This Saturday (the 8th) I embarked on an adventure of physical proportions together with 현진 (Hyeon-jin) and her little sister 혜진 (Hye-jin). Not that physical mind you, considering that the course is considered a ‘beginners’ course, but still physical enough that Hyeon-jin was calling us all 사과 얼굴 (sagwa eolgul – Apple Face) due to the nice red hue our faces turned as we made the 2800m trek up to 582m above sea level.
It took me roughly an hour to get to (청계산) Cheonggye Mountain from my home near 대흥역 (daeheung yeok – Daeheung Station). Getting there wasn’t that difficult, but I’m glad that I had Hyeon-jin and Hye-jin there with me to help with my abysmal sense of direction.
How to get to 청계산:
Your first step is travelling to 양재역 (yangjae yeok – Yangjae Station. For me, this meant taking line 6 to 약수역 (yaksu yeok – Yaksu Station), and transferring to line 3. From there, ride the line to 양재역, and take Exit 11. The minute you get outside the station (if you go on the weekend), you’ll immediately know where to stand to catch the bus to 청계산.원터골. You can take either Bus 4432, 8441, or 8442 to the location. It’s about a 20 minute ride. It’s a pretty cool sight! You pass out of the city into the “country side”. Yes, I did have to put country side in quotation marks ^^ I think I’ve almost convinced Hyeon-jin to come and visit Saskatchewan, so eventually she’ll see what our country side looks like!
Once off the bus, follow the crowd. From what I’ve heard, there will always be a crowd, so that makes finding the place extra easy ^^ The base of the mountain got less crowded the further up we climbed.
I have to add though, I never expected to see so many older people on the course. I wouldn’t be surprised if 90% of the people climbing the mountain were aged 50-70. There were some people in their 20s, but far and few between. Also, I was one of 3 foreigners on the entire mountain (that we saw)! We passed one guy with his Korean friend, and another older gentleman was starting the climb as we were exiting.
It was really interesting to see the mountain at this state of early spring! There wasn’t any leaves on any of the trees yet and there was still the odd patchy of snow. But the scent of spring was there. You could just tell in another week or so the forests would be beginning to transform. One of the only downsides to our choice in seasons to climb the mountain, was all the mud!
On the bright side, Saturday was the warmest day I’ve experienced since moving to 서울 (Seoul). At +20°C I would go as far as to start calling the same “summer-like”! I was tempted to take off my sweater and make parts of the trek in just my tank-top, but considering how must of the people on the course were still in their puffy coats, I decided to keep on my cardigan ^^
At one point, the path disappeared and it was time to start climbing some stairs! In total there was ~1500 stairs to climb to the summit. I don’t know the exact number because at one point near the top the numbers had been worn away.
Sadly, due to the warm weather, our view was a bit on the hazy side. Still wonderful to see though! I love looking at all the mountains that are located around/within the Seoul city limits.
Bonus picture –> What exactly is that arrow pointing to? Only the very famous N서울타워 (North Seoul Tower aka Namsam Tower). So tiny!
At the place marker staying the elevation. A whopping 582.5m. The entire course up was 2800m. Not bad for one day’s work!
When we reached the peak, we took advantage of this pop-up 포정마차 (pojangmacha – usually refers to a tented food stall/restaurant, but I’m going to adapt it for the small food table he had set up) and bought ourselves a treat –>
비비빅 (bibibik – a red-bean based ice cream stick)! A stable in Korean culture, these have been around since 1975 and from what I’ve been told have been changed very little. Apparently they are very popular with the older generations (Hyeon-jin’s father loves these!)
..and with me ^^ I love red-bean based treats, and these are no exception.
After a short break, it was time to start climbing down.
I always find climbing downhill to be much easier than climbing up hill…but I was in the minority in this case ^^ Both Hyeon-jin and Hye-jin thought I was in very good shape for being able to climb down the mountain so easily. Now, to me this seems a bit backwards…but I’ll take any compliment I can get ^^
It was about 2:30pm by time we got back to the entrance and we were all starving!! Bonus Korean Time: 배고파~! (baegopa – I’m hungry!!) Hyeon-jin‘s friend had recommended a restaurant to her, so off we went! We arrived at 소담채 (Sodamchae) and were taken to a tradition-style Korean dining room filled with short tables and floor cushions. We ordered 해물 파전 (haemul pajeon – seafood pancake) and 엣날 보리밥 (etnal boribab – not sure of the exact translation of this, but I’m told it’s ‘fresh vegetable bibimbap’).
Because this wouldn’t be my post without a lot of gratuitous pictures of the delicious food I ate, here they are! The bibimbap was actual a mix of rice and other grains (I detected buckwheat as one of them) and is supposed to be very good for your health.
Once our stomachs were happy once more, it was time to catch the bus back into Seoul. Again, if you go on your own, simply follow the crowd or look for the people wearing trecking gear and stand next to them. As we were waiting to get on the bus, a group of people swarmed us to get on the bus as well. Hyeon-jin and Hye-jin got on, and I squeezed my way in to follow. An older gentleman behind me stated “Ladies first.” in English as I was climbing aboard. He then asked if that was correct. I answered back: “맞아요.” (majayo – that’s correct) To which he shockingly blurted out “Did you just say a Korean word?” I wanted to say more, but by this time I was already pushed further towards the back of the bus. Still glad I got to surprise someone today ^^
After a wonderful exhausting day, it was a nice calm ride back into Seoul. I’m really glad we got to climb Cheonggye Mountain today. I had a lot of fun, and got some great pictures. I always have a great time with Hyeon-jin and Hye-jin ^^ I can’t wait to climb another mountain here in Korea!
Till next time!
Fun fact, in Korea there is a hiking gear store called The Red Face ^^ Based off the sign in the window, they’ve been around since 1966. I think the name is quite accurate for a store that sells outdoors-wear. I don’t think anyone on Cheonggye Mountain didn’t have a red face after the climb today.
P.S. Today’s Posty Song is “I Went to Cheonggyesan Mountain” off of the Cyrano Agency (one of my favourite Korean rom-com movies) OST by Daniel Choi (whom I heart deeply ^^) and Uhm Tae Woong from the ….fitting I believe ^^