Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hands, Crowds and Views

A few weeks ago, Ben, Elaine, Dustin, J and I decided to go hiking to look at the beautiful fall leaves. Elaine and I researched good places to hike in Seoul and chose a trail in Bukhansan. The website said it was a slight incline and the leaves were beautiful. We thought it would be a great idea. As did the entire population of Seoul. Or so it seemed.

Here is the line to the bus to go to the beginning of the path. And J, Ben, Elaine and Dustin waiting for the bus.

And here is the bus.

I bet you've never seen one that full in Seattle! It's a fairly common occurrence here.
Notice how they are all wearing the same outfit. We made fun of them, until we realized that they were all a lot more prepared for the hike than we were.

We headed up to the hiking trail, along with the 10 million other people. The walk there involved multiple hiking apparel stores with very interesting signs
including this gigantic North Face backpack.

So, the 5 of us and the 12 million other residents of Seoul headed towards the mountain path:

We reached the path and enjoyed wonderful views of leaves.

Here's a random wall in the middle of the path.

we walked...slowly. Due to the traffic jams on the stairways.

About halfway up, we arrived at a parking lot with a terrifying mascot.

Then, we saw a wonderful, wooden statue:
And a small temple:

We then reached a crossroads. This involved a choice.

We weren't entirely sure which path was the one we wanted, so we decided to choose the shorter one and maybe climb the other path afterwards. Little did we know, the shorter path was also an almost vertical climb. Oops.

There wonderful fall leaves, steep, rocky stairs...
I know it doesn't look steep, but it's hard to capture in a picture.

We made it to a little fortress.

Then, climbed up a little bit more. The climb involved going up this:
Which involved very few steps and ways to actually climb up the giant rocks. Unfortunately, I had my camera in my hand and didn't think to put it back in my backpack, which led to me yelling "I AM GOING TO FALL I NEED MY HANDS!!!!" very dramatically, which, in turn, led to a bunch of Korean men laughing at me hysterically. But I reached the top of the giant rock and saw this:

And all was ok. We took a bunch of pictures, of course, then continued our climb.

Ben taught us that the perfect way to smile in pictures is to pretend like you are biting an apple. As you can see, Elaine was making good use of that bit of info.

There were some stairs.

Once we made it to the top, we enjoyed the views, while feeling rather hungry and thirsty. We enjoyed the views, while everyone else enjoyed their full meals they had prepared and brought with them. Once again, even though they were all wearing the same outfit, they were much more prepared than we were.

One woman sensed our starvation plight and brought us a bunch of hard-boiled eggs and this amazing salt:

They were quite amazing and that salt was great. Unfortunately, she returned for the salt.

We continued to look at the views, the people posing for pictures and the views.
The giant Buddha I want to hike to next...
More posing...

We then headed back down the mountain. I was lingering behind everyone on the way down, because I was taking pictures. I heard Ben say a bit ahead of me, "Let's wait for Lauren to make sure that she didn't fall and break her leg," which he claimed was due to inherent hiking rules that dictate no one is left behind. I know it is because in Korea, I have become the person who falls all over the place for no reason. In Myeongdong, I fell off a curb just after I'd watched Ben step off the curb. At Thanksgiving, I fell onto the curb, while walking next to it. Carrie said to me, "Watch your step" and I looked down to watch my step and I fell off the step anyway. And even tonight, everyone else noticed the giant sheet of ice on our walk home. Alas, I did not and slid onto my buttocks and bruised it. At least that time I fell because of something. How embarrassing. I blame the uneven sidewalks....

At the end of the trail, we heard a helicopter and everyone else did too:
I'm still not sure what happened there, but clearly someone fell off the rock I was clinging to on the way up.

I met up with my Korean classmates after our hike and we ate Samgyeopsal (pork) and chatted in Korean.

And here was the sunset outside my apartment:


  1. First of all the pictures are great, and I'm glad you guys got out and saw actual leaves on actual trees during the fall. At the same time, the crowds of people are mind boggling. I still think you should take the DMZ tour when it warms up.

  2. Wow...the photos are amazing...I think it was well worth the climb. I had to laugh at the lines of people going...What a contrast to the city. Did not know that there was such beauty out there. Even if you had to share it with half of Korea, it was your Mt. Rainer moment. You have to write a book and include your travel are getting the real deal there not the watered down tourist version.

    Was at your moms last night and got to see the kids as they came back from caroling...Grant was in the Santa suite and was seen streaking across lawns, staring into was very funny. So you Hillards have a way of making life a whole lot more FUN, even with your tripping and falling do it up well!