Hiking Mt. Umyeon (우면산) & Seoul Fortress, and First Movie in Seoul
As of this week, I’ve hiked/explored seven of Seoul’s 37 mountains! I’m just trying to get out and enjoy the fall weather, before Korea’s harsh winter arrives (and then I won’t want to leave the apartment until spring comes). Last week, Bridget, Priyanka, and I climbed Mt. Umyeon (우면산), next to Seoul Arts Center. We arrived at the base of the mountain after having gorged ourselves on Dos Tacos (it was a bad idea to eat an entire burrito before our hike… we all felt like zombies) and initially going to the wrong subway station (who knew there was an Express Bus Terminal AND a Nambu Express Bus Terminal???). There were a lot of bugs on this trail (probably because the path was secluded and heavily wooded), so for that reason, all of us didn’t enjoy the hike too much. We started going towards a mineral spring, but the path had so many bugs (one flew into my eye!) that we turned around again. At the top, we enjoyed a nice view of Seoul. There was a sign showing all the various paths up the mountain, and how many calories you probably burned, and the equivalent thing you could eat… I think we only burned enough calories for a skim milk and apple!! On our way down, there was barbed wire, and a sign that said “Mine Zone.” Apparently it’s impossible to find and safely detonate ALL the mines that are around Seoul… Near the bottom of the mountain, we found a cute like temple, Daeseongsa Temple. It was very beautiful and serene there, and a perfect way to end our hike.
This week, Bridget and I hiked Seoul Fortress (서울성곽), which is basically a city wall that connects four mountains in Seoul. The entire length of the wall spans 18.2 km, and certain parts of the wall were first constructed in the late 14th century. We had to fill out a form and show our alien registration cards at one of the fortress checkpoints, where we were issued a badge that we had to wear at all times. Because some sections of the wall are very close to the Blue House (where the president resides), we were not allowed to take pictures in many locations. And, there were armed guards at lookout points. Apparently, back in 1968, a group of North Koreans tried to ambush the Blue House via the city wall, but were intercepted by the South Korean guards. We started our hike at Changuimun Gate, and climbed up many steep steps to the top of Bugaksan mountain (342 m peak). Our ascent felt like an intense stair master workout! We then walked along the fortress wall, passed through Sukjeongmun Gate, and ended at the Malbawi info center. I would definitely do this hike again- it wasn’t too difficult and it was really neat to walk along the city wall!
Since the husbands were away all week at a retreat, the girls decided to go out to Itaewon (the “foreigner” area of Seoul) for tacos on Tuesday, and out to a movie on Halloween night (it didn’t seem like anyone was dressed up for Halloween, at least not in our neighborhood). At this point, three months in Seoul, I am constantly craving “Western” foods. Vatos Tacos was really good (it really hit the spot), but the portion sizes were Korean portions. We then explored an all-English bookstore, as well as two foreign food markets. I was blown away by the prices!! $8 for a jar of Prego sauce? $12 for a canister of Quakers oatmeal? $5.50 for a box of cake mix? Insane! I did end up coughing up $8 for a bottle of Sriracha sauce (they do not sell that at local grocery stores)… because I like to add it to a lot of my meals. As for the movie, we purchased our tickets online- in Korea, you can pick your own seats ahead of time! Once we got to the theater, we just printed out our receipt with seat number, and went to the concession stand. Instead of selling things like milk duds and sour patch kids, the movie theater sold things like fried salted squid… you could even get a squid combo that came with fries and a soft drink! The drinks were really cheap! Bridget bought a bottle of water and a large soda for 3,500 won (~$3.50). The theater seats were pretty comfortable too. We watched “Gravity” with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. I thought it was really good, but very intense (my heart was pounding the entire time). And there were some sad scenes, so of course I cried!
Maybe Alex and I will go back to the movies soon, for a date night. 🙂