Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Once upon a mountain called Mt Geumjeong - Busan

What's a trip to South Korea without a hike up the mountains?!?! It's a national pastime for the middle aged South Koreans! What with their colour-coordinated sports outfit.  This time, my trip to Busan brought me to Mt Geumjeong, at 801m high.

2 options to start the hike:
1 - Alight at Oncheongjeong (Line 1), take bus 203 to the bottom of the cable car station and start hiking from South Gate through to East Gate then to North Gate and up to Godangbong Peak.
2 - Alight at Beomeosa ("Bur-Mo-Sa") Line 1, take bus 90 to Beomeosa Temple and start the hike there to North gate, up to Godangbong peak and continue to East and South Gate.

I chose option 2 cos that's the easier to find the starting point, and closer to the peak.  For the metro, best to get the transport card as you get a discount on metro travel plus you get free transfer within 30 minutes of alighting! A normal card ticket will cost you 1,400won for 2 sections and 1,200 for 1 section, while a transport card is only 1,100won for 1 section and 1,200 for 2 sections.  At Beomeosa station, exit 5, follow the sign to walk towards the bus interchange where bus 90 waits (1,200won if you do not have a transport card).  The bus will take you to the Beomeosa ticket office (you don't actually have to buy a ticket to enter the temple).  You could also choose to walk the 3km from the bus terminal to Beomeosa, but better save your energy for the hike.
Beomeosa Temple

The temple itself, pretty much not very impressive.  As is with most temples, it is not extremely majestic or grand.  I didn't spend much time walking around the temple.  If you have time, do so, if not, I suggest just go straight to the North gate.  

The stone trek up

North gate

The walk to the North gate is alot of uphill climb (stone steps) and a distance of 1.7km.  It is all a walk through the forest with some side trails to other temples.  I just headed straight on and arrived at North gate in 30mins.  The trek itself is not particularly hard, but I'm not a fan of stone steps...From the north gate, turn right to head to Godangbong peak and left takes you to East gate.  From North gate to the peak is about 1.1km and took me about 30mins.  The peak is a bigger rock than Bukhansan's peak and very windy.  You get a really good view of the city and forest below.  I enjoyed some quiet time up there just thinking about nothing much and enjoying the wind.  Another 20mins downhill back to North gate and headed to East gate.
The peak

East gate is a distance of 3.9km from North gate and the beginning is all uphill hike.  I would say this is the most tiring part of the trek where you had to keep hiking up up and up through countless steps.  But once you arrive up, you will be rewarded with great views!!!  Along the way, after you reach another viewpoint, you will be presented with 2 trails - the inner trail and the outer trail.  Both lead to the East gate but provided different views.  I followed the outer trail which takes you along the edge overlooking the scenery below.  It was a really nice trek.  At one point, the trail became like unmanned scrubs and you have to walk through scrubs and branches.  Now I know why the Koreans all dressed in long sleeves and pants.  But still the weather was way too hot to be all covered up!
Walk to East Gate

About an hour plus later, I arrived at East gate. From East gate, it is another 2.2km to South gate.  I was happily walking towards South gate, thinking I was making good time, when I spotted the bus stop!  The bus stop for 203, which is Option 1 to start the trek the opposite way.  And I thought to myself - Is this the end?  Or is the end at the South gate?  I had no idea if there is going to be a way out at the South gate, and this bustop seemed to be crowded with hikers.  Just when I was deciding, the bus came and I decided to hop on in case South gate has no bus stop.  Bus 203 is a lot more expensive at 1,800won per trip.  On the way downhill, I realized there are actually several more exits along the way!  Damn, that was when I thought I probably should have continued on the hike to South gate.  Not for the view (as the hike was mainly in the forest) but more for completeness.  But I still did a good 3.5 hour hike and made it up to the peak!  

Mission accomplished, I went back to my hotel and had a long hot sensual bubbly bath and rest.  Would definitely recommend the hike to anyone visiting Busan if you have 1 extra day to spend after all the other sightseeing.  Not for the faint hearted though...

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