Archangel's blog A pointless waste of time


Day 5

This was the day of ever changing plans and surprises (both good and bad ones).

The weather forecast indicated that it was going to be sunny until around 1 pm, then it would rain for a couple of hours. I wanted to climb all of the four primary mountains of Seoul so thought I might take one more today. Lonely planet sadly informed me that Ingwasan's peak was not open to the public. But there is a shamanic village at the foot of the mountain that was supposed to be worth a visit. So getting close to the mountain would have to do. The plan for the afternoon was then to head to Techno Mart, Koreas largest mall for all things technology. And thus escape the rain.

So took the subway (after some breakfast) just two stations away. And here my first troubles started, I had three maps when I got of the train, the guidebook, one on my iPhone and the one the subway had on the wall. The problem being that neither of the three maps had the same small streets marked and it was not a straight path to the village. Had to backtrack a couple of times till I found the colorful gate to the village. And the walk there was uphill! I could already feel my legs being sore from the day before.

The Shamanic village was located on a steep hillside and had colorful houses and lots of murals. These murals were of a more religious nature than the one I saw yesterday. In some ways more beautiful.

I walked through the village and up the mountainside behind it. Soon found the first item on the agenda, a holy rock. Nice but nothing spectacular, the view was better.

Got turned around and lost a few times trying to find the stone carved Buddha and finally gave up. So moved on and hiked away. When coming upon the fork in the trail where the book said I was to turn right due to the closed peak I saw no sign forbidding me to head left. Not being in any hurry I decided to try my luck and headed left. Lots of up and down along steep trails till I came upon the fortress wall. And lo and behold! People were walking along it, on the other side. Seemed the top had been opened again. A lucky twist so I changed my plans, for the better. The trail followed the wall in both directions but I didn't know which way to head so that I could cross to the other side where the trail to the top was. Decided to try uphill first.

I'm glad I did! Didn't find a way to cross but found a gorgeous peak where no others seemed to go. Had a wonderful view of the city. Used the delayed trigger on the camera to get a self portrait.

Then headed back down towards the stairs I had spotted, that way I could cross the wall.

Crossed the wall and headed towards the top. I might not have reached the same amount of steps or length today as yesterday but I'd say I still had a harder day. Compared to today yesterday's hikes were walks in the parks (which in the literal sense I guess they were). This was a very steep ascent! Some parts were more akin to a climb, even though there were steps carved in the mountainside. And this mountain is a lot taller that the last two. And the sun was blasting me with heat... Harsh!

The sad part about this trek was that it wasn't allowed to photograph the city from this angle. Actually for a serious reason. In 1968 North Korean agents climbed the wall and tried to assassinate the president in the presidential compound. So no great pictures. You'll just have to take my word for it that it was beautiful and a hard trip.

When climbing up I realized that this enabled me to continue down on the other side and eat lunch in a village there I had heard was supposed to have several good restaurants and then continue onto the last of the four defining mountains, Bukaksan. Sadly, just a little way down the mountainside I remembered reading that due to the assassination attempt one now had to present ID to enter that part of the wall, and I had left mine at the guesthouse for safekeeping. So my plans changed once again. Techno Mart was back on.

Just had to find my way down from this mountain without going all the way to the far village. This involved taking another route, backtracking and choosing yet another route and feeling quite lost. But as long as I was heading downwards I knew I'd get to civilization eventually. And so I did! Found one of the main roads and started down it in the direction of the nearest subway station. But felt kind of hungry...

A bit further on I saw a market on the other side of the street, the kind that goes along around into a block. Decided to see if they might have some cheap street food. Got in and saw stalls with buckets of food and people walking amongst them with plastic trays. Could it be? It was, it was!

I had read about this place but forgotten where it was and had now stumbled upon it by happenstance. What the deal is is this: you walk up the stairs in the middle of the market. There you pay 5000 won (37 kr) for a plastic take away tray with several separated compartments and get 10 coins. These coins are the legal tender among these stalls. Then it's just a matter of walking up and down and pointing at what you want and paying 1 to 2 coins per thing till you're all out of coins. So much to chose from and so much that looked great! I managed to fill myself up pretty good with this. Both great food at a great price and a great experience. Really wonderful lunch!

Replenished and relaxed I made my way down the last stretch to the subway and went across town to where my memory said the techno mart was. You might see where this is going... No TM to be found. I hadn't written down where to go, I'd just looked it up on the Internet and the name of the station clearly sat right in my mind. What to do?

Thank god for open wifi networks! I found one belonging to a nearby motel (they had on for each floor) and quickly found the info I was looking for. I was half right (and thus of course also half wrong), the name I thought sounded right did so because that was the name of the street. I was just about 1.5 kilometers off, on another subway line. But a little walking never stopped me!

But what did stop me was that when I got there only the bottom floor, fashion seemed to be open. Turned out once in a blue moon the closed or day for no particular reason. Aaargh!

So, what now? I remembered a very odd market I had read about, it's held in a stationary subway train on a station with an extra platform. So I hopped on a train and got there to find... Not today! What theā€½ I was starting to despair a bit.

Decided that from here I could walk to Samsung's headquarters that was closed when I was there on Sunday. And I could manage to fit in on temple ground and one burial ground on the way. So more walking it was.

The temple ground was well worth the visit. In the middle of Gangnam, a very busy neighborhood but still so calm and serene. I managed not to make a fool out of myself today as well. Success!

The burial ground on the other hand was a bit of a disappointment. The graves were on high grassy mounds, but you weren't allowed to walk on the grass. So all you could do was stand on the ground below and glimpse the top of the graves. No way to enjoy the splendor (or indeed assess if there was any splendor to be had). Glad the entry was only 3.7 Kr, didn't need to feel that cheated.

Eventually I found Samsung d'light, as they called there store and exhibition center. Three floors, where only the first was a store. The store I could have been without but the others were a bit interesting. Nothing to get to excited about though.

Sadly I suddenly felt a bit nauseous. So I sat down on the square outside and relaxed for a bit. It subsided a little but didn't go away completely so I decided to get some dinner and hope that satiated my upset stomach.

For dinner I decided to head back to the area where I had sushi two days ago. Today it was jam packed! Talk about a bustling neighborhood. Many restaurants even had lines outside them. And sadly many restaurants were pretty pricey. I was starting to despair again when I saw a charming little place that seemed to have interesting food at reasonable prices. There was even a Korean eating alone at one table, then a lonely westerner must be ok.

I ordered a set meal with ten small dishes, rice, kimchi stew and bulgogi (marinated beef). Everything but two dishes were great, lots of different flavors. A really tasty dinner, and lots and lots of food! All for the reasonable price of about 160 Kr, including beer. Not dirt cheap but neither expensive.

Tired and satisfied in finally made my way back to the guesthouse once again where I'm now resting my weary legs and feet with blisters.

If the weather is willing tomorrow I'll see if I can scale the fourth, tallest and final mountain.

Reflection 1: The guidebook said that western tourists seldom ventured into the northern parts of Seoul and after spending several days around said northern parts I can verify that this is indeed so. As soon as you get closer to downtown the amount of western tourists increase dramatically. Not that I'm complaining, it's nice to have some peace and quite, but they really are missing out on some of the better parts of Seoul.

Reflection 2: I had heard that cosmetic surgery is popular in Korea and when seeing the silly amounts of advertisement and the copious amount of clinics along the streets in the fancier areas I can only say that it seems to be as popular as I was lead to believe. Scary...

Reflection 3: The senior citizens here are no layabouts! When scaling the mountain today it was mostly me and senior citizens. One I talked to was 69 and doing a climb I found strenuous. Impressive!

Steps taken: 29 361 (23.17 km)

And don't forget to check today's gallery: Gallery link

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