Yes, yes, I’m still living. Sorry that this has taken so long. As it turns out, Halloween isn’t celebrated in Korea… except by all of the Western ex-pats in Korea and in the English classroom where you get to impart culture along with language. This means I have been a bit busy with both teaching and social life. So, here comes the Andrew-update.
Three weeks ago I went to go see Seoraksan National Park (I think that’s what it’s called) which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a wonderful place to go hiking and camping. It is in the Northeast side of Korea (right on the border with North Korea, you can see across the border from Seorak Mountain) and is gorgeous in the fall. Fall has been a little late this year, so most of the color change was still restricted to the higher regions. That being said, I think I found a way to share facebook photo albums on here, so now I’m not limited to posting a few pictures. Here’s hoping this works! Seoraksan photo album: (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153355232080534.1073741831.668415533&type=1&l=cefd0d262f)
If that isn’t working, would someone please let me know. Anyways, the mountains and the park were huge and I only saw about 1/8th of what was available to see if that. I’m definitely going to head back there and go hiking again, because there is so much more to see there. The view from Seoraksan (Seorak Mountain) was awesome! I wish I had a better camera so that y’all could get a better sense of it. Seriously though, they have a few temples and shelters scattered throughout the mountains along the hiking trails and there are waterways and waterfalls in many different places. There was so much to see and so much to climb. Basically, this is one of the places that is a must see should anyone ever visit Korea. The mountain top was super windy, but the way the sun hit the valley was sublime. So yeah, 10/10. I do recommend. Plus I managed to make a few new friends while on the trip, and that’s always a bonus.
A little bit closer to home, I’ve gotten to do a bit of rediscovery for the ex-pat community. We’d heard of a hiking trail for Taejosan that began close to the downtown area where many of us live, which would be a huge boon to us because the usual way to the trail heads require taking either a taxi or a bus and it can take as long as 30 minutes to get to the trail head, then we usually have to take a taxi or bus back home. We knew where it was supposed to come out but we couldn’t find where it was, so we were stuck having to back track. Unfortunately, that trip was cut short so we wound up having to leave the trail a bit early and take the bus home. So, the next weekend when I had a bit of free time I took the bus to where we left off and I followed the trail and discovered the trail head near our downtown. The only reason I had managed to do this successfully is thanks to the fact that my dad made sure I knew how to navigate both by map and by landmarks. I didn’t have a map, but because I was able to see or hear prominent landmarks (like the highway) I was able to point myself in the right direction every time the path forked. Of course, the reason we weren’t able to find the trail head at that earlier time is because when it comes out in the downtown area, it looks nothing like a trail head. I now have it marked on a map that we use and it should be accessible to anyone who can see the picture. Behold the fruits of my labor… and my finger because using a cameraphone without a bit of finger is impossible for me:
I should have more pictures from that hike up soon. I just realized that I forgot to upload them.
(EDIT: Ok, they’re uploaded now, here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153459103865534.1073741833.668415533&type=1&l=dc67d97a39)
So, then the weekend after that (I’ve been busy), we had a cultural trip with the English Teaching program that I’m a part of. (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153447863575534.1073741832.668415533&type=1&l=354fd15330)
We got to do a bit of horseback riding (painful, but fun), archery (they shoot their bows a bit differently, but it’s effective), rice cake making (hitting dough with a hammer is oddly satisfying), and mask painting (remind me to post a picture of mine). Then we got to go out to this mountainous river area (have I mentioned how much I love Korea’s geography? Mountains, rivers, and valleys with trees!) and that is definitely now on my list of places to go visit and hike in Korea. By the time I’m done with this country I will literally have walked all over it. They seem to have borrowed their archery and horseback ideas from the Mongols during the time that the Mongols held sway over Korea (don’t tell the Koreans I said that, they claim those traditions as Korean despite the largely steep, mountainous, forested terrain that would have made developing a strong horse-riding tradition a bit difficult).
I’m going to kayak the heck out of that river.
Anyways, Korea is still wonderful. There are times when the culture can be a bit frustrating, and one of these days I’ll do a cultural downsides of Korea post, but for now, life is good. Many friends, much fun, and still a whole lot of adventure waiting for me outside. It’s finally getting colder, but such is the price we pay for fall colors. Halloween was a lot of fun and I enjoyed spending it with my friends as the laziest appearance of Captain America that I have ever seen (or been).
I’m going to try to post links to the rest of my photo albums. Hopefully they work:
Hiking and Baekche Festival:
Random shots from being out and about:
Hiking and reaching the summit of Taejosan for the first time:
Many shots from my first month in Korea:
That’s all for now,
Peace unto y’all,