Some Tourism For a Change

Last Friday my mother came to Korea to visit us for two weeks. I don’t know if the main reason was to visit us, Korea, or just to see the Kids, but it’s still nice to have her come over. That was also a good excuse for doing some tourism, which has been seriously lacking in the 4 weeks I’ve been here. Seriously, I haven’t really done anything that you could classify as tourism in the whole time.

We had originally wanted to go to Jeju Island around Chuseok (which would be next weekend). However, since Chuseok is one of the two main Korean holidays and in addition this year being only 1 day away from 3rd of October which is also a holiday, traveling was impossible. There were basically no plane tickets to Jeju available (we started looking only about one month in advance), and Jeju being an island, flying is essentially the only option for a short trip. We tried to get flights to Jeju for this weekend, but prices were on the high side, so we decided to give Jeju a miss for now. I’ve already been there twice, so it was not a big loss for me.

Instead, we decided to explore another new corner of Korea for me, Seoraksan National Park. My Brother in Law very graciously lent us his car for the weekend, which made the whole trip very easy. Except of course that traffic in Korea, and in Seoul in particular, can be, shall we say politely, not quite as rule-abiding as in Finland. Then again, although I’ve never actually driven a car in Korea before, I’ve been in traffic in cars, buses, and taxis a lot and I did learn to drive in the South of France, so it can’t really be much worse. (And it isn’t.)

My mother arrived from Finland on Friday morning and in the afternoon we hopped in the car for the 200 km drive towards Seoraksan. It’s supposed to be about 3 hours of driving, but it took us over well one hour just to get outside of Seoul and onto the highway. Then it took almost 2.5 hours for the rest of the drive, but we made it safely. Traffic wasn’t actually that bad, and driving on a highway is very easy since there are two (or more) lanes, no cross traffic, and in general nothing nasty, besides speed cameras but the navigator was giving warnings for them. I did observe an interesting thing, namely that speed limits seem to be more a FYI than a rule. You could drive 10-20 km/h over the limit (which was 100 km/h) and still be overtaken by most other traffic (hypothetically speaking of course; I obviously wouldn’t drive 10-20 km/h over the limit, now would I 🙂 ) It felt almost like driving on a German autobahn, except that the same “tolerance” about speed limits seems to apply on all roads.

The program for the weekend was easy. On Saturday, hiking in the Seoraksan National Park and on Sunday, visiting the coast and beaches near the city of Sokcho, not for sunbathing, but just to see the sea. I’ll post about those separately once I sort through all the photos I took.

Here’s some advance tastes of what is to come in the next episodes. This is the view from our hotel room. The mountain is called Ulsanbawi and I climbed most of the way to the top on Saturday.

Ulsanbawi at sunrise

This is from the Sunday excursion and we’re sitting, eating lunch here. You can guess what was on the menu.

Fishing boats

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