Just came back from my Seoraksan National Park trip, super shagged now but later will be going out for lantern festival. Im crazy, but well, ive been stuck at home for the past month due to stupid mid terms, now is play time!
Directions to Seoraksan National Park
On friday, Julie and i went to Seoraksan National Park by taking the subway to Gangpyeon station, where we took the express bus to Osaek.
At the bus terminal, there were restaurants, pharmacy and convenience stores in it. So dont worry, if you need food/medicine, there is. There were many soldiers, i dont know why… probably the only way to get to their camps would be by express bus?
I thought that the bus driver will automatically drop us off at Osaek station, but i was wrong. When i was napping on the bus, i noticed something amiss. The bus was heading towards Sokcho! I hastily went to ask the uncle in smattering korean and he told us that he has already drove past Osaek, we had to buy another ticket to travel back to Osaek.
I was quite upset with myself as Piljun did inform me to tell the bus driver to drop me off at Osaek but i thought that i didnt need to as i expected the bus driver to stop at every stop. This time when we board the bus towards Osaek, we darent nap but sat right at the front to look out. I think the bus driver could sense that i was quite worried that we would miss our stop again, so when he reached osaek, he motioned to us that its time for us to alight.
When i alighted, i was taken aback by my surroundings. I was surrounded by mountains with no openings. It was so cold and it looked like a ghosttown. Bad day for me,i wasnt in the mood to take any photos. Pardon me for that. We went to search for our motel and finally found it.
The receptionist(uncle) was a rather impatient one. He showed us to our room and we were provided with towels, toiletries, hairdryer,tooth brush. I didnt expect toiletries,towels and tooth brush to be provided when i saw how LCC(lao kok kok/old looking/3star) the place was. But i must say that even though the interior is LCC, the outerior architecture is like cottage styled.
We went to have dinner first and i dint like it when we walked near the shops, looking to see which food we wanna eat, the shop owners would keep touting their food. We werent very firm in not wanting to visit the shop so we followed one of the shop owners into the shop and look at their menu.
Then we realised that it was too expensive for us so we left. As we stepped out of the shop, i heard one of them shouted ,’ 나가’, thanks for shouting that at us, i dont give a damn that your shop has been in operation for 50 years, your attitude sucks. So what if your shop been advertised by KBS?
There is still another shop that was advertised by MBC right beside yours, and apparently, the business at the MBC-advertised-shop is much better than yours.
this is the KBS shop *rolls eyes*(photo was taken when i was leaving Osaek for DongSeoul)
We went to eat at a no-name shop for cheaper bibimbap but it was hmmm… so-so. the rice was a bit hard, but overall it was average taste.
Our misplanning for our hike up Seoraksan National Park
After our dinner, we went back to research on how to hike Seoraksan and plan our route. There was miscommunication between me and Julie. I thought that she had already done the research so i was surprised when she hasnt.
So we started to research the various hiking route up Seoraksan, and using Julie’s travel book, the shortest way is from Osaek to DaecheongBong. I was curious to know the difficulty level of the route and i searched the web, some blogs mentioned that it was a difficult hike.
Feeling worried, i checked Seoraksan national park website, and they ranked our route as level 2 in terms of difficulty level. There were 4 levels. With the 4th level as the toughest. Feeling relieved, we decided to settle on that as we thought that it would be manageable. We aimed to start hiking at 6am and return around 4pm and we booked the 6.20pm express bus ride back to Dongseoul.
Our fateful hike up Seoraksan
However we overslept, we were just tooo lazy to get up. I woke up punctually when my alarm rang but seeing Julie still in bed , i decided to lie down for awhile. And ended up, falling asleep again.
Finally we got up a good 1.5hours later, and went to have our breakfast! Initially i didnt want to have breakfast cuz i wanted to finish the hike asap, but i changed my mind after that.
My bibimbap(2nd in a row),forgot to take a photo of the shop, paiseh.
Julie with her tofu . It was 8000won per pax( damn ex). No meat, only veg.
Meat was like…18000won per pax for 200g. Daylight robbery.
After our breakfast, we went to the Seoraksan National Park entrance to start our hike around 9am.
The first few minutes was easy, then there was a bridge. Suddenly it ended nowhere, and we looked up at the steep slope before us.
This is the steep slope. it doesnt look steep from the photo angle. but i assure you, have you been there, you would have the same reaction as us.
It was way more than 75degrees steep. I was taken aback. Shocked at what i was looking at, i glanced uneasily at Julie, ‘ how to climb up sia?’
We were at a loss as to how to climb up the steep slope with no gears at all. We turned around and decided to wait for hikers to hike up. Shortly, we saw other hikers and they climbed the steep slope like it was nothing to them, chicken feet to them. We followed them and as we had no gears, we used our hands to climb up. I was shaking so badly from it, while i gingerly moved my limbs up the slope, i told julie,’ if there are more slopes of this kind, i rather not climb. im risking my life to do this, its not worth it.’
After that scary slope, the rest of the route was less scary. But the thought of having to climb down the slope after the hike gave me chills. I dread the time when i have to climb back down the slope. For the next 5hours, we hiked up steep stones steps.
If youre thinking that the stones steps were placed nicely, dream on. Unfortunately, they werent. It was a tiring 5hours mighty Seoraksan.
I kept checking out the signs to see how many more km we had to cover before reaching the top.
Along the way, we took breaks and met nice hikers who offered us food and sweets.
the birds here werent scared of humans, they dared to eat from the man’s hand
nearing the summit
The summit of Seoraksan
We reached Seoraksan’s summit around 2pm. The motel uncle told us we would take 4hours to reach, i guessed he must have overestimated our speed. We noob beginners, arent a match for korean hikers. Some of the hikers ran up the slope with me looking shocked behind them. Im still amazed as to how they can run up the slope without losing their balance.
Some of the route involves climbing up a huge stone with no steps, but just a rope tied around a tree for us to hike up. There was a particular part of the route where we were walking at the edge of the mountain, the walking path was slanted like….45degrees? I was so scared of losing my footing or falling off the mountain due to my heavy backpack ( force of gravity) that when i walked gingerly on the path, i tilted my body towards the mountain. I think the korean hikers must have found me amusing. Every time we spoke to a korean hiker, they keep saying, 힘들어요. 잘 했어.
I felt a sense of accomplishment when i was at DaeCheongBong. Like, hey im just a newbie but i managed to do it! yay! self-praisal haha! But we didnt stay at the peak for long as we were time strapped. We had to reach the bus terminal by 6.20pm . We stayed at the peak for around 20minutes or so only. That was like 1/3 of the time we stayed at Gwanaksan’s summit.
The difficult hike down Seoraksan
I hate hiking down mountains. I HATE IT TO THE MAX! Whenever i see few rocks and almost flat ground,i ran. Julie was like,’ wow youre so fast!’ I told her,’ we gotta be fast. cuz later at the last part of the route, the rocks there are quite difficult to hike down. We cant take anymore breaks’ .
While we hiked, the weather took a turn for the worse, it started drizzling, making the rocks slippery and hard to hike down. Then it stopped, after that , it started raining and the sky soon grew dark. By the time it was around 5.30pm , we were back near the foot of the mountain. I thought that we would be able to make it in time. But i was wrong.
By 5.45pm , it was so dark that i couldnt see much, when i glanced up to look at the trees surrounding me, it looked like i was in a halloween forest. Unwelcoming leaf-less trees. I was a bit scared. Soon, visibility dropped as it was pitch darkness. Everyone started using their torchlights/handphones lights to shine their way through.
Thankfully, me and julie started saving our battery in the day to prepare for any emergencies. So we had enough battery to shine our way through. As i was quite stubborn about not taking breaks, i hiked down on my own, so we were separated. On and off, i would shout for her name to know whether she was near me or not.
There was a few moments when i shouted and there was no reply, i was worried. I stayed where i was and shouted again till she replied. Finally around 6.15pm, i have reached the dreaded slope. I was so scared that i would fall off the slope and die or get injured that i cried when waddling down the slope on my butt.
Then i saw a guy standing at the bottom of the slope helping the rest to get off the slope, i didnt know how to say help in korean so i started whacking all sorts of korean words i know and resorting to english too. i was like, ‘ please , help! 제발’ Then when i was reaching halfway to the bottom, i thought my legs have reached the ground so i wanted to stand up but my feet stepped on nothing and i flew to the side of the slope to the dangerous area. I screamed and grabbed his hand when he reached out to me, i was so frightened that i grabbed his hand with both hands. Luckily his grip was very firm and i was safe. I kept saying neomu neomu kamsahamnida and walked briskly back to the entrance area.
Missing our last bus to Osaek from Seoraksan
While I walked to the entrance area, recollections of what would have happened to me had the hiker not reached out for me gave me jitters. Because i was like gambling with my life in order to reach the summit, i was overwhelmed with emotions and i started crying.
At that time, Julie was still on the mountain so i wanted to go and ask the express bus driver to wait for us but to no avail. Coupled with the fact that we missed our last bus home, and the scary slope, i felt super frightened. At that time i felt stranded. Tired and nowhere to go cuz we havent book any room.
Luckily Julie was quick thinking and she hastily asked the motel uncle for a room, and we were very fortunate. Had she been a step slower, we would probably have no place to stay for the night, cuz the motel was fully booked except for a basement room.
As our basement room has no ondol floor heating, the motel receptionist brought in a heater(the red thingy beside our TV) and he provided us with towels, toothbrush and mineral water. It was 30k won for the basement room. After that ,we asked if we could exchange our 6.20pm ticket for the following morning 8.30am ticket, and the motel owner helped us translate.
Though this somewhat adventure, i felt very fortunate because when we were almost stranded, the motel staff did their best to help us. When the motel receptionist noticed that we needed more keys , he wanted to provide us with another key. We were like, no its okayys, thank you. Even though the motel receptionist was a very impatient old man, i can tell that he goes out of his way to help us. Very good service.
We had bibimbap for dinner, yes 3rd time in a row for me but im fine with it cuz i wanted to try each shop’s bibimbap to see which one tasted better.
MBC’s bibimbap was the best. The tofu stew was least saltish according to Julie. She find the food too saltish. As for me, i like salty stuff so i enjoyed all the food. hehe. The no-name shop’s bibimbap: the rice was a bit hard. other than that, the special thing is they gave fried tofu which i seldom see it when i eat bibimbap. I think thats their way of differentiating themselves from the popular shops.
Express Bus back to Osaek
but julie told me that the staff said this isnt the one.
so please dont wait for the bus at this blue orange bus stop stand.
Finally our bus arrived, i was so tired that i kept sleeping on the bus. I was so hungry that the buttersticks i brought for the trip…i finished it all up, 5 sticks at one go + a sausage from Julie!
first time eating a cold sausage that was prepacked! It was quite nice though ^^
Then when our bus came to a stop for us to rest to go toilet , buy snacks etc, i got off the bus , and when i wanted to board our bus again, because our bus and another bus were identical, i boarded the wrong bus and i was greeted with puzzled expressions by the soldiers. I was like, ‘oops, wrong one’ then i got off and boarded our bus. LOL.
We reached DongSeoul Bus Terminal around 11+ am , yup so the bus ride was around 2.5hours. Julie was like,’ huh so fast? i still wanna sleep more…’ Pig la you Julie. Go sleep in your warm cozy dorm. Hahahaha
Mount Sorak Review:
- Hike Seoraksan from Osaek if you arent scared of steep slopes and you want some toughness in the hike to feel the accomplishment.
- If you have time constraint, this route is the fastest.
- Bring snacks when hiking cuz there is no convenience stores on the mountain.
- Bring umbrella or poncho cuz you never know when it rains(makes the rocks slippery and dangerous).
- Remember to save the emergency number in your phone in case anything happens!
- Dress warmly as it is very cold at the peak! Strong winds!
- For those avid hikers, you could probably finish the hike in 4hours or less, for noobs like us, if you can finish it in 4hours, kudos to you.
By the way, I just checked Visit Korea Website and they rate it as HARD! For beginners, it would definitely be difficult. After the hike, my legs hurt so much that i couldnt squat without feeling the acheness from my legs. I climbed the stairs sideways like a crab. Jen saw the way i climbed the stairs and she couldnt stop laughing. Poor crabby me.