Friday, November 8, 2013

Fireworks and Seoraksan

Every year in October, Seoul hosts an international fireworks show.  This year the participants were Canada, Japan, France and Korea.  Our friends, the Southerlands, invited us to their apartment near the Han River to watch the show from their balcony on Friday, October 4.  We had tried to go last year, but didn't realize that the streets and subways would be packed with millions of people heading the same direction.  We never made it.  So this year we got an early start and took a less traveled path.  It was a fabulous show and we found it quite interesting to see the different "personality" of each country displayed in fireworks.  Canada's performance was like a typical American fireworks show on steroids.  It was a non-stop grand finale!  Japan showcased one or two magnificent bursts of color at a time, as if we were at an art gallery, viewing one masterpiece after another. (We loved the "hello kitty" portraits!)  Then they would start a small scene and carefully build to a climax as if they were planting several seeds that we would witness grow larger until they would burst into bloom like a bouquet of flowers.  Aahh, then, "vive la France" . . . Imagine the water fountains at the Bellagio in Vegas and you will begin to get a sense of the beautiful synchronized flow of fireworks that were shot from barges stationed in river.  It was a beautiful rhythm of dancing lights that dazzled and delighted us all.  Korea provided a unique variety show which, included laser lights, water fountains and a bridge "on fire"!  I think their show told quite a story, but it appeared to be best seen from the park on the other side of the river.  I've attached a couple of short video clips to give you a peek at a little of the variety we enjoyed.

Wednesday of the following week was Hangul Day, which is a national holiday to celebrate the invention of the Korean alphabet.  So after work late Tuesday afternoon, Bob and I drove over to the east coast of Korea and spent the night in the beach town of Sokcho. For some time it had been our desire to hike Mt. Seorksan, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in Korea to see the fall foliage.  We knew we were about ten days ahead of the peak colors, but it was our only chance to get over there this fall.  The drive took about four hours and the last couple of hours were in heavy rain and fog. For dinner we found a little restaurant and enjoyed some of the best fried shrimp I've ever had!  We learned there was a typhoon out in the Japan Sea, so we were expecting a soggy wet hike the next day.  However, when we awoke the next morning, it was a beautiful clear day, and perfect hiking weather.  Our "pension" hotel was right near the beach, and first thing in the morning I took a short walk along the beach.  The water was still churning from the storm, and I had to be a little careful because there were jellyfish washed ashore all along the coast.  But what a beautiful morning!

We drove to Seorksan National Park and purchased tickets to ride the cable car to the top of the mountain at 2:00.  We didn't have much time to spare, because we needed to be back on the road by about 3:00 to get back to Seoul.  The "course" (as they call trails in Korea) that we wanted to hike that morning was called Biryong - but we got on the wrong path and had to do a little back tracking to get there.  I wish I could have taken some better photos of Mt. Seorksan, because it really is a beautiful mountain!  The trail was probably my favorite so far, because it meandered along a river through the valley and the uphill climb was much more gradual than most trails we have hiked in Korea.  And we were pleased to have the path to ourselves most of the time. (At least until we rode the cable car to the top.) That was part of the beauty of our experience!

The cable car took us up to one of Seorksan's peaks where there was a short 30 minute hike to some fabulous views of the mountain and valley.  We could see the town of Sokcho off in the distance.  The leaves were more colorful up at the top and the previous night's rain boosted the flow of water from the fall.

It really is no wonder that hiking is a favorite recreational sport in Korea! 

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