Happy New Year! I learned earlier this week that the most popular sport in Korea is hiking. In recognition of the local pastime, on the region’s largest holiday, I decided to partake. However, it is year New Year’s Day (if you’re on the lunar calendar), so I wanted to stay in the city. With that, you get to enjoy the first installment of Urban Hiking. I left around around 10:30 this morning after oversleeping and struggling with a shoddy internet connection to talk to my parents. I headed west with no particular destination in mind. Soon enough, I decided that I would like to try to make it to the city center. I didn’t expect to find much, but I was pleasantly surprised! I have no context for most of these photos, so just enjoy the walk through Seoul!
The whole morning felt like wandering an American city on Christmas day; almost every shop was closed, and very few people walked the streets. That persisted until this happened:
Apparently there was a huge festival at the Namsangol Hanok Village, and that was apparently where the whole city had gone. It was quite the tourist trap, but it was the first place that I found serving any food. I got some chicken on a stick, and quickly found myself in a group of other white people. The sound of English startled me a bit when I heard this quartet of Americans discussing their mystery meat. Turns out they are a group of friends from Oregon on an extended vacation around Asia. They were on their third and final day in Seoul before heading back to the States. When we parted ways, I continued on into the park to watch a performance and view ancient Korean buildings.
Continuing on, I found my way deep in the heart of Seoul, and I found the other half of the population:
I don’t know if Myeongdong is always like this, but it was quite the gathering. I found some great food from the street vendors and continued on my way. I didn’t cover much more ground and ended up coming back here for dinner. I did make one crazy stop at the Lotte department store. I ended up in a line, and I wasn’t sure where it led, so I stayed in it. It led to an elevator that took me to the 11th floor of this skyscraper. This was the “duty free” floor. I wandered in circles, past $30,000 watches, clothes that were too expensive to advertise their price, and store attendants that look like Secret Service agents.
After circling the 9th, 10th, and 11th floors multiple times, I finally found my way out of that maze. Once back on solid ground, I found my way past the city hall and into an ancient shrine (conveniently free for the holiday).
By this point, I had probably covered nearly 20 miles, and I was wearing out, I wandered my way back to Myeongdong (inadvertently) where I grabbed a couple snacks for dinner and caught a subway home.