Markets and Mountains

It’s been a busy weekend!

Thursday night some friends and I explored Gangnam, the luxury district where “gangnam style” originated. This area was so cool! Skyscrapers were all around, and the streets lit up at night with huge streaming advertisements and flashing lights. We eventually found ourselves at a puppy café where we got to hold and pet a whole bunch of adorable puppies! The owner spoke English and was excited to see Americans at his café, so he had one of his workers lead the puppies in a “Stupid Puppy Class” – a little dog show. So precious!

On Friday, I went on the university’s Seoul City Tour field trip to Seoul tower, the Gyeongbokgung National Museum, a Traditional Korean Hanok Village, Geongbokgung palace, and Cheonggyecheon stream. It was very fast-paced, so I don’t have a lot to say about these places. It was neat sightseeing in Seoul and hearing some tidbits about Korean culture from the tour guide, though.

Saturday morning, I subway’d over to Mount Bugaksan, a mountain just to the north of central Seoul, to hike. This mountain is particularly cool because it contains preserved parts of the old fortress wall built in the 1300s and is in a military area, so there are places where hikers are not allowed to take pictures. There were surprisingly few people on the trail I took, which was great because it made it peaceful. These views were indescribable. From the top of the tallest peak Baegakmaru (342 m), I could see every direction of sprawling Seoul with its towers, rivers, and bordering mountains. At one point, I sat on a rock and cried because I was so moved.

Later that day, some friends and I went to an artisan market with live music in Hongdae. Venders were crocheting, painting, and making their various goods at their tables, which was really interesting to see! We listened to a man playing the guitar and singing, and he was phenomenal. Not understanding the words actually enhanced the performance for me; his emotions and tone carried themselves, not needing lyrics. Music is such a universal language!

We then made our way to a Buddhist temple near Insadong. Entering the temple area from the street was strange because one moment we were on a typical, crowded city street and the next we were in a zen garden, removed from it all. Nonetheless, it was peaceful! Those who created it did a surprisingly good job diminishing the impact of noise and bustle from the streets.

Since we were already somewhat close to Myeongdong, we thought we’d walk there for dinner and some shopping. On the way, we stumbled upon Seoul Cathedral during a service. It was cool visiting a Buddhist temple and a cathedral in the same day because Buddhism and Christianity are the two predominant religions in South Korea, and they live in such harmony.

That night, I hung out in Wangsimni with a huge group of University students. I love meeting all these explorative spirits from all over the world!

Sunday’s rain made me realize how much there is to do outdoors here! We made the most of it by going to Gangnam station for underground shopping. It’s really odd: there’s only one size of women’s clothing. I’m fine with it because it’s small, but it must be really rough on girls who have a little weight on them. Venders there felt similar to Chinatown in NYC in that they were extremely attentive and assertive about purchases. It was fun!

After that, we went to Lotte Mall in Jamsil. It was enormous (14 floors), but very Americanized so not actually incredibly exciting. Beautiful, though!

This weekend has given me an appreciation for what a rich city Seoul is. There are overwhelming shopping districts like Gangnam, but there are also mountains that literally can make someone cry because of their beauty. So many feels!