|In Korea we get two days off work, in May, to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. The long weekend means traveling and traffic for the entire country.|
설악산 국립 공원
Merriam – Webster Definition
dragon: an imaginary animal that can breathe fire and looks like a very large lizard with wings, a long tail, and claws.
dragon: The name of the most awesome Korean man in the world. I am pretty sure that the entire bus developed a crush on Dragon, the man with an awesome perma and great English.
I knew this trip was going to be epic as soon as our group leader stepped on the bus and began talking. He grabbed the microphone and announced, “Hello everyone, my name is ____, but you can call me Dragon.”
Hayley and I turned to each other and exchanged knowing smiles.
We departed from Seoul on Saturday morning, and drove four and a half hours to reach Seoraksan. We were informed that our first hike would take around 4 hours to complete. I knew we would be hiking, but I didn’t realize we would be hiking UP Ulsan Bawi.
|설악산 울산 바위: Ulsan Bawi, one of the most famous landmarks of Seoraksan.|
|A lovely temple around half way. These lanterns are everywhere to celebrate Buddha’s birthday.|
And now, “up we go!”
|Kelleen Teacher, our resident geologist freaking out over the rocks.|
I nearly died on the way up; I don’t think I have seen so many stairs in my entire life! As exhausted as I was, the view at the top was worth the effort.
I have a problem, a fear actually. (step one is admitting it, right?)
It’s not a fear of heights…….not exactly. My mother suffers from Acrophobia, a dilapidating fear of heights, but my fear decided to mutate and manifest differently.
I am not afraid of high places, in fact I find them quite exhilarating.
My fear is more of a “I am afraid that I will involuntarily fling myself off of high places” kind of feeling.
It is a bit awkward to not trust oneself to NOT randomly jump off a cliff edge, but as I am still alive and didn’t throw myself off the edge of Ulsan Bawi, I think I am doing pretty well.
The score so far: Mikaela : 1 Fear: 0
|You can’t visit a famous place without enacting the popular Korean heart pose. It’s a necessary for every authentic Korean travel experience.|
We changed our plans, and headed out on Sunday morning for a seven hour hike.
|There he is!!!! Dragon, the best group leader ever!|
|These signs were everywhere. I find them highly amusing, not sure why. Maybe because the big bear seems to be wearing a type of Tyrolean hat, even though it obviously speaks Korean.|
|“One, Two, Three, Kimchi!”|
|Heading up there. Oh dear, the fear is kicking in again!|
The score so far: Mikaela : 2 Fear: 0
|Yes, amazing hair. Not only does he have highlights, but he also has a weird tail of hair in the front.
side note: what are his parents thinking? They are hiking in a beautiful national park, and letting him play video games? What?
|Not sure what it says. I am guessing, “Don’t let your child push you over the cliff.”|
|Hiking masters at our finest! Thank you Dragon for the picture!|
I was making my way down at a steady pace until I heard a shriek from behind me. I turned around to see Hayley sprawled in the dirt grasping at her elbow.
Dictation time: An interview with CK
Me: what was the experience like?
Hayley: It was a weak moment in my life. My elbow hurt severely, but really, the worst pain was my injured pride. My two friends were too busy laughing to ask me if I was okay, but, Dragon the Hero, came to my rescue. Due to the embarrassment, I jolted up and made my way quickly to our lunchie spot. My hand was numb, with a noticeable tingling in my fingers. I thought to myself, “crikey, another visit to the ER!” I did not want to cry, but as I spread the peanut butter on my sandwichie, one tear slowly emerged from my left eye. It made a lonely path down my cheek. I turned to Mikaela and Kelleen, pointed to the droplet, and said, “look!” Finally the cows (my new insult for the month) showed some sympathy for my plight.
|This picture was taken of her sick elbow minutes after the mishap. I wish I had gotten a picture two days later when the entire thing was every shade of blue, black, and purple. It was quite majestic actually.|
At lunchtime we found little pockets of Koreans everywhere. They all found little picnic areas to break the midday meal together. Of course (in Korea), there is nothing like taking a rest from hiking to imbibe with friends.
|Soju in the middle of the day, classic!|
|And make sure you are carrying your water hose with you to attach to the non-existent fire hydrants.|
|It is not uncommon to see these stone piles around Korea, or in other Buddhist areas.|
|“Look, a wildlife!”|
|This is how we usually take pictures……….|
|This poor girl with our group got stuck making weird poses with us.|
|King of the rock!|
|A solid start with excellent balance.|
|Look at that technique!|
|I give it a 9.9|
– a four hour bus ride to Seoul turned into a nine and a half hour bus ride.
– At one rest stop, out of desperation, the women’s bathroom was not used. The men’s room and bushes might have been involved.
– train tickets home to Ulsan had to be booked and canceled three times.
– Dragon was a sweetheart, and so concerned for our comfort.
– Finally arrived in Ulsan, delusional, at 1:15 am.
– Made it home to the countryside after almost 14 hours of travel, to receive a text from Hayley saying,”Our cab almost ran over a deer on the way home!”
An epic ending to and epic trip.
side note: I find it funny that the only “wildlife” we saw in the national park were butterflies and a chipmunk. Then Hayley and Kelleen almost die from a deer collision just minutes away from their industrial town.
We visited Seoraksan through an travel group called adventure Korea. The read more about their various trips in Korea, click here.