March 8th-April 1st
Hello family and friends! Spring has finally arrived here in Seoul and I could not be happier. It is amazing to me how my lifestyle has changed now that the cloudy and cold days are (mostly) behind us. I’ve been busy crossing off items on my bucket list this month and keeping up a positive attitude at work, despite having one really challenging class. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
Cooking Classes: Making Kimbap with our Emo, Marianne
As you may remember from an earlier blog Sabrina and I befriended the nicest Korean woman named Marianne on our first day of yoga class. We have continued our friendship with her and her husband, Mario, which has been nothing short of a blessing. They are two kind-hearted and free-spirited people that are a joy to be around. Marianne invited Sabrina and I to her house so that she could teach us how to make some famous Korean dishes. We made kimbap and tteokbokki the first time and more kimbap the second! We are thinking of opening up a kimbap restaurant called Emos 😀 (Emo is a cute term for a friend, similar to “Auntie”)
Exploring Seoul: Common Ground, Hangang Park and the War Memorial Museum
Sab, Tara, Rose and I had a relaxing Saturday visiting Common Ground, a container mall close to Konkuk University. We had delicious monster pizza (a favourite post-bar joint in the best neighborhood to dance- Hongdae), beer and fries. We enjoyed people-watching and counting the endless selfies that were happening every minute. The selfie game is shameless here in Korea.
Another Saturday in March was spent going to the market and then meeting Charlie and her friends at Hangang Park- Ttukseom Resort station. The park is huge and beautiful; I’m not certain of the exact size but it spans 12 Seoul districts. Hangang Park is also where I go running with Nicole, and where Sab, Nicole and I have commenced our boot camp. We meet every Tuesday/ Thursday morning at 8am and take turns leading each session. You can see all of the outdoor exercise equipment behind me in the picture; there is outdoor equipment in almost all of the parks I’ve seen in Seoul.
The War Memorial Museum was impressive in size and in the quality of the exhibits. There were interactive components in almost every area which were all available in English. We only spent a few hours wandering the different rooms so I will definitely have to make a trip back.
Hiking Seoul’s Mountains: Gwanaksan and Namhansanseong
The past two Sundays I have spent hiking two of Seoul’s many beautiful mountains. Hiking is extremely popular here, especially for the elderly. Gwanaksan is located in southern Seoul and took about 40 minutes on the subway to get to. We used the blog Adventure Strong Hiking to navigate our way to the trail-head. It took Tara, Rose, Sab and I about an hour and a half to reach the summit. The terrain wasn’t challenging, but there were a lot of steps! The views of Seoul, Wongaksa temple and Yeonju-dae, a shrine perched on a cliff, were breathtaking. In true Korean fashion we shared makkoli on our way down and had some ramen at the bottom. We were visited by an 81 year-old Korean man who told us he was in the CIA for 5 years. The people you meet!
Namhansanseong, located southeast of Seoul, was also incredibly beautiful. Nicole, Bethany, Sam, and I set out rather late last Sunday but again the hike wasn’t rugged by any means. It took us about 45 minutes to reach the top of the mountain where we explored the undefeated Namhansanseong Fortress. The fortress wall spanned 12km and was on level with the mountain ridges around it. We followed the wall for a while and then made our way into the fortress center. We enjoyed a light lunch of delicious kimchijeon and mandu! Back down at the trail head there were performers, so we clapped along and watched drunk old people dance. It was the perfect end to our hike!
Sab and I are heading to Marianne and Mario’s on Sunday to learn how to make kimchijeon. We are also going to dress up in traditional hanbok and go hiking with them and their dog, Joy! The arrival of spring also means that the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom so I’ll be checking out a few festivals in and around Seoul. April is promising to be a spectacular month… stay tuned 🙂