Two Savages in Southeast Asia

So Yo Think You Can Hike

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Another day, another failed museum visit. This time, the museum was a bit further afield: the Seoul Museum of Chicken Art (as in art about chickens, not art made of chicken, although maybe there also would have been some of the latter) is a two-hour subway/train slog from downtown Seoul, about 2km north of the final stop on Metro line 1. Unfortunately for us, the museum was closed; I guess they were doing some construction in the area, or maybe it just didn’t get enough visitors with the remote location. Oh well.

Consolation prize: a hike up into the Soyosan mountains. There’s a cluster of peaks connected by ridges, each about 500m in elevation, accessible via a network of hiking trails. Some of the trails we took had us scrambling along dried-up streams, rocky ledges, and overgrown forest paths. Definitely different from the mostly immaculate trails available to American hikers! The hike to the top takes roughly an hour from Soyosan station, but you can find full-day and even multi-day loops in the area.

On the way up, you first pass through a fairly level stretch that follows one of the streambeds. The day we visited was the day before Korean Independence Day, so this part was swarming with families and retirees – it being a popular pastime to sit down by the stream, maybe take an extended picnic, dip your feet in the water, and…break out the boombox for some background music. We could hear the music, mostly blends of K-pop with some more traditional ballad-y stuff, reverberating all the way up to the peaks…

Then you enter a temple complex, complete with cave shrines and ceremonial entrance gates. Every so often, the near-silence is punctuated by hikers ringing a small bell on one of the gates as they pass. We also spot a modern logistical convenience of the temple: a sort of lawnmower engine rigged to a track for moving heavy objects (stone blocks, for instance, or other construction materials) up to the main temple grounds. Summer is apparently construction season here as well, even in these mountains.

Once at the top, we’re rewarded with some magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. It’s a bit hazy, and many of the views are partially obstructed by trees (after all, these peaks aren’t high enough to clear the treeline!), but awesome nonetheless. Seems like an adequate consolation prize for missing out on chicken art! Also, it feels good to get in a solid hike without the packs on – much easier, especially in this muggy heat.

Then it’s back to Seoul for one last night at the hostel. We meet up with someone we met in the hostel and head to Bibap, a food-themed nonverbal musical based around beatboxing and breakdancing. It’s definitely a silly touristy thing, but one of the more awesome silly touristy things out there, so we don’t mind! Afterwards, we feel obligated to pick up some bibimbap, or “mixed rice” – the name of the musical is a play off this famous Korean dish. Yum!

We’re super-excited for tomorrow, since we’re meeting up with Taejin and Solhee at the SuperSonic music festival! Yay!