This weekend, I joined a bunch of people, having signed up for a trip with a well-known Korea travel group. We set out early Saturday morning, and stopped for lunch midway through. Early in the afternoon, we made it to Seoraksan National Park.
The park itself is very big, and we only had time for a hike (or two) before needing to meet up at 6:00. The weather was dreary, and visibility was very low. The colors of the trees could still be seen through some of the fog, and they were GORGEOUS. Other than the weather, you couldn’t ask for a better time to visit. With this in mind, our somewhat saddened groups split off to where we wanted to hike. I found myself with a couple I’d met at teacher training last month, and we first went to the waterfall. It was pretty, but we were confused at how the trail ended so abruptly, and where the cave was we had been told to look for. (It turns out the cave was roped off because of the rain…I heard some people went up anyway but I didn’t get to hear what it was like). We still had a bunch of time on our hands, so we decided to try the “Hard Route.”
The whole beginning part was easy, as the trail sloped up delicately. We got to this cool part where you can “push” a rock that appears to be leaning precariously toward falling. (It won’t, though. It’s an optical illusion). We briefly peeked in on a Buddhist temple, and kept going on our way. We were pestered a few times by women giving free samples of this delicious fruit wine stuff (this is coming from someone who doesn’t really drink, either!) but used this lure people in to eat their meal there. They pouted, but we really couldn’t stay and eat. No time. The next part was more difficult. We had to climb over rocks of all shapes and sizes, as the incline was winding around. At one point, I sang the beginning (Swahili?) lines of The Circle of Life (I don’t know the real African words, I just sang what I always do) but unfortunately my comrades didn’t share the sentiment lol. It takes a special person to enjoy that beginning part. To give them credit, it was a random outburst.
We then found ourselves in front of this insanely high set of stairs. Some of the people we talked to stopped at this point, because they were worried about slipping. After talking it over, we decided to go for it. The fact that there were stairs makes it sound less hard core, but trust me, it would have been only for the pros to scale if there weren’t even stairs. At parts were were crawling up the stairs. We had to maneuver through more rocks, and even crawled in this cool space in between a big rock. Finally, we made it to the “top!” It was really cool to have made it that far. On a normal day, it would have probably taken us double to the time to complete it because of foot traffic, but because of how icky the weather was, we got through it in about 90 minutes! (going up). But the whole was down was a bit of a rush, as we were cutting it close to meetup time.
The next part was where I didn’t really enjoy myself as much. There was this guy on the trip who took it upon himself to “rally” everyone up, and I didn’t want to shout “hooray!” for his camera. He then proceeded to say “Everyone who isn’t boring, sing with this!” And so on. I felt harassed. The guy made me feel very uneasy. I loathe obnoxious drunk people. There were several people carrying on while we made our way to the pension.
The pension- it was SO beautiful. It had this big bed, some kind of stone tub, a kitchen area, a TV, and a nice little bathroom. It was SO nice! We had been told to expect the most basic of accommodations, so this by far exceeded my expectations! I didn’t even need the toilet roll that I brought! The girls that I roomed with were nice too. Somehow, the stress from the drunk rude guy and old bad memories came to me, and I did the “embarrassed cry.” So for most of the night, the people who wanted to drink and such did it at other people’s rooms, while I chilled in ours. I felt bad to make such a fuss, but I felt SO uncomfortable.
The next day was fun. Originally, there were two choices: A guided 4-hour hike, or visiting a Jimjilbang. Well, because of the rain, option one was canceled. This begins my story of the Jimjilbang. Basically you have the option of going in the co-ed area where they wear clothes, for what amounts to about $2 extra. I bought the females only ticket for $9 I think it was. This covers sitting in the various hot pools, saunas, and cold tub for as long as you can stand it! It was awkward at first, because you’re butt naked. No clothes. This was the first time I was naked in front of people like that. We all awkwardly got our tiny little towels and headed for the baths. First I had to rinse off. I spent some time in the hot baths, the hot tub, the cold tub, and even spent a little time in the sauna. After rinsing off again, two other girls and myself got a little snack outside to tide us over until Lunch. Going to the Jimjilbang was an amazingly weird/awesome/cool experience. Whoever visits me really ought to give it a try. It seems insane, but once you do it, it feels amazing.
We next boarded the bus, and minus for a stop or two and some traffic, made our way back without too much trouble. The head guy on the trip popped in Pirates of the Carribbean, and I forgot how great the first film was! We were home around the time the movie was 3/4 finished. Overall, it was a good weekend. I highly recommend going there.