Sunday, November 09, 2008

Seoraksan Trip

I arrived home tonight exhausted from our weekend trip to Seoraksan, a National Park, east of Seoul and well outside the city. It was nice to escape the pollution and the people for the weekend and to experience the changing fall leaves while hiking for two solid days. We are exhausted, but quite happy with our trip.

We left EARLY Saturday morning to catch a bus with 90 other foreigners. I had no idea there would be so many English teachers in one place, it was ridiculous. It took a while to drive out of the city with the two coach busses but eventually we got to our lunch stop, it was cold bipimbap, which isn't meant to be cold, so it was pretty disgusting, not a highlight, that's for sure. From there we continued on and arrived at Seoraksan National Park. We were about an hour behind schedule due to traffic and when we arrived it was raining. The guide wasn't sure if we were going to be able to hike much on the trip. But I really find that Koreans underestimate the abilities of foreigners. They think we like hamburgers, are all fat, and have no ability to endure anything. Yeah, right. Anyway, ALL of us were fine and didn't mind the drizzle and started hiking up.

First there was a HUGE Buddah statue and there was chanting music playing. It was interesting because it was raining and kinda misty around the mountain tops, making it all the more entrancing. It was at this point that I realized that our tour guide had no experience and/or no ability to actually guide people. He just took off with a group of about 10 of the 90 people on the bus and started hiking. He never stopped to tell us where to go, nor did he give us any directions prior to disembarking the bus. At the time we didn't seem to care because there were so many people, who could keep track.

Anyway, hiking up was great, not too difficult. Eventually we arrived at a viewpoint and some random girl, not Korean, nor employed with the company told us "The guide says you're not allowed to go any further." At first I agreed, and took in the viewpoint while chatting. John decided not to agree with this other random foreigner giving us 'direction' and went up the hill. At first I just thought he was going to take some photos, but after about 15 minutes I realized that he was gone and not coming back. I decided to rebel as well taking a few other girls with me. We figured we'd keep going up until we saw the guide coming down. Some of the girls decided to quit before we got to the next viewpoint and I ended up bailing with them because I wasn't even sure that John or the guide were still up there and didn't want to be up there by myself.

After we all descended, it was then that I realized how angry John was with the guide's directions, or lack of directions. He was able to hike up to a staircase and the guide shut him down after letting 10 others up. The guide had been telling us all day that we weren't going to get to go up there (which is why we all agreed with random foreign girl who told us not to go any further, we assumed it was 'dangerous'). John was pretty pissed off that he didn't get to summit but 10 others did, especially because we PAID for the trip and for the guide to take us all up there if we wanted to go. It was really unfortunate and the company will likely get an angry letter from a "Tour Guide/Tour Management" perspective via John.

Aside from the terrible guiding, the scenery was nice and we had good company. Two of the Irish teachers at our Hagwon accompanied us and it was great fun to hang out with them for a couple of days.

Being outside the city in the rain really made me miss home. I know everyone at home is likely hating the rain and cold but its something that I'd love to be home for even though I'm sure I'll regret saying that not too long from now.

Anyway, John and I have big and exciting plans ahead, so stay tuned!


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