Hiking Bugaksan in downtown Seoul

After boasting the coldest weather since 1957, Seoul got some sunshine today.
Made for fantastic hiking weather—brisk, but windless thank God.

So I went to Bugaksan for the second time in a week.

Steve hiked Bugaksan in December, and I’ve wanted to go since then but especially since last Saturday when I arrived too late to hike the secured trail.

Bugaksan is behind the President’s house, and the trail’s been secured since 1968, when North Koreans hiked through the mountains to assassinate the President. The North failed, but not before 71 Koreans and Americans were killed. Thus, if you want to hike Bugaksan, come before 3:00 and bring your passport.

Reaching Bugaksan
I was lucky today.

A security guard escorted me to the trailhead. It was the second time in an hour I’d passed the same guard shack, and he must have known I’d never find the trail myself.
There’s no English sign that reads:

“This way to hike dangerously close to the President’s house!”

So the guard hurried me down the hill, and we made it to the entry gate by 2:40.
Bless him. I hope he drinks for free tonight.

Bugaksan’s peak takes an hour to reach, and I hiked the lateral path for another hour. Several security guards on the way tell you where you can and cannot take pictures.

The mountain is north of the city (buk = north), and this is where the city’s little-used north gate is. Following Seoul’s Fortress Wall brings the city into relief. Here you are looking down on Seoul’s urban landscape while sidling a stone wall dating back to the 14th century.

Bugaksan & Seoul Fortress Wall

Leaving Bugaksan

After hiking, I walked down Bugaksan, past Gyeongbokgung (Seoul’s largest palace) through Samcheongdong and then Insadong. In one day and by foot, you can get your hiking, your history, your romantic strolling and your arty farty itches scratched.

If I’m in Insadong, I like to visit the rice cake neighborhood which has 5 or 6 rice cake shops. This is north of the Han River, an older part of Seoul. You can’t get rice cake outside of a freezer in North Carolina, and here you can get rice cake made this morning for ~ 3 bucks.

Fermented soybeans

You can also get cheonggukjang (청국장) in Insadong. Oo-rah.
My mouth has watered for this dish since last March, but I didn’t know what it was called.
Naha told me last month. Then she said she hates cheonggukjang.

Some people love 청국장, some people hate it.
Like cilantro. Or hot yoga.

Cheonggukjang (청국장) is like Eddie’s favorite dish doenjangjjigae (된장찌개), which is a soybean stew made with soybeans fermented for two months. More common, less stinky.
청국장 uses beans fermented for 2-3 days. More stinky. More delicious.

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