Korea Diary | Seoul Fortress Trail, Naksan Hike (Day 20, Part 1)Another Friday meant another full day of adventures in Seoul!
Hiking was one of the top items on my To-Do checklist. It was only fitting since mountains and hills are everywhere in Korea.
Being the hiking newbie that Bestie C and I were, I ended up choosing a paved path and supposedly easier portion of the Seoul Fortress Wall Trial for Day 20's activity. The wall is from the remnants of the Seoul city wall that was built centuries ago. It circled around most of present-day Seoul that is north of the Han River.
We couldn't possibly have lasted a hike on an empty stomach! What better way to fill up than with carbs and rice? The two of us ended up having bibimbap at a restaurant called Onedang on the way to the Sinchon Subway station.
The most foreign-friendly way to get around in Seoul is definitely via their subway system. There was Korean, English, Chinese, and (I think) Japanese on most signs and automated announcements.
To make it even easier, there is a mobile app called Subway and/or 지하철 that shows the whole subway map. (For anyone who prefers an online version, Cyber Station by SMRT Kr is pretty similar to the app.) If you enter your starting station and the alighting station, it will spit out very precise directions for the most optimal metro ride. If you need to transfer at a particular station, you will know the name and even the specific subway car AND door number to be at in order to be closest to the transfer exit.
One of the things I miss most about Seoul's metro system was having a numbered exits at every station. It made getting to a new place that much easier. Getting lost in unfamiliar streets is one thing with alleyways, crosswalks, and all. But knowing what number each staircase which leads to the street helps me that much more to calibrate my directions.
(NYC MTA get your stuff together! I'd rather see that first than cell service underground. Just saying.)
I opted to walk the part of the Fortress Trail leading towards Dongdaemun and Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). It ultimately worked out for the best since Bestie C had actually wanted to visit DDP. The Korean Tourism sites had detailed information about the Seoul Fortress hiking trails. Our path was the #4 Naksan Mountain Trail from Hyehwamun Gate to Heunginjimun Gate (i.e. Dongdaemun).
Somehow we still ended up walking right past the trail entrance by accident after getting out of the right station and exit number. Perhaps the curved staircase was just easy to miss?
At some points of the trail, there were some forks in the road which lead into the nearby residential neighborhoods. Luckily there were many signs to ensure that you're going the right way.
The view during the hike was impeccable. Despite the hot sun shining down on us during the whole hike, I thought it was really worth the climb. The hike was easy in the sense that roads were practically all paved. There were wooden fences for safety and assistance to tired folk like myself. It wasn't crowded with people which let us go at a very leisurely rate.
Visit Korea said this trail was an easy one because of the mountain's relatively low height when compared to other mountains the other fortress sections sit on. If that's the case, I would be very intimidated to see the other routes. I thought the Naksan Trail was already pretty high and steep!
We walked for what felt like hours in the heat. It was exciting to see the big Korean letterings because it meant our hike was halfway done! Reaching Naksan Park gave us an opportunity to relax our increasingly sore muscles.
We chose not to dilly dally around for too long by the time we reached the top of the mountain. The view was great and we were definitely tired, but the both of us were ready to get out of the heat ASAP. The only thing that stopped us for a moment was finding free exercise equipment. As you can clearly see, I worked out quite a sweat on the elliptical-esque machine.
We reached our destination once we saw the next fortress gate, high rises, and all the traffic. If we wanted to continue onto the next part of the trail it would have been on the other side of the DDP. Perhaps another time?
Since our final destination was Dongdaemun Design Plaza, it was HIKE COMPLETED!