The Hills Are Alive With the Scent of Soju

A view of the azaleas on Mt. Goryeosan

The Hills are Alive with the Scent of Soju…

When I came to Korea, I knew one of the first things I wanted to do was go hiking. Korea is a very mountainous country and I wanted to take full advantage of its easily accessible trails as much as possible. Eight months later, I can finally say, with just a hint of pride, I have climbed a Korean mountain!

 Spring in a wonderful time in Korea. Country sides are blooming with an array of flowers, including the always beautiful azaleas. Mt. Goryeosan, located on Ganghwa Island, a division of Incheon, is known for having an abundance of the flower. There are even azalea festivals held near the mountain. Unfortunately, the weather has not been very cooperative this year. I have been informed by multiple people, this is the worst spring in the history of Korea. Luckily for me, this is probably the only Korean Spring I will ever experience, so I will never know the difference.Before departing for my hike, I was told I would not see as many flowers as I usually would this time of year. However, nothing would deter me from my mission. I was going to climb a Korean mountain!

What the mountain COULD have looked like

I’m happy to report, my experience was a positive one. I was able to see many azaleas during my trip. I was also able to see a poster showing me what the mountain side WOULD have looked like if the weather had been a bit warmer. I found it very nice of Korea to continuously remind me of what I am missing out on.

A good place to sell some beverages

Along with the view, I was also given the bonus attraction of watching Korean hikers in action. Now, I should preface this statement by noting, I am not an avid mountain climber by any means, and perhaps the events I am about to describe are very common in the States. (Personally, I have just never seen anything like it before, and therefore find it worthy of noting here to all of the lovely Jetset readers). As we were climbing, we would often come to flat surfaces along the mountain. It was a good chance to catch your breath and truly look at the scenery around you. Apparently Koreans also see this as a great marketing opportunity. Along the side of the mountain, there are tents set up with people selling water, ice cream, and of course the great soju (a very popular alcoholic beverage). My main question was, how did they get all of their products to the top of the mountain? Do they bring them down every night? I will probably never know the answers to these questions, but that’s ok. I’m just happy I was able to experience mountain street vendors.

Baengnyeonsa Temple: One of the many temples located on Ganghwa Island

Aside from its mountain climbing opportunities, Gangwha Island also has an assortment of Fortresses, Palace Sites and Dolmens that are worth checking out.

If you are in South Korea and are interested in hiking, I recommend going to Facebook and joining the Seoul Hiking Group. Its run by a man who is obsessed with hiking and goes as much as humanly possible. The hikes usually take place during the weekends and are very reasonably priced. It’s a nice way to meet new people and an excellent chance to see parts of Korea you would probably never get to see.

Happy Travels!

For More Information

Ganghwa Island