In a megapolis of over 9 million people (close to a whopping 10 mil!) and in a country that’s about the size of an average US state, it suffice to say that it gets pretty crowded here. After being here for four consecutive years, I like to think I have a firm grasp on being surrounded by people at virtually all times and living my day to day life without any sort of personal bubble (Also, Korea aside, isn’t that like 90% of having a dog?).
However, there are times where I just can’t take it. While there are plenty of parks and walking trails (all safe and clean!), these too, are swarmed by people. Want to get a nice scenic walk around Seokchon Lake at 10pm? LOL, still a sea of people. And the people are fine, really. Sometimes I get stopped by people (being tall and white in a rather homogenous nation can be quite the spectacle at times), but it’s 95% of the time just for friendly conversation. Their kindness warms my heart. The other 5%, I’m getting recruited into a cult, but I’ve always been pretty safe from cult recruitments in Jamsil.
But still, can I (or anyone for that matter) actually go somewhere that just gets away from other human beings (that doesn’t require looking yourself in your apartment)? Can I just have a moment a peace without another human being or even my dog trying to tell me something? Like, in nature? Without leaving the big city of Seoul? Just for a little bit? It turns out, I have found two places where you can. I’m sure there are more, but here’s what I found (so far).
Honorable Mention: The abundance of walking trails along water. You can definitely get away from a large amount of humans on one of the bajillion of these depending when and where you go. Are you in a suburb? Lucky for you, you have just found solitude much easier. However, apparently everyone else has thought of going here too, so it’s peaceful but still peopley (but at least there’s an abundance of dogs).
I started hiking a few months back when I blindly accepted an offer to go on a “hike” which ended up being Baegundae Peak. It was a treacherous journey, but I did survive. Was it crazy that that was my first hike? Oh, totally. I was a sweaty breathy mess, but I was lucky to have so many cheerleaders (Hikers in Korea are quite empowering, and there’s a great sense of camaraderie. I love it) In regards to hiking, nothing bothers me now.
I went in pursuit of doing more smaller hikes around Seoul. I found Gwanaksan. I didn’t hike it, but rather, I wandered about on the many walking paths/ smaller hikes. It was here that I noticed something. I, a complete and total masochist, have an internal alarm of about 5:30 am on weekends. I realized that if I still arrived by around 8:00am that no one would be there. I, save for maybe two other quite early risers, had the place to myself. I figure this might not be the case for a mountain as popular as Baegundae.
I was able to listen to a podcast (or even better just sit in silence on a rock), not too far from my home. Bad news bears: by 11am or 12am it was getting quite peopley, but it was sure nice to have a few hours of solitude. I just took random paths, having no idea where I was going. I had given up on the hike as soon as I arrived, more interested in where all the little paths could take me, just thrilled to be around cleaner air and less humans.
Towards the end of my few hour peace and quiet stint in nature, I came across a lovely park filled with beautiful flowers. How typical, Korea. 🙂 Such a perfect way to end a blissful morning/early afternoon. I was able to get my steps in, recharge, and still be back inside in time to hide away from the hottest part of the day.
A shout out for the few bees I ever see nowadays. I miss you guys.
After my successful trip to Gwanaksan, I decided to try a new place. Inwangsan. I arrived there around 8am, and I swear on my life it was the most serene, peaceful experience I have ever had in Seoul. I hiked a little bit up, just following little paths, most especially the smaller ones. I ended up not too far from the gif below and found a park bench. I was able to lay down with some temple music playing faint in the background.
The middle picture was right next to my found park bench. I took breaks from listening to my podcast and was able to get a little mediation in. I want to go back here. I took these pictures to help me find it. I will probably return once the heat dies down.
Obviously, nothing gold can stay. After what felt like a blissful eternity, I decided to head down the other paths available. It was the perfect balance of sun and shade. Lucky for me, I was more than halfway done with my walk (my fitbit was quite pleased) and it was still only midmorning. I had no idea where I was going exactly, but I decided to just let intuition guide me.
At the end of my journey, I stumbled upon this gem. This was perfect. I don’t think my pictures do it justice. The pastries are incredible, and the bread definitely has that western taste to it. Paired with an iced green tea latte, I was in paradise.
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