Sorry that its been so long since I have written everyone! I had the horrid graduate school application season in January followed by the moving apartments. My new place is slightly farther from work, a 15 minute walk instead of three. Its also a bit smaller however everything works in the new place! From heat to having a window its a more livable place than before. I still don't have email however and I am mooching off of the local coffee shop internet. So without further ado my much delayed post about hiking, Koreas national pastime (tied with Starcraft).
Korea is a very mountainous country. 70 percent of the peninsula is mountains which adds to the compact nature of city life. A good hiking peak is never far away and since I live at the edge of city I can begin my choice of several hikes within a five minute walk of my apartment. What Korean mountains have in quantity they lose in height. The tallest peak in South Korea is Halsan 1,950 meters above sea level. The relative ease of the hikes doesn't stop the older Koreans from treating the sport with a Olympic seriousness. The mountains swarm with men and women aged 50-75 speeding up the mountain, out pacing their own top driving speeds. Very few men and women backpack overnight on the mountains but that doesn't stop them from dressing the part. Here are two older gentlemen walking through my neighborhood perhaps on their way to Palgongsan. The long heavy wool socks over pants is a common fashion choice.
My friends and I decided one fateful day in December that we too could summit Palgongsan. I was ready for a traditional Korean hike. The consistent invite to the picnics at the top, mountain gyms and the little old ladies in white gloves that I never believed could have made the climb. What I didn't imagine however was how high 1192 meters feels on the 27th of December in below freezing weather. I was sweating and overheating while at the same time my face was slowly freezing off. Hence this horrible picture of my sweaty hair and frozen nose.
After a full six hours of trekking we reached the peak. The Korean word for mountain top is "dongbong" which is perfect as I felt thoroughly dongbonged by the end of it. A storm was coming in and the temperature was rapidly dropping so we took the cable-car down the mountain. Some might call this lasy. I prefer survival based decision making.
In other news...30 days till Japan and 70 till China. I love my life.