Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Seoul: Hiking at Bukhansan!


It's always been a dream of mine to hike up a mountain, but the last time I went hiking I was usually the last one in the group, short of breath, and actually ended up with a twisted ankle.

Since Korea is extremely famous for its mountainous regions, hiking is a very common past time among its locals and is especially popular with middle-aged people and up.


Sam and I got up ten minutes past waffle time in the hostel and actually missed out on our free waffles! So instead we stopped by Paris Baguette for a bun before catching our bus to 북한산 Bukhansan - a mountain in the north of Seoul. We made a new friend in our hostel, Kiya, who we also invited to come along the trip with us.


From our hostel, we first took the subway on Line 6 to 연신내역 Yeonsinnae Station and hopped onto bus 704 which took us right to 북한산성 Bukhansanseong which was only a five minute walk from one of the main gates of Bukhansan. 


We chose to hike from the 북한산성탐방지원센터 (Bukhansan Hiking Support Centre) to the highest peak of Bukhansan, 백운대 Baegundae which stands tall at 836.5 metres.


The mountain was beautiful with all its greenery and never ending staircases along with its rocky terrain but it was definitely a challenge I wanted to go for :)!


Within the area of the mountain itself there were multiple waterfalls all over the place which tempted us greatly to refill our bottles with icy clear cold water. But since weren't too sure on how hygienic it would be to drink some of the water, we unfortunately had to slowly ration our water supply.


Along with its many waterfalls, there were also old temples which were scattered across the region.


We hiked up for roughly 2-3 hours with multiple short stops in between which consisted of chats with some of the local aunts and uncles and also attempting to catch our breath (which was very much lacking in its supply).


Along our journey, we made friends with other hikers who also came from abroad and we decided to hang and chill with them at the top of the mountain as well as on the way down. Introducing Joe and Gemma from Britain, and Chris from Canada (from left)


We finally got up to 백운대 Baegundae peak and the cool weather helped in refreshing us as well as probably toning down our B.O. 


The view was absolutely spectacular though, the clouds aided in a mystical filter effect over the mountains which really added to the ambiance.. 


We weren't the only living beings up there as we spotted two cats joyfully playing around the peak. Chris then proceeded to give them some dried fish he got from Russia in his travels lately.


As proof, we really did make it up to the highest peak of 북한산 Bukhansan and I miraculously was able to reach it without twisting an ankle or falling behind (a large achievement in Audrey's lack of physical activity)


We also came well prepared as we had some delicious beef kimbap at the top of the mountain. We spent over an hour just chilling on the top where we people observed other hikers. One amazing man hiked all the way up with his toddler strapped to his chest from the start to finish. Another group of aunties had loads of fresh fruit and super peeling skills as they skillfully peeled and sliced one apple after the other in perfectly equal sizes.


On the way down we took our time and splashed by the waterfalls followed by a hearty meal in one of the local restaurants nearby. We got some 김치 찌개 kimchi stew, 라볶이 ramyun with spicy rice cake, 계란말이 rolled omelette, 두부 튀김 deep fried tofu, 비빔국수 mixed cold noodles paired with some 맥주 beer and 막걸리 rice wine.

After heading back to the hostel for a nice hot shower after a super tiring but extremely fulfilling day, we got some beer and makgeolli from the local store and headed down to 한강 (the Han River) for chats along the tranquil river of all sorts of things that we needed to catch up on for the past year missed.

For anyone considering hiking in Seoul, I would greatly recommend Bukhansan as it's easy to get to from the city and it's a good challenge with a great reward at the very top. It's only my second time hiking a mountain and I was able to survive relatively well so don't be too afraid! Just wear good shoes and clothes and enjoy the workout!

Next up: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Chicken Ginseng Soup, Shaved Iced Desserts and Insadong!

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