It’s almost July and the seasons are set to turn. This year, the rains (in June) have been a no-show and it felt like summer a month too early. Local news agencies have started issuing heat wave alerts and I’m beginning to dread the next two months. July also marks one year of our stay in Seoul. These days, I’m high on nostalgia, low on travel content, and reminiscient of our early days in Seoul. Back then, weekends were spent exploring the back alleys of Seoul or finding non-touristy paths in popular tourist hubs.
On a lazy Sunday afternoon, last July, we found ourselves along the deserted streets of Myeongdong (leading towards Namsan). The plan was to have a quick lunch and head to the mountain. We found a small, traditional Korean restaurant and were happy to indulge ourselves in a hearty meal of Bibimbap (a mix of rice, spicy sauce, and veggies). It’s my personal favourite. You can always opt for egg instead of meat or skip the egg if you’d like. It’s the closest ‘meal’ that’s Korean and vegetarian.
After our meal, we continued walking through the empty back alleys of Myeongdong. Street art and cutesy figures (Seoul Animation Centre is located on the main street) lined the streets.
The street gently rose as it hugged the incline and we came across few travel themed coffee shops and graffiti on the steps.
The minute we saw these gorgeous flowers, we knew we were close to Namsan Park. The flowers were in full bloom and colour.
There are many entry points to the peak of Namsan. Namsan is one of the most popular (and easy to climb) mountains in Seoul. Tourists head to the peak, to get a bird’s-eye view of Seoul city from Namsan Seoul Tower. We chose a nondescript entry point, barely visible from the street. Most of the tourist banter was heading towards the cable car or the popular climbing trails.
The stairs lead you through hidden gems and sights. We peeped through dense tree cover and found a shrine of sorts. Further on, at a vantage viewing point, the city of Seoul began to slowly shrink. To our surprise, the trail eventually lead to a paved road with locals using it as a walking and exercise path.
As you walk deeper into the trail, you’re surrounded by dense tree cover (a forest of sorts) brought alive by bird calls. We got a peek of Namsangol Hanok Village (a traditional Korean Village) through a gaping hole in the leaves. A path of stairs leads you to the base and ultimately to the village. We chose to keep walking.
I’ve never been good with names of flowers or birds. And yet, when I see something beautiful; I can truly appreciate it. After a short spell of rain, life burst out of the scenery. Some lifeforms prefer to stay still while others cannot seem to find a steady spot. It took me a couple of shots, to try to capture this buzzing bee, and yet, not a single one of them was in focus.
I believe, summer is also the time to have a hearty feast and fill your belly with some yummy flower pollen.
After 30 minutes, we found our first map of the trail. Since we didn’t have to go anywhere in particular, we decided to keep walking.
It was hard to ignore the flowers. I’ve never seen such fascinating shapes of flowers with colours bursting out of the green background. It was nice to see locals being equally captivated with nature’s display for the day.
We finally reached the end of the trail by late evening. As we walked towards the base, we saw tour buses bringing in hordes of eager tourists. At the base, we realised that we had reached the main entrance to Namsan Park. The National Theatre of Korea is a stone’s throw away from here.
We followed the directions boards to Itaewon. We thought it would be a short walk from here and then an easy subway ride back home. So we continued walking, circumscribing the outer perimeter of the base of Namsan Park. En route we came across multiple trails (all leading to the top) and pretty flowers. We knew we reached Itaewon (Seoul’s global village of sorts) with its brick buildings and narrow streets.
We stepped into a coffee shop for some ice coffee, to rest our feet, and enjoy the rest of the evening.