Hiking in Gwangju, Korea

Hiking in Gwangju, Korea

I have learned that hiking is basically Korea’s number one past time. Or at least it’s Gwangju’s. My apartment faces a mountain, more of a baby mountain (still not a hill) but still a mountain, but there are constantly people walking by in full out hiking attire. Of course, hiking attire seems to be acceptable anytime. It’s like the fashion forward athletic gear akin to yoga pants in the US. And this isn’t hiking clothes like in the US either, it’s bright colors, hats and a Korean version of hiking pants I’ve never encountered before. (Note: I did not take the below photo, but it is exactly what you’ll see.)

Either way they love to hike and I have gone hiking several times now. First I went with a coworker from my main school. She was decked out in the full hiking gear, minus the sticks, but still she looked ready to brave the wilds for a week. I wore running shorts which was apparently weird. We hiked Geumdang Mountain, which is the one my apartment faces. It took about an hour and a half. So not bad. We ended at the Pungam Reservoir and went for a walk around it before heading to lunch. The reservoir was rather low though because apparently it’s a low rain season. I have since hiked the path a few more times.

The second place I went hiking was Mudeung Mountain. This is a legitimate mountain. I was invited to go hiking by another coworker from my main school on National Foundation Day, which basically like Independence Day, and a day off from work. So we left at 7:00 am, which is really early. When we got there, people were already there and some were even finishing their hike, which is insanely early. You see, the trail we did takes five hours to ascend and descend. This was my first real hike I would say. I’ve done nothing like it before. It was difficult enough to necessitate the hiking sticks. Without these I assure you I probably would have died tumbling down the mountain. My coworker and his wife didn’t know English, so they brought their daughter along to translate and enjoy the hike. She had only hiked Mudeung once before a very long time ago, and thus was not ready for what was in store for us. I don’t think I was ready either to be honest. My coworker and his wife hike the trail EVERY weekend. He didn’t even break out the walking sticks for a while. Meanwhile I was using them from step one.

While the mountain is about 1,200 meters to the top we got to the 900 meter summit and then made out way down again. It was really cold and windy at the top and I was glad to have packed a jacket, and worn hiking pants I had managed to get for free at a swap meet. I have to say it was all worth it through. The sights were absolutely beautiful and I would like to do it again…maybe next year. I was sore for a solid four days after the hike. I like to think it’s a testament to the difficulty of the mountain rather than how out of shape I am. At least my coworker passed on the word of how intrepid a hiker I am. It’s more like I’m very competitive and wasn’t ready to admit defeat. When I got home after a much needed lunch, I passed out for three hours.

And those are my hiking stories.

Other things I have been up too include festivals.

A couple weeks ago I attended the International Kimchi Festival, conveniently located in Gwangju. Ok, I do not go crazy over kimchi. I can only take the smallest amount of spice, but it was a social gathering and i needed to get out of the house. It was actually quite fun though. There was music and dancing and awful contest for foreigners to be the best at singing and dancing to Korean songs. I felt bad for the butchering that occurred. My friends decided they wanted to do the brief kimchi making class, so I was the only one that decided I did not need the lifetime supply of kimchi you end up with and opted for taking pictures of everyone in their orange aprons and bandannas. Of course, the woman doing the teaching couldn’t leave me out and gave me the kimchi she made while showing everyone the steps. So now I have a big bowl of kimchi in my fridge and no hope of finishing it in the next millennium. At some point I will donate it to the people at work. Perhaps I’ll take a stab at making kimchi pancakes.

The other festival that I went to was the Chungjang Festival. This is a festival on the mainstreet (Chungjang-ro) of downtown Gwangju and is huge. It is a celebration of 70s and 80s culture. They erected a massive stage that showcased some notable k-pop bands/singers as well as some other shows. One day there was even a parade. There were other small stages set up around the area as well. They had dancers, singers, and even a group of Native Americans from Ecuador that played “Let It Be” on Native American instruments. They seemed pretty popular though. There street artists as well and tons and tons of food. This was absolutely huge and lasted for five days. I went on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Saturday and Sunday I needed to rest, and it also rained, so I opted out. I ran into so many students. In the middle of a crowd I’d here “Teacher! Hiiiiii!” Then in school the next day “I saw you!” So that was fun. It was also a lot of walking so I really just needed to relax this weekend and did some basic shopping and apartment organizing. Oh and of course what is becoming a weekly music lesson from my landlady who is randomly teaching me ukulele even though I wanted to learn piano, but oh well.

So there you have it, what will probably be my post for the next three weeks.

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