Climbing Korea

Now that we’re into 2011 I thought I’d better get back to writing more about our trip to Korea, which was in September 2010!
As I mentioned in Old Meets New we did a lot of climbing in Korea. We’d arrived very late at night on September 14, so we really didn’t get a sense of the topography. We learned the next morning that seeing Korea would involve climbing. Our first climb was to Jeremy’s apartment. He’d said that it was only a short walk, but neglected to say that it was mostly uphill! We soon figured out how to get there by bus.
There was more climbing that night when we visited Incheon’s Chinatown. I’m glad we got to see this at night. The artwork on the stairs would not have been as striking during the day, and the views from Jayu Park would not have been as impressive.

Stirway to Incheon's Chinatown
Stairway to Incheon’s Chinatown

Something about seeing a city lit up at night is just so magical, and the cities in Korea certainly are well lit—often in changing neon colours.
The bright lights of Incheon
The bright lights of Incheon

We soon got used to to the climbing, especially at subway stations. There are nine subway lines in Seoul and many layers of tracks to get down to, and up from. We’d just look at each other and laugh, or groan,—more stairs.
There were lots of hills too. Our first hotel stay in Seoul was about a kilometre from the subway station. Jim figured out a diagonal route to make it a shorter walk. What the map didn’t show, of course, was that it was pretty much uphill all the way. The second time we made the climb seemed so much easier without our heavy backpacks. We found cheaper accommodation after a few days, and consciously or not, made sure the second place was on flatter terrain.
Not to be missed was the Seoul Tower, which of course meant more stairs and hills.  As with other sights it was worth the climb especially when we  saw the tower with the moon behind it. The sights and lights seen from the observation deck were breathtaking.
By the end of our first week we were fairly comfortable travelling on the public transit system.  Sometimes we went on the bus, which saved some climbing, and let us see more of the city at ground level. With 25 million people to serve in the greater Seoul area the transit authorities have developed a very good system—one that cities here could learn from.
In Busan our motel was right on the strip at Gangwalli Beach, which was nice and flat, but getting there involved climbing a few flights of stairs from the subway. When we visited Beomeosa Temple we appreciated going on the bus for the trip up but walked down to enjoy the view.
Walking down from the temple
The walk down from the temple

Jeju Island has several mountains but as it was raining much of the time we were there we saw most of them from the comfort of our rental car. We did one short trail for a better vantage point of the sea, but it wasn’t much of climb.
View down on Jeju Island
Our final city stop before heading back to Incheon was Mokpo. One of its fine attractions is Yudalsan Park.  San means mountain.  We asked if there was a bus, but alas, there wasn’t, so up we went. Once at the park, there were more stairs and hills to climb, but the view was worth the effort. I didn’t do the full climb, but Jim did, and was rewarded with a great panoramic view of the city and the harbour. I enjoyed the view, and some lovely music, from a lower perch.
View of Mokpo from Yuldasan Park
Mokpo from Yuldansan Park

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the hills, mountains, and stairs, South Korea is a beautiful country. The best way to see it is  on the trains, subways, and buses, or on foot —so be prepared to climb.