As I mentioned in my TIL last this week, this last Saturday (the 16th), I embarked on a new adventure. After almost four months of living here, I left 서울 (Seoul) for the very first time! I had mentioned to my friend Xuan Rong a time before that I was interested in travelling out of the city and possibly going hiking. He was nice enough to forward an email to me from the Seoul International Hikers Club!
The email talked about a day trip to 지리산 (jirisan – Jiri Mountain) and 섬진강 매화 마을 (seomjingang maehwa maeul – Seomjin River Plum Blossom Village), and I was in! Granted, it’s in times like these that my social anxiety rears its ugly head. Thankfully my good language friend 현진 (Hyeon-jin) was also interested in going ^^ A few quick emails later and we had our seats reserved for Saturday.
I definitely spent the whole week getting excited about it, despite the fact that it meant waking up at 5:30am on a Saturday ^^ The group met at 서울 역 (seoul yeok – Seoul Station) at 7am, which meant getting on the 지하철 (jihacheol – subway) at 6:20am. I got to the station and already the leader of the group (Professor Jeongho Park) was waiting. The rest of the group showed up pretty much on schedule. I was pleased to see the Canadian diplomat from the Singaporean Lunar New Years event I had gone to last month was there as well. Both he and his wife were super friendly. It didn’t matter that Hyeon-jin and I were the only ones who didn’t know anyone. The entire group was great and eager to talk to both of us.
We pretty much got going around 7:45am once everyone had got on the bus and we had picked up the second group of people from the 잠실 역 (jamsil yeok – Jamsil Station) and had officially ‘hit the road’. Probably my favourite part of the early morning? Getting fed on the bus!! How cool is that? We got a lovely little traditional Korean-style breakfast complete with 밥 (bap – rice), 김치 (kimchi), 김 (gim – seaweed), and 약채 (yakchae – vegetables).
The bus ride there was pretty long, ~3 hours. Thankfully they let us off at a rest stop somewhere around the middle to stretch our legs. Taking this trip reminded me of 26-day bus tour I did through Eastern Europe. And why I would never do one again. My poor knees cannot stand (or in this case, sit) for continuous 3 hour jaunts. But the end result was worth it!
Our first stop: Jiri Mountain Village. We didn’t actually climb Jiri Mountain, but we spent about an hour walking around the grounds. There was a lovely path along the stream that we followed. It was filled with trees that were just beginning to bud with 산수유 (sansuyu – Japanese Dogwood/Cornus Fruit trees), which resulted in lovely little canary yellow flowers.
After we spent our time seeing the first flowers I’ve seen since the snow started, it was back on the bus and off to lunch! All I can say about this, is ‘Yay food!’ ^_^ You know me, I like to eat. The minute I saw all the 반찬 (banchan – side dishes) set out on the tables I was, needless to say, very excited! So much food! Unfortunately, many of these I don’t know the Korean name for the dish, but be assured, they were tasty!
After food, washroom break, and some cups of free milk-sugar-coffee from the machine, it was back to the bus! We drove another…hour? Half an hour? To be honest, I don’t actually remember. Somewhere in the morning I nodded off for 20 minutes or so, and this may have been the point where it happened ^^ But it wasn’t my fault! You put me in a moving vehicle and I’m almost guaranteed to fall asleep. It didn’t help that the weather was absolutely fantastic. At one point I was just in a t-shirt and it was too hot for me. There is a stark change from day-time weather and night-time weather here though. If you’re warm in the day, chances are you’re going to be on the cool-side during the night.
Right, back to the trip! After we finished with lunch, we were off to Seomjin River Plum Blossom Village. This area is famous for having 100,000 매화 나무 (maehwa namu – plum trees) and producing many different types of 매실 (maesil – plums)-based products.
Such as this 매실아이스크림 (maesil aiseukeurim – plum…sound it out. That’s right, ‘ice-cream’). Of which both Hyeon-jin and I (as well as many of the others on the tour) enjoyed immensely.
There are three different varieties of the plum blossoms that cover the field. A white variety, a bright fushia variety, and an ever so slightly ‘green’ variety.
Professor Park was a great tour guide and had lots of stories. Another good thing about the largely diverse group on this excursion was that everyone knew some interesting little titbit or had some kind of story to tell.
Going on this trip was a great experience. I got to meet a lot of very friendly and interesting people! Some liked to share their food on the bus, others were computer game programmers, several embassy workers, and more than one professor shared the tour ^^ I will be keeping my eyes open for more emails from the group. I can’t wait to go on another!
After we finished up in the Plum Blossom Valley, it was back on the bus for the long trip home. It was about 6pm when we left, and we didn’t get back to Seoul until almost 10pm thanks to traffic in the city. I do have to commend the bus tour group we joined. They certainly know how to run things efficiently!
All in all, thanks to the Seoul International Hikers Club for letting me join and have such a great time! Till next time~
P.S. This post’s Posty Song is “Miss Right” by Teen Top. Another band I don’t know much about, but that’s what Shazam told me it was called when I heard it playing in a coffee shop ^_^