Archangel's blog A pointless waste of time


Day 4

My feet and legs are sore!
Today I climbed (I use the term liberally here) two of Seoul's four defining mountains (one of them I actually scaled twice). So not only is this the most active day when it comes to steps and distance but also when it comes to vertical movement.

Started my day eating a chiabata and drinking som freshly squeezed strawberry juice at a little café about a block away. Felt like a good start.

Then I took the train to a station on the north east side of town. This area is an artsy area known for theaters and murals. I started the day by walking through the area and could soon confirm that there are a lot of theaters and all the buildings are unique. It's a really charming neighborhood. There were also lots of restaurants. I then headed for the other side, where Naksan park can be found. So called because the mountain Naksan is in it. It was a steep walk up steep streets to get to the park. Once there I wound my way among steps and paths to the top. Granted, this is not an especially tall mountain. But the view at the top was still very nice.

As I said, there are four main mountains in Seoul, they define the old city. Across all these mountains and connecting them there was a fortress wall, with guard towers and four gates (on in each direction). Naksan is the east one and is not the tallest of the mountains. Here can be seen som parts of the original fortress wall, restored.

From the top I decided to follow the wall back south a bit to see what I found. What I did find was Ihwa-dong, on of Seoul's "Moon villages". So called because the poor inhabitants (mostly refugees from the war with Japan) could see the moon from their hilltop homes. Though that sounds nice it was really more like a slum. But a few years ago it was decided to brighten the village up a bit and 46 artists and the community helped beautify the area with loads of murals. So it was actually a very interesting walk down through the village.

Back down again I decided to have an early lunch so that I could walk far north along the wall in the afternoon. I found a Shabu restaurant (I know, strictly speaking that's Japanese, not Korean. But they are really big on Japanese food and fusion of it with Korean) that seemed to accept singles (Shabu is like the Japanese version of fondue, usually there has to be at least two people) so I ventured in. Success! Party of one accepted and I sat down with a beer to enjoy myself. Which I did! Though it was borderline to spicy (my fault for ordering the spicy broth). I did have to do the forbidden thing, blow ones nose at the table, several times. My nose turned into a leaky faucet. Didn't help that the ceiling fan kept blowing the hot steam from the pot straight in my face.
Still a great lunch! And for the price of about 82 Kr (including beer) I'd say it's a bargain.

Then I headed back up to the top of the mountain to follow the fortress wall in the other direction.

Btw, today's weather was sunny and warm, with only a few charming clouds in the sky. So nice weather for photography but harsh weather for walking.

After only a few hundred masters down the mountain it became apparent that I couldn't follow the wall the whole way, as I had hoped and wanted. It ran straight trough a residential area and I was blocked by a fence. But one of the four gates was further on so I decided to find my way past this neighborhood and join up with the wall further on.

That took longer than expected! Streets run every which way, are step and winding and many with dead ends. Had to backtrack a couple of times before I resorted to going the long way around via bigger roads. Started to give up hope and thought of what my changed plans should be. Then by chance turned around and saw up behind a wall I just had passed, the gate! So found it and made my way through it and along a small part of the wall till once again it was broken by a residential area. Now I was pretty far north and realized there was no more wall to be had here. So decided to head to the subway and make my way to another if the main mountains. But before I did that I wanted to see a temple not far away that was supposed to be very tranquil. Turned out to be farther than I thought and had to get help with directions (luckily found a young man who not only knew the way but was going there himself). On my (our) way there we wound through a district called the Beverly Hills of Seoul, both because it's actually located on a hill (yay, more steep streets to scale) and because the houses are very expensive luxury villas. Very posh! What I could see of houses and gardens was beautiful though.

The temple was well worth the walk here. The temple itself wasn't so special but the grounds were as stated very tranquil and beautiful. Had one been so inclined one could have stayed in Buddhist temple stay here with education in Buddhism. The huts on the hillside they stayed in looked very cozy. During my walk here my most embarrassing moment of the day: saw a monk walking through a gate further on and decided to take a picture, but since it was far away I walked two steps further with my camera pressed to my face... Then I stumbled and heard a noise. I had just knocked over a wooden sign on the ground in front of me. What did this sign say...? "Meditation area, please be quiet" Whoops! And since I had shorts I had been forced to put on a silly cloth around my legs to hide them. The only westerner there is tripping around in a skirt and knocking things over. Very proud moment!

After this beautiful scenery and embarrassment I again headed downhill and finally took the metro across town to the southern mountain, Namsan.

This mountain is a lot taller than the last one, but did I make it easy for myself and join most the other tourists? No! Most western tourists seemed to take the cable car to the top, most Asian tourists seemed to take the bus around back to the top. So, I walked! Straight to the top? No, no, no! Of course I took the walk all the way around the back and up along the old fortress walk. This included going almost all the way to the top, the down again on the backside, then up a lot of stairs along the wall, then down in a small valley before heading to the top. The maps seemed to indicate that it was a little over 6 km, but again, not on flat terrain!

At the top of this mountain is what is today the geological centre of Seoul and here can be found N Seoul Tower. Only about 240 meters high, but since it's at the top of a mountain the view is spectacular. Sadly the windows were curved and gave a lot of glare, so I couldn't get any good shots.

Once on a walking frenzy I of course followed the old wall all the way down on the other side of the mountain and came back to almost where I started. From here I walked a short distance to one of the other four main gates into the old city. This one is sadly a new reconstruction since the old one was burned down by an arson in 2002. This one looked very nice but stood on the middle of a busy intersection and you are not allowed to get close to it (understandable since we know how the old one perished). So again, no good shots to be had.

Right next to this gate is Namdaemun, another of Seoul's enormous and bustling markets. I happened upon the part that had all the camera stores so I perused for a bit but was soon stopped by two young men. They were not exceptionally good at English but the conversation that transpired amounted to this: they wanted to know if I drank alcohol, since I do they wanted me to have some free alcohol, they were having a promotion for their brand. This free drinking was to take place in 45 minutes and I was to please come back.
Say it with me: there is no such thing as a free lunch!

I walked around the area and just looked at what was on offer for a while. Being the sceptic I am I did want to look this gift horse in the mouth. So I headed back to the little open square in question but stood a bit to the side and watched first. What I saw was a lot of tables laid out in front of a podium, on the tables were full place setting and lots of strange foods were laid out and last but not least there were quite a lot of big video cameras on tripods around the tables.

No, I'm not so fond of free alcohol that I'm going to walk straight into that, whatever that was. Call me a coward but I snuck away to eat and drink on my own terms.

Again I tried some street food. This time from different vendors, but on fills up more quickly than one would think. Once full and satisfied that I had seen the merchandise I needed to see I walked through another district to a subway station a bit farther away and then made my way back to my guesthouse where I'm now resting my weary legs.

By popular demand (ok, not really popular demand, just Erik's demand) there is in today's gallery a few pictures of yours truly. All complaints can be made out to Erik.

Steps taken: 30 559 (24.11 km)

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