Finally, with the semester is over and my sister having arrived, I had a chance to go outside of Seoul. One of my kind tutors guided our small group out to the East Sea. We took a bus and went to Sokcho, where we took a cable car to the top of a mountain called Seoraksan. We did not have enough time or energy to hike up the mountain that day, not to mention the fact that my sister was wearing a dress and sandals. Once we reached the top, we had to do a little hiking to get to one of the peaks. Luckily, it was not difficult, and the view from top was amazing but quite scary to look down. At Seoraksan National Park, there is also a giant Buddha sculpture with a temple located inside. Unfortunately, the temple was locked that day.
After Sokcho, we ventured farther east to Gangneung and stayed in a small rental room for only 25,000 won. It had no bed and was truly Korean style with heated floors for sleeping.. In the morning, we woke up early to see the beautiful sunrise at 5:50am. Even though it was cloudy, the sun shined through and as the day got brighter, there was not a cloud in the sky as we gazed over the clear and beautiful ocean. Nearby, there was also a fancy hotel in the shape of a cruise ship on top of a cliff by the ocean, which also provided amazing views.
A few days later, my sister and I went on a small backpacking trip on our own before trip to Jeju Island, right before going home to good ole Philly. Our first stop was Geongju, and we took the fast but expensive KTX train. During our first night at Geongju, we went and explored the area near the guesthouse where we stayed. There were what appeared to be many giant hills all around the area, but in actuality, they were acient tombs. It was very tempting to run up one of them and then roll down. Unlike the tombs located in Seoul, they were not blocked off, and people walked and biked around the tombs as if they were part of a park. We also stopped to see the Anjali Pond, which has a spectacular nightview of an old palace located nearby. The lighting and reflection provided by the water made the structures look beautiful.
After spending a night and a day in Gyeongju, we took an express bus to Busan. Here we stayed in a hostel, but it was a really fancy hostel with a ocean views of an island. It was just like a hotel room except we stayed with about ten strangers. I met a guy from Mexico, a few people from France, some Americans, and two Koreans there. To me, Busan seemed like a less costly city then Seoul. The other major difference was that the city had the ocean right next to it. The people were also friendlier and in less of a hurry, but they were also not as fashionable as the Seoulites. We visited the beaches, but no one was swimming, and then we visited a very pretty temple located right by the sea.
Our last stop on our mini backpacking trip was to Jeonju to visit a friend. There was not much to see in Jeonju, but we got to eat the famous bibimbap and see a nice park with a small bridge. The pond was full of giant lotuses, and it also had a fountain show at night.
It a tiring, but worthwhile adventure to leave a familar city with the limited Korean knowledge that I knew. My sister was no help to me because she neither knew Korean nor how to read a map, but we just winged it as we went to each city and the trip turned out to be lots of fun.