Why do I love walking? I think, it’s one of the few outdoor activities that I’m reasonably good at. Fortunately, for me, it’s one of the top outdoor activities in South Korea. Many Koreans take their walking very seriously (like their hiking and cycling) and spend hours walking on designated trails — perfect to escape city life or the stresses of work.
Over the past year, we’ve discovered new places (without knowing their names), some of which — we’d never even find again, and yet, will always stay etched in our memory. Here’s a walk down memory lane.
Pyeonchang’s Mountain Roads
Pyeongchang is slowly gearing up for international spotlight. In 2018, the fortunes of this sleepy town are set to turn with the Winter Olympics. When we visited Pyeongchang, last December, the winding mountain roads were covered beneath a layer of snow. The main roads were buzzing with families looking forward to skiing and a day away from Seoul. Unlike other visitors, we had to walk to get around. We followed footsteps in the snow, walked into trails that didn’t exist, were chased by loyal guard dogs, and took refuge in a church — when we needed some rest.
Jeju’s Olle Trail
Jeju is undoubtedly Korea’s pride. Born from ancient volcanic activity, it’s an island sculpted by the elements and time. Not surprisingly, it made it to the list of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Jeju Olle-gil Trails are designed to show you the diversity of the island — on your feet. Some of the trails involve serious walking and finding trail markers might not always be easy. We never intended to follow these trails (because we didn’t have the time) and yet, were fortunate to get lost, and find portions of the trail. From sweeping coastlines to lush forests — we covered a lot more ground by walking.
Chuncheon’s Rustic Countryside
Chuncheon is quite popular with tourists. Dubbed as the romantic city, there’s much to eat and see in Chuncheon. Ironically, the best sights are the ones that aren’t listed on popular tourist sites. When you walk away from the marked trails, you begin to realise the beauty of nothingness. Walking on frozen lakes, getting lost in the middle of nowhere, and crossing a dam are its top draws in winter.
Taejongdae’s Plunging Cliffs
We visited Busan in 2015 (before we moved to Seoul). Taejongdae Recreation Area wasn’t on the cards and we thought it might be interesting after looking at a brochure. The rains had washed the park green and the whiff of wet mud filled the air. We had been walking for the whole day and strangely, we got a burst of energy when we set foot here. Who would have thought the dense tree cover hid the coast below? Walking along the path isn’t the challenge. Facing a fear of heights, to reach closer to the base, is where you’d need to muster some courage. Back then, I hadn’t overcome my fear of heights and we had to give it a miss. But, completing the entire trail was a new high for me.
Seoul’s Gyeongui Forest Line
The Gyeongui Line Forest isn’t a tourist attraction. It’s a walking stretch that runs parallel to the old railway tracks and is the easiest way to escape Seoul’s dull, grey high rises. You can see the seasons turn here and witness the cycle of life with every walk. It’s where I get over the lows of expat life. It’s where I practice walking. And it’s where I feel the most at home — away from home.