Spring has arrived…
The best long run across Seoul
It has always been a wish of mine to run along the entire Hangang River and take in all the views it has to offer. So, with the warmer weather of Spring on my side, I spontaneously decided to just run along the river for as long as my legs would take me.
Starting at Hanyang University which is on the east side of Seoul, I followed the north side of the river until I reached 반포대교 (Banpo Bridge). There is a light show at Banpo Bridge every day (except in months of November to March) at different times of the day that I recommend checking out in the evening as it can be really peaceful to just sit and watch the lights.
I crossed Banpo Bridge and continued my run along the south side of the river where I saw many people enjoying their leisure time by the Hangang.
I ended my run at 여의도 한강공원 (Yeouido Hangang Park) where I saw the first signs of cherry blossoms blooming.
Even if you are not a fan of running, I highly recommended at least taking a light jog or stroll along the Hangang to truly experience the serenity.
On one of the Saturdays, my friend and I took a trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace. As one of the more popular tourist attraction in Seoul, the palace is easily accesible from 경복궁역 (Gyeongbokgung Station). The entrance fee into the main palace grounds for an adult is 3000 won.
It is quite common for visitors to rent 한복 (hanbok) which are traditional Korean costumes and take pictures around the palace.
2D1N Solo travel to Sokcho: seaside city and hiking Seoraksan (설악산)
Suddenly feeling spontaneous on one of the weekends, I booked a 9am bus ride to the seaside city 속초 (Sokcho) in 강원도 (Gangwon province). The 2+ hours bus ride took me across South Korea to the East Sea. Sokcho is known to be a beautiful seaside city and the main access point to hike in Seoraksan National Park.
Arriving slightly before lunch time, I walked from the bus station to the other side of the city in search of the famous 오징어 순대 (squid sundae). I found myself having squid sundae in the 아바이 마을 (Abai Village) where many North Korean refugees from the Korea War eventually settled down and called the place home. After lunch, I spent the rest of the day walking around most of the city. Since it was a seaside city, I took a long stroll to the many piers and got to watch the locals fish.
I also discovered that you can find one of the shortest boat rides in Sokcho. With just a fee of 500 won, which is about $0.50, one can be ferried across this small canal to the other side of the city in just under 2 minutes. Passengers are also welcomed to give the boatman a hand in pulling the boat across the river.
Towards the north end of the city, there is also the famous 영금정 (Yeonggeumjeong) pavillions that gives a scenic view of the East Sea.
At night, I visited the Sokcho Tourist and Fishery Market (속초관광수산시장). The place can be pretty crowded at night and for good reason. The market sells so many street food from whole deep fried squids to 막걸리 술빵 (Makgeolli Bread/Rice Wine Bread) which is apparently pretty famous in Sokcho.
First guesthouse experience
After calling it a day, I went to my accomodations for the night in Sokcho which was a cozy guesthouse called Sokcho Hutte. It was my first time staying in a guesthouse and honestly, the experience was pleasant and amazing. While there, I met a group of 3 other travellers. It was a young couple from Belgium and their Korean pen-pal friend who was accompanying them during their vacation in South Korea. Upon chatting, we found out that we both intended to hike Seoraksan the following day and decided to go together.
Early the next morning, our little group set off for Seoraksan National Park. On the way there, our taxi driver offered to bring us through the famous cherry blossom tunnel that led towards the mountains. Safe to say, I was blown away by the beautiful sight as it was my first time seeing so many cherry blossoms.
Seoraksan National Park is home to the third highest mountain peak , 대청봉 (Daecheongbong Peak, 1708m) in South Korea (after Hallasan and Jirisan).
Of course we did not attempt the Daecheongbong Peak climb as we were not prepared for it. Instead, we opted for 울산바위 (Ulsanbawi) Rock which was about 800m high. It is known for its unique rock formation. Don’t be tricked by the signage at the start of the trail that says the peak is only 2.4km away. What it really meant was 1.6km of slopes followed by 800m of pure incline and steps. It took our little group 1.5 hours to get to the top but eventually we did it. Looking back now, I would highly advise people to dress appropriately unlike me who wore jeans thinking it would be a quick hike.
After the coming down from the peak with wobbly legs, we also ate the honeycomb ice cream as a reward for our adventures.
At the end of the day, our little group split ways as we took different buses back to Seoul but we agreed to see each other again back in Seoul. My first solo adventure in South Korea definitely was unforgettable. Of course, this is just the first of many adventures to come in the following months 😉