Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Korea: Seoraksan (Mystical mountains)

Korea is not all about tall sky scrappers and shopping. Once you travel out of Seoul, there are plenty of magnificent mother nature and God's creation to see and admire.

Over 70% of peninsular Korea is mountainous and hence, there are several spectacular mountain ranges that will definitely capture your imagination when you are there. One such mountain and probably one of the most visited mountain is Mount Seorak, also known as Seoraksan.
Apparently, this is the one place that every Korean will want to visit at least once in their lifetime and I can understand why when I stood there, looking at the peaks and the valleys. Somehow, there is a mystical sense about these mountains. As you stand silently among the rocks and the pine trees and listen, it is almost as if you can hear God Himself. It is simply amazing. Words just can not describe the smallness of our fragile human form, dwarfed by the towering and magnificent mountain peaks or the sheer depth of the plunging valleys.

I joined a tour I booked through the hotel from one of their tour brochures. It was cool, almost like a personal tour with just another couple from Singapore, with our guide and our driver. The journey from Seoul to Seoraksan took almost 4 hours and we made a couple of stop along the way. I went to Korea during autumn and I was totally excited and expecting to see the hue of red, yellow, orange and green maple leaves which I saw just a little in Seoul. I heard that Seoraksan is beautiful in autumn and I was looking forward to it.

We started off from Seoul at around 7:30 am. and on the way, we stopped by this look out point for my first glimpse of Seoraksan ....a view of Ulsan Bawii...
Legend has it that the rock, Ulsanbawi was walking to the north to represent the city from Ulsan, southeast of Korea when Mount Kumgang (Kumgangsan) was being built. However, he arrived too late and there was no room. Ashamed, Ulsanbawi trudges back home and when night fell, came to rest at Seorak. When he woke up, he found the place so beautiful that he decided to stay there forever.

Autumn was indeed beautiful here at Seoraksan. The trees were all decked with leaves of green, yellow, orange and red. Such a feast to the eye and for one like me, who have never experienced autumn, this was paradise to me....
Since this is a popular tourist destination, be prepared for a long wait for the cable car ride to the top of the mountain. We waited a good 2 hours. While waiting, we took a walk at the foot of the hill that still gives you a spectacular view of the mountains and temples.
The cable car will take you up to a certain point of the mountain and there is still a significant part to track to the highest point. It is definitely advisable that you do not come wearing your best dress or gown and leave your high heels back in the hotel. The view at the top is simply breathtaking.
A look at one of the many peaks at Seoraksan ....
This is one of the many small temples found scattered throughout Seoraksan where monks used to meditate ..This one is apparently 120 years old !
Climbing to the top take a significant amount of effort but the efforts are well worth it...You will be rewarded with this magnificent and breathtaking view from the top. 

There is another beautiful mountain range found on Jeju Island but I will leave that to another post ....stay tuned ....

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