Monday, June 24, 2013

Engaged On Namsan Mountain In Seoul

It took weeks of nagging jihyeon, but we finally made it to Namsan Mountain where I had a double surprise in store for her. 

At the underground market located at Myeongdong subway I spotted some cool PSY socks I wanted. Jihyeon ,always looking for excuse buy clothes, bought them for me. 

Namsan Mountain is in the middle of Seoul which makes it super easy to access. As you can see in the map below, there are number well paved walking trails that snake their way up the mountain.

It is only 262 meters tall which makes it climbable for someone even of average fitness, but if climbing a mountain isn't your thing you can cheat and take a ride up in the cable car. Since it was a hot and sticky day and we were meeting up with Jihyeon's friends for dinner that night we cheated and took a ride up in the cable car. Sorry about the poor photos. The high humidity and pollution wreaked havoc on the lighting conditions.

We then had to climb a few more stairs to climb the last few meters to the summit. The first thing we encountered at the top were 4 old chimneys used to warn of enemy invasion. The beacon system of Joseon was a form of long-distance communication by which fires were lit and the smoke emitted on hills and mountain tops warned local people of an enemy raid.

You can see in the background some water on the ground. The picture below didn't capture it, but there were water jets spraying a fine mist of cool refreshing water up from the ground. I really wanted to join the kids that were sopping wet playing in the mist. :(

We then headed to the lookout where I had a surprise for Jihyeon. First I asked a nice American man to take our photo.

The first surprise was the couple rings. I had led Jihyeon to believe that I was too busy to pick the rings up (I was incredibly busy, but I made the time to go and pick the rings up one afternoon). The second surprise a padlock and a permanent marker. A few years ago a Korean TV drama created a new custom. I am not familiar with the exact particulars of the show, but as with all drama's there were two young people in love and they locked padlocks in a public place (in this case Namsan Mountain) and threw the keys over the edge to symbolise that their love will be locked forever. I did some research which suggested this practice originated in China. 

We found a place for our lock

We had a quick look around for any signs forbidding us from throwing keys over the edge. We couldn't see any so we threw the keys as far as we could into the forest below. 

We then spent some time looking at the other locks and messages that people had left behind. Jihyeon was kind enough to translate some of the messages for me. 

In this picture two people put their chewing gum in a box and padlocked it to the wall. Lovely....

People stuck their photos over the lantern. 

This person decided a padlock wasn't enough. A heavy duty bike lock was called for. Too bad they put it in the "no locks allowed" zone and it will be cut off. 

I think these are male and female book ends?

These people wrote on some wooden spoons and locked them to the wall while others write on their mobile phone case and lock that to the wall. 

And every surface has has love messages written on it, even this mailbox (which I believe is only for decorative purposes). 

More messages.

Ahh, it appears there is a sign telling us not to throw our keys away.... They could make it a little bigger. 

Come on, they are practically begging us to ignore the sign. 

More locks and Seoul Tower in the background.

Some lock trees and love seats covered in messages. 

A happy girl.

At the foot of Seoul Tower there is a souvenir shop where you can buy locks and have them engraved with messages (for what I think is quite a reasonable price). 

And there are all sorts funky coloured locks and keyrings that you can write on and lock to the wall. 

If a lock isn't your thing, you can purchase a love tile and write a message on it. 

And stick it on the wall. It will stay there for 1 year. 

More love message graffiti. 

LOL. I found this particularly funny. For the last couple of weeks I have been doing a play with my grade 3 classes called "The Korean Who Hates Kimchi". There is kimchi soup, kimchi pancakes, kimchi fried rice, kimchi pork cuttlet, kimchi mandu, kimchi kimbap..... and now kimchi hotdogs!!!!

This is something I was a little surprised to see. In Korea they have recently passed a series of strict new no smoking laws to control where people can and can't smoke. I was surprised to see that the WHOLE of Namsan park is considered to be a no smoking area. Smokers beware!

Since we had caught the cable car up the mountain, we decided to walk down the mountain. 


and lots...

of stairs. Jihyeon told me that there is a game people play on these stairs. They start at the bottom and play rock paper scissors. The winner can go up 5 steps. They then play rock paper scissors again. The first person to the top is the winner. 

We passes this super old set of apartments on the way down the mountain. Jihyeon said this was one of the first apartment buildings in Seoul (which makes sense, we were in the very middle of Seoul). She said she had seen it on TV and that it looked scary. That settled it. We had to go in ^^.

The corridors were very dark. It took our eyes quite a while to adjust. Night mode on my camera did its job well considering how dark it was. 


Finally, a store that blows up cats.

Many of the streets in Seoul are super narrow and have blind corners. 

You can see Namsan Mountain and Seoul Tower in the background. 

More narrow Seoul Streets. 

We then met up with Jihyeon's friends across Seoul for dinner. The food was great. It was a blend of Korean and western food. 

And then we went to a Korean pub to drink Makgeolli, a traditional Korean drink which is served in a bowl. 

After drinking many bowls of Makgeolli we the left to find somewhere different. 

We stopped at another bar and look what was on the menu.

After a few more drinks we were all very tired and decided to head home.