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  • Hiking Bukhansan National Park

    Aside from 9.82 million people, and skyscrapers as far as the eye can see -- Seoul also has a great mountainous National Park right within the city limits! In fact, you can actually take the subway up to get to it! How crazy is that? 

    We have been itching to get outdoors for a while now - but the heat and the humidity and the MOSQUITOES (Holy giant Korean mosquitoes, Batman!) have precluded us from doing so. With the weather cooling off recently, we thought it'd be a perfect way to spend our Holiday weekend. 

    Getting there is pretty easy via subway (no driving). Just take Subway Line 1 to Dobongsan or Mangwolsa - and as we were told: follow the crowds wearing hiking gear (specifics here). Seriously - Bukhansan National Park is crazily well traveled. It's not the sort of place you go for a quiet, peaceful sort of hike if you don't like crowds. It is crazy crowded and Koreans are pro hikers and will pass you like you're standing still, even on the thinnest of paths. 

    In any case - we chose the Dobongsan entrance for our excursion and headed up towards the top of Dobangsan. The path starts out easily enough. It's actually paved at the bottom. Before long, it turns into stone steps. Then rocks. Then slippery sand. The higher up we went, the rougher the trail got. 

    Initially, we wanted to hike up to to the top of Dobangsan; however, after coming across a particularly rough patch (very steep slippery sand, no rocks to climb), and seeing a woman who had just fallen from this very patch being rescued by park rangers , we decided to turn back. It was just too risky. So, we turned back and headed up towards Cheonjinsa Temple and had a picnic of Kimbap & spiced tea instead. 

    Of course, the view wasn't as nice as if we'd gone higher; however, we got to explore a gorgeous (still active) Buddhist Temple.

    It was a great way to spend a Sunday and the scenery was just spectacular all the way up. If there's time, I'd like to go back up again on another less dangerous trail, and definitely during the week. While there were some children around (mostly lower), this was definitely not something I felt comfortable doing with my children. I suppose watching a medivac helicopter come in to rescue that very same person we saw fall will do that to a person. 

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    Wild Maple leaves turning high up Dobongsan (Mt. Dobong) in Bukhansan National Park. So pretty! #fallleaves #fall #autumn #daytripping #bukhansannationalpark #bukhansan #seoul #korea #naturewalk #nature #getoutdoors #hiking #southkorea #asia #explore #travel #naturegram #mountains #photooftheday #picoftheday #igers #tflers #wanderlustography #latergram #orange #mapleleaf

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  • 2014 Seoul International Fireworks Festival

    It seems like there's always something to do, or some sort of festival to attend here in Korea. Last night was no exception, with the 2014 Seoul International Fireworks Festival, held down by Building 63 on the Han River. This year's event included entries from Canada, Japan, France and Korea, providing an hour and a half of explosive entertainment for both adults and children alike. We've been talking about this event for weeks in my neighborhood and we have all been really excited to catch the show.  

    As the weather has cooled off considerably here in Seoul recently, my kids & I bundled up tightly, and set out to find a great spot along the river paths for viewing.  For some silly reason, I was thinking the crowds would be closer to Building 63 where the festival is actually held; so, I was a bit surprised to find it so packed miles down the river.  Knowing locals had already camped out earlier in the day with tents and blankets all along the paths on the river's edge. In addition, walking paths along the river's many bridges were packed with spectators and shutter bugs alike. There was hardly anywhere to walk, let alone sit.  Finally, after walking a few miles, we found a spot along the edge of the water and settled in for viewing. 

    The show was quite impressive with rockets, starbursts in circles, smiley faces, interlocking hearts, and fireworks that left the entire sky looking like it was filled with golden, sparkly glitter for several, several seconds. Not only were we thoroughly impressed, it seemed the crowds were, as well. It was quite amusing to hear thousands of people around us collectively "Oooh" and "Aaaaah" at same time. 

    It was a great way to spend an evening and definitely an excellent family outing. If we were still here next year, I'd plan better with hot chocolate, blankets and tents of my own. As well as plan to get there much, MUCH earlier. 

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    2014 Seoul International Fireworks Competition. Pretty sure half of Seoul is hanging out on the Han right now. #Seoul #Korea #asia #fireworks #seoulfireworksfestival #igers #tflers #wanderlust #travelgram #travel #life

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  • Explore: Mt Buso

    Buyeo is a county a few hours South of Seoul. It's a lovely mix of river, mountain, flatland as well as farmland and perfect for exploration, no matter what your fitness level. Of course, for the less adventurous, there's the lotus festival in Mid-July, as well as a nice museum for exploring. However, for those looking for a great day hike,  just outside the city lies an ancient fortress with a history so deep you can almost feel the spirits of the region's ancestors in the leaves and the trees around you. 

    Buso Fortress (538 AD) lies on Mt Buso and served as the guardian mountain for the town below. It is said that if you drink the natural Spring Water that flows from the mountain, you'll add 3 extra years to your life, per cup. It is also said that 3,000 ladies jumped to their deaths at Nakhwaam Rock, to avoid being captured by enemy invaders. Just below, lies Goransa Temple, which legend says, was built to honor the fallen women. 

    You could easily spend a day or two exploring this mountain and it's deep history.  Just be careful during monsoonal rains, as the rocks and stone steps become very slippery. Also, you should not attempt the Mt Buso hike unless you are in good health and reasonable fitness level. Kids CAN do the hike, but unless they really enjoy outdoor hiking, I don't recommend it. Only a small portion of our group was able to finish the whole hike.