I didn't want to just stay in the city the whole time, so I booked a private trip out to explore Mt. Seorak, the third highest peak in South Korea. The drive gave us a chance to see what South Korea looks like outside of a giant city and we got a chance to experience the quiet and fresh mountain air.
It is a breathtaking sight and I am so glad we took the time to head there. It is about 3 hours from Seoul, but definitely worth the trip. I just suggest avoiding the weekend if you plan to go. It only took about 2 and a half hours going but nearly 4 hours going back. The traffic heading into the city on a Sunday afternoon was insane. Probably the worst traffic I have seen in years. But, it was worth it and we weren't back any later than planned.
Most of this post will just be pictures. I took tons and they are all of the same place. I tried to capture the beauty but with the bright sun, it was harder than I expected.
This is heading into the national park.
Here is the map of the park.
Not quite fall yet but you can start to see a hint of change coming.
Here I am with my sister before heading up on the cable car to the top.
You can see the cables in the distance.
Yes, the plan is to get in the cable car and head all the way up.
Here is the view from the roof top of the cable car station.
This is the cable car.
View from the front of the cable car.
Lots of shots as we went but there was a glare so sorry for the crazy reflections.
Here is my sister enjoying the ride up. Trying not to be too freaked out about being so high up.
Here I am with my sister at the top.
Great views! I ended up hiking a little further up with our guide so I could get some better views.
The weather was absolutely perfect!
I came close, but I didn't go all the way to the top. My shoes weren't the best and I didn't want to twist my ankle or anything.
We are definitely high up.
Pretty rocky, that's for sure!
Although it is quite rocky here you still get a lot of green to look at.
This is the crowd headed up as we were heading back down.
These pictures are from the cable car ride down.
Wow, we are really high up!
Big Buddha spotting down below!
After we got back down it was time for lunch. We had bibimbap, which is a traditional Korean rice dish. It can be served with meat, but it often comes without it, of course for us it was ordered without meat anyway. Our guide told us this was the mountain version of bibimbap. It was tasty, whatever it was!
We also had this soup. We were told it was anchovy soup, which made a ton of sense since the night before we saw anchovy soup on the menu somewhere and I was curious about this. They remove the anchovies so it is just a broth. Almost like miso soup but with anchovy instead of bonito. It was really good.
After lunch we headed to the Buddhist temple at the foot of the mountains.
Here is Big Buddha from the ground level.
Always a peaceful sight.
Of course you know my sister and I had to take a picture with Buddha.
I loved the walk out to this temple. Various bridges connected the temple area with the main path over from the mountain. Here we are at one of those bridges.
Here is another bridge. I loved the dragon heads coming out.
Another bridge down a little further.
Here are the statues in the front area of the temple. They are for good luck, more like protection.
On the other side there were 2 more in the entrance.
One nice thing about this temple is that it's completely out in nature. No tall city buildings in the way. While I love that temples continue on even if a large city sprouts up around them, it is very nice to see a temple that is so peaceful and serene with not a lot of noise and no "pollution".
Regardless of location, one thing I can always count on in these temples is the lovely artwork.
Outside was a turtle fountain. Turtles are good luck symbols. If you remember from one of the temples in Osaka, there were tons of turtles all around in ponds outside of the temple. There was also a very, very, very old turtle fountain there but it was so special that photos were not allowed.
Another bridge on the walk back. I really loved the different styles of all the bridges.
This was just too cute not to take a picture of.
No bears anymore, but I guess they used to have a lot of them.
On the way back we stopped to grab some of this fresh, local juice. I believe it was called mountain berry. Similar to a blueberry, I guess. Whatever it was, it was awesome! I'm glad our guide told us we should try it when we asked about it.
After the national park we headed to check out a port city. The specific city we went to is actually a refugee village housing those that left North Korea. They have established new lives here, mostly as fisherman. We took a little walk along the beach, which was a really nice way to end the day.
Across from the beach you can see some of the little restaurants that line the coast.
Since the weather was good there were a few people out taking advantage of it. Mostly kids splashing around.
The town is in the background here.
One last picture of my and sister. This time with the beach in the background.
As we were headed back to the car I noticed this guy drive by with chestnuts roasting on the back of his truck. Chestnuts are extremely popular in Korea. I just couldn't believe this guy was driving a truck down the road selling chestnuts out of the back.
On the way home we stopped at a rest stop and the view from there was really nice.
The day was long, but at least we slept a little in car. After a short rest at the hotel we headed out to find some dinner. On the way we passed some street vendors. I have no idea what she was selling, but I was curious so I took a quick look. The next day we had a food tour planned so I figured we would find out what some of this was during the tour. I was right...so more on that in my next post.
Since the anchovy soup at lunch was awesome, we decided to head to the restaurant near our hotel that had the anchovy noodle soup on the menu. We spotted it a couple of nights before and it sounded good then, but I think my sister was a little skeptical. After lunch she was sold. I have no idea what it is called, but they have a website.
Ordering was done via a vending machine, which is really common in Japan for noodle shops.
We went with just a basic noodle soup in anchovy broth with veggies. Oh yum! I am really glad we went ahead and gave this a try. I'm pretty sure my sister would have to agree.
After dinner we did a little more shopping before checking out Cafe Guma Guma. Korean desserts are definitely different from US desserts and different from Japanese desserts. These were little pies and not all were sweet like dessert, but I am not sure I would say they were savory either.
We gave two a try. This one was filled with pumpkin.
This was similar. They were different, not necessarily bad, just different and not exactly what we were expecting. I think I ended up liking them more than my sister. But that was ok because we were pretty stuffed anyway.
And that does it for another fun filled day in Korea.
QUESTIONS: Have you ever been in a cable car, and if so, where? What's the highest peak you've climbed? Do you like anchovies?