Adventures near North Korea

I had a unique opportunity to visit the Soyosan Mountain for a hiking experience with a lovely friend of mine. It was still crisp outside, a little chilly – but warm enough to muster up the energy for a go round’. 

The thing about the Soyosan Mountain, is on one of the peeks you can see right into North Korean territory, making the experience of the hike a bit edgy. 

So, what I didn’t know was that once you make it to a peak, you can continue to follow these trails along the mountain top and experience the view from multiple angles. Needless to say, we spent 3 hours just getting to the first big peak – so I’ll be making another trip before I leave to show the fullness of Soyosan. 

My friend and I ran into the most gorgeous Korean couple ever! They paraded us around, bought us souvenirs, fed us snacks, and gave us a first-hand encounter with the locals practicing their beliefs. It was almost uncomfortable, honestly. We couldn’t understand a word that was said, so for TWO hours we sat and communicated with grunts, sounds, and hand movements. I’m so surprised how enlightened I was by them and I laughed incredibly often, sharing stories of us in the Army and our travels (obviously nothing secret). They were youthful, and encouraging. The best way I could explain it was like a grandparent taking their grand-children around – it was so sweet 🙂

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Here’s how the trip unfolded:

We hopped on the subway from Bosan to Soyosan, roughly 2 stops away.

As SOON as we unloaded from the train-car I could immediately sense the difference in atmosphere – which is crazy because we were literally a 10 minute drive from the place we’ve called home 7 months now.

There were side markets with fresh home-grown roots, spices, and veggies – guys I was SO tempted to buy all of it, but literally have no idea what I would even do with them. I’d like to think I’m a health-nut, but I’m still learning 😉

Finally, we made it to the entrance! The colored fences surrounding us in a tunnel shaped “welcome” excited me travelbug to keep going! Now, I know you can’t hear the music, but there’s definitely music playing! Almost like festival music, but in the Korean language. I could smell food cooking on the grills, hear laughter, and kids playing on the near by playground set just to the right of us. We didn’t even touch the surface of this place yet!

Making our way up the mountain we stopped for a drink, and the bathroom! Which, by the way guys is a hole in the ground. I know, it’s not that unique, but as a girl coming from the beaches in Florida, it’s still something I’m getting used to around here.

She’s going in for the kill.

Just outside of the snack shop and bathrooms, Ajumma (respectful term for married-age woman), is getting her twist on warming up with the manual workout equipment. These things are randomly placed I’ve noticed – but she looked so relaxed so I figured I’d give it a go to!

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Let’s keep it moving –

So we’re a little further in now. It’s really not too much of an incline, and there’s older men and women (like grandma / grandpa aged) strolling along. It’s a Sunday so I’m not surprised it’s a bit crowded. I’d say the only issue we had is the amount of eyes that looked our way, these people like to stare – and yes, I was annoyed – but we kept it going.

So we thought we already made it to the entrance, but it turned out you do actually have to pay. It was literally like, $2 per person, so definitely worth it. We’re in guys!

After climbing the stairs, this is where we first met our lovely Korean couple 🙂 When they make it to the top of the stairs, they ring this bell here, Like I’m doing in the picture -although I’m still ignoring as to what it’s for… help anyone?

Along the roads are these piles and piles of rocks – like the ones you see masters of balance creating for a Zen-like effect. It honestly just reminded me of the Blair Witch Project 😦 But unique, nonetheless.

If you like jumping on the stair-stepper at the gym, you’ll love a hike like this. Just saying.

Here is where our lovely couple took us to send off wishes (to the wish-granter) ?

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Anyway, it was actually pretty inspiring and I loved the fact that ours were the only ones in English. You buy one of these candles, and at the bottom you put your name, along with your wishes. You then light it, and place it among the other burning candles. Next to the lit candles, there was a temple where I think (monks?) were chanting and people were crying. Like I said, an uncomfortable experience, but still intriguing and beautiful in its own way. Maybe if I could just understand what they were saying..

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TIME FOR SNACKS ❤ Obviously, if you guys know me you know this was by far my favorite part…

Almost. Maybe my second-favorite because those candles were sweeet! Also, excuse my wide-ness. This camera definitely adds 10lbs ;P

They fed us oranges, shin-bowl soup, red bean pastries, and little cups of coffee 🙂 I’m telling you, they made the day!

This is where the two parted from us, they were tired and needed to make their way down the mountain – but on we went!

Just a little further!

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And a few more steps….

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The view ❤

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The camera definitely didn’t do it justice…I was cold and didn’t have the patience to mess with the settings to combat the cloudiness. Next time guys, I promise 🙂

Annnnnnd back down we go. That’s the only tricky part – once you go up you still have to get down. My poor legs! I’m not even going to lie….if you saw my snapchat during this trek, I was a-strugglin’.

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We had to cut the trip short, because the sun was falling fast and it’s just plain COLD up there in the rocks!

Fresh to death! ^^^

Tips for Soyosan Mountain: 

  1. Bring water (obviously, but I forgot..)
  2. Bring snacks – who doesn’t love a picnic?
  3. Wear comfy shoes
  4. Every day isn’t leg day – save your legs for the hike!
  5. Go during spring/summer – the trees were boring and everything was dead / brown.
  6. Take pictures! We didn’t make it as far because we wanted to enjoy every little thing
  7. Take your time – there’s a lot to see & discover
  8. Take a friend…..or don’t. It was fun together, or enjoy a peaceful stroll alone.

 

Not pictured: 

So in a few areas of the hike, there were creeks of running water near the temples. It sounded like vacation to me, and definitely made me miss my sunny hometown near the beaches! It definitely added to the serenity of the hike.

Also, at one point there was a man riding a single-seat machines up the side of the mountain with boxes of supplies (you gotta get them there somehow I guess!), but it was loud and caught us off guard as we couldn’t help but giggle!

Off to the side of the first entrance there were crowds and parties of people enjoying food, and it looked like maybe there was a place for touring? I’m not totally sure, but maybe I can catch a glimpse next time. All I know is there were PLANES!

I hope you enjoyed this quick read ! MORE to come!

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