Saturday, May 10, 2014

Long Weekend in Seoraksan National Park

Looking up at Ulsan Bawi

I had a GREAT long weekend last week.  I had off on Friday because it was my school’s birthday.  Then Monday, May 5 was “Children’s Day” followed by Buddha’s Birthday on Tuesday.  So…a 5-day weekend for me…yahoo!

The legend of Ulsan Bawi
A portion of the 888 steps
A few of us from Ulsan headed north to Seoul Friday night.  We stayed in a hostel and then met up with Adventure Korea bright and early Saturday morning for our trip to the northeast corner of South Korea.  Our destination: Seoraksan National Park.  What should have been about a 4 ½ hour ride on a coach bus was more like a 6-hour drive with traffic.  That still gave us plenty of time to hike Ulsan Bawi Rock.  We were told it was a hard hike, but I didn’t know what that would mean.  I’ve taken on many a hike in the US that was labeled “strenuous” only to discover it wasn’t that hard.  That is NOT the case in South Korea!  When they say hard, they mean HARD.  The locals say it’s 888 steps to the top (felt like more than that, though).  And those steps were never ending.  In between the stairs was a nice uphill trail, so there really was no break once you started the ascent.  The exercise was much appreciated after two weeks of inactivity due to being sick.  And the view…AMAZING!  Well worth the climb.

The view from the top
The Straddle Split "Game"
The Punishment for the Losing Team
Sunday was a low-key day.  We went to Gyongpo Beach and people watched.  And let me tell you…people watching at a Korean beach is interesting!  We were wildly entertained by a group of high school boys who were finding odd ways to pass the time.  One of their “games” was to form two teams of four and see which team could make the longest line by doing foot-to-foot straddle splits.  What happened to the losing team you ask?  Well, naturally, they got hit in the butt with a used firework.  It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen!  While all of this was going on, another group of high school boys was burying a friend in the sand.  And, yes, they proceeded to give him breasts (it’s funny how many things are universal).  The icing on the cake was an older gentlemen posing a soju bottle next to a sleeping friend (soju is a popular Korean
Posing for a Picture
alcohol).  At first, the soju bottle was just next to his hand, but that wasn’t good enough.  The next picture was with the bottle between the sleeping gentleman’s legs.  The older gentleman taking the picture was so proud of himself and just laughed at his handiwork.  As I as said…very interesting people watching!

The final day was another hike that I dare say was just as challenging as the first one and definitely worth the effort.  This hike also involved lots of stairs and even a few areas that required some scrambling.  I think I enjoyed the second hike a little more because we followed a stream with rock formations and small waterfalls along the way.  After the hike was lunch then time to hit the road.  There was MAJOR traffic.  I felt like I was in Atlanta in rush hour on a rainy day.  What was supposed to be a 4 ½ hour ride took about 8 hours.  We missed our train back to Ulsan and had to take a later one getting us back to Ulsan around 1:30.  Luckily, we didn’t have to work on Tuesday…that would have been miserable.  Not a great ending to our trip, but it also wasn’t bad enough to ruin my fun!

It felt so good to get out and do some hiking.  It’s giving me the itch to find more trails.  Ulsan is supposed to be full of them.  Now, I just need to find them.  All in all, it was a great weekend!  Looking forward to similar adventures in the year to come!  

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