitants of the Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi-do region, plus other internal and external tourists. Its 5-million-visitor-a-year footfall earned the park an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the, “Most Visited National Park per Unit Area.” It was certainly thick with bodies when I made my debut in late September last year.

Accompanied by some fellow Runsplorers (taking a day to Hikesplore instead) and my first ever Couchsurfing guest, we set off for the mountain. All of Bukhansan’s trailheads are easily accessible by Seoul’s super-efficient public transport system, naturally. Thinking nothing of the serious-looking get-up of the numerous other hikers on the train, I was ill-prepared for the craziness of my first real Korean mountain experience.

As previously noted, young and old in Korea like to kit up in top-to-toe multi-zipped apparel to enjoy even a ramble along the horizontal banks of the Han. This had fooled me into presuming that 836 metres would be a breeze. However, at  a deceptive last turn in the path, the need for hiking boots, poles, and a pair of brown trousers revealed itself. A generally civilised walk turned into a hair-raising scramble over rocks, clinging to steel cable driven into the boulders, and squeezing through narrow gullies along with 500 other sweating maniacs.

Hikesploring in Bukhansan

Hikesploring in Bukhansan

The icing on the cake was getting to the top and witnessing gangs of spritely retirees who’d made it up there and were getting smashed on makgeolli and soju before heading back down. Fortunately, make it back down we did, all in one piece, and with the addition of a new friend we’d made at the top.

While this is one walk I wouldn’t recommend in the freezing winter months, the lower slopes are garlanded with trees and plants which made our early autumn jaunt a joy. I can’t wait to get back to Bukhansan. I’ll be starting much earlier this year so I can enjoy the best of the seasons and explore some of the other paths.

Thing 3: Seoraksan

As my last post was an in-depth description of my recent experience climbing Ulsanbawi, all I’ll add here is a couple more photos and my pledge to myself to Return and tackle the monster, 12 hour, multi-peak hike to this park’s highest peak, Daecheongbong.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Holly Beddome
    Mar 08, 2015 @ 22:58:05

    Nice to see our trek to Baegundae peak make an appearance! I’d be happy to go again this season, although I may start out with some easier hikes first- I haven’t been as active as you likely have over the winter 😛



    • Pieces of 8
      Mar 30, 2015 @ 16:58:58

      I think it’s definitely coming up to the time to arrange a spring Hikesplore. I found a great site that lists Bukhansan hiking routes so I shall endeavour to find a good spring blossoms route.



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