Tag Archives: South Korea

Three Peaks in Three Weeks

Last year my partner and I challenged ourselves to climb South Korea’s three highest mountain ranges in three consecutive weekends. We not only climbed the mountains (san’s) but also reached the highest peaks (bong’s) in each range: Dongneunbong at Hallasan, Cheonhwangbong in Jirisan, and Daecheongbong in Seoraksan.

Seoraksan Saturday, 9/19/15

View from the base of Seoraksan

The Daecheongbong Peak Course is 16 kilometers (9.94 miles) that averages approximately 11 hours and 20 minutes to complete (Obviously, we are better than average ๐Ÿ™‚ ). We hiked the majority of the mountain quickly, crossing falling rivers, stone carvings, watching mountain climbers scale sheer rock faces, and almost being turned away at a guard post (we got a late start), but checked into a lodge 3/4 of the way as night fell.

The lodges on Korean mountains are not the typical lodges that come to mind. They are small, cramped, and lack privacy. They are typically one room buildings full of giant bunk beds without mattresses (or maybe that is only for us peasants). One slab of plywood held approximately six people which increase the chance of sleeping next to someone who snores (myself included). Thankfully, since I was one who contributed to the harmony of snarls and wheezes, I slept quite well.

Sunday, 9/20/15

Whatever sleep we did enjoy was short-lived because if we wanted to reach the peak by sunrise, we had to start hiking at 2:30 in the morning! However, watching the vibrant sunrise at 1,708 meters (5,604 feet) made the lack of sleep and early morning climb worth the extra hustle. As we waited for the sun to rise above the ocean and clouds we munched away on snacks and watched the rocks around us fill with other early risers.

Hallasan Monday, 9/28/15

Crater Peak
Crater Peak

The next mountain on the list was South Korea’s highest mountain, Hallasan, on Jeju Island. The 9.6 kilometers (5.97 miles) up Seongpanak Trail to Dongneunbong at 1,950 meters (6,398 feet) took us six hours both ways. At the peak we ate our snacks amongst the other hikers, were offered chocolate, and my partner even got told to put a shirt on in the process of changing out of his sweaty top! We struggled with the lineup or lack thereof to get our pictures with the engraved rock with the name of the peak, but barely got them before being crowded out by courteous and patient locals. The beginning and end of the trail was at such a gradual incline that on the way down we were able to get competitive and race past the stares of the Koreans (foreigners are weird). Next to the parking lot was a UNESCO information center where we were able to purchase tacky certificates for successfully hiking South Korea’s highest mountain (we’re so cool).

The conditions could not have been better; the tail end of the summer meant the weather was warm, the sky clear, and thanks to the proximity to the ocean, a slight breeze. We congratulated ourselves on a great day at a “Monkey Bar” complete with slides, jump ropes, ball pits, games and buckets (and straws) of alcohol (in moderation).

Jirisan Sunday, 10/4/15

Cheonhwangbong at Jirisan
Cheonhwangbong at Jirisan

Jirisan was our final hike! We took the Chilseon Valley Course, 9.7 kilometers (6 miles), to Cheonhwangbong at 1,915 meters (6,283 feet). The hike is estimated to take ten to twelve hours round trip, but we managed to complete it in approximately seven to eight hours (estimating be damned)!

As we pushed our way to the top, my partner’s stomach began to bother him. He almost gave up, but when I offered to leave him behind he became so determined that he carried me the rest of the way (A few days later, we found out his appendix had burst!). Upon reaching the peak we ate our snacks waiting for an opportunity to get our picture with the peakstone but alas, it was too crowded. We met our third companion at the bottom and enjoyed a cup of ramyeon before driving back home, flushed with our completion of a three week uphill battle with Korea’s highest peaks.


Initially, we considered hiking Korea’s three highest mountain ranges in three consecutive weekends to be an ambitious plan, but luckily it was logistically completely possible. The mountains are in opposite corners of the country (one on an island) and it just seemed destined to fail when my partner fell ill in the days leading up to the last hike. Thankfully we are young, in good enough shape (damn sweets), are able to enjoy time off from work, are both stubborn and as obstinate as the mountains themselves, and took some time to plan it all out. ย Similar to many things in life, this was a small lesson in overcoming obstacles in geography and our own inner naysayers to complete a challenge and rise to the occasion.

์•ˆ๋…•ํ•˜์ฒด์š”! (Hello!)

I arrived in South Korea Tuesday night and since then my days have been pretty eventful. To begin, when I checked in to the Asiana Airlines from the Chicago international airport, I was required to weigh my carry on. This has never been a necessity for me. Of course the maximum weight for a carry on was 10 kilograms…my bag was 14 kilograms! I was told that I needed to lose eight pounds if I wanted to carry it on. If not, the carry on fee would be $400! Thankfully, my other option was to check in my bag…FOR FREE! ๐Ÿ™‚

After a long layover at Chicago, it was finally time to board Asiana Airlines! I have never been on a plane so big before! This flight was also classy!

Camera 360Freeย slippers, pillows, and blankets!

Talk about a comfortable flight! Additionally, two meals were provided. The first meal was a beef and rice stir (I do not remember the name of it ๐Ÿ™ …). With this meal came a cup of small dried fish. Surprisingly, it was delicious! Camera 360Camera 360

My second meal was a rice (๋ฐฅ) mixed with octopus! This only increased my anticipated excitement for the food I will be consuming this year!

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Although the Asiana flight was a long 14 hours, it did seem to go by faster than I anticipated. Before I knew it, I was going through immigration, finding my luggage, and trying to find the bus station! Then I was off for Daejeon! ๐Ÿ™‚

Snapchat-20140804065151The minions also enjoyed their first flight. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Once I arrived in ๋Œ€์ฑˆ I was able to meet co-workers and finally see my new apartment! Below is a video tour of my new living space!

To my surprise, my apartment was bigger than I had anticipated AND…I have a western toilet! YOOOOHOOOO! I can’t wait to settle in and call this new place my home!

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South Korea, Here I Come!

(I wrote the following post in Chicago, but I was disconnected from the internet and have not had internet until now. Read on and enjoy!) Hello from Chicago! In about an hour I will be boarding my 14 hour flight to Seoul, South Korea! For me, this week was consumed with final preparation and packing. I started the week by heading to Omaha to receive all of my immunizations and a new computer (woot woot) before departing. After going through the daunting process of shots, pills, and trying to find a decent computer, I finally had the chance get some quality family time. Family time is an essential preparation for to a trip without an arranged return date! Throughout my last week I had the opportunity to spend time with my parents! When they were not working we spent some time by the pool, made some amazing cauliflower crust pizza, and topped every supper off with some frozen yogurt! I decided I will definitely be overeating all of this American food because I do not know when I will be able to have it next! Later on in the week I got to spend a day with my younger sister, Emily. Although our day was filled with driving all through Nebraska to take care of a few things, we did manage to go out to eat, get some pedicures, and do some shopping! I was thankful I had this “Em and Ta Day” because I was not sure if I would be able to see her the morning of my flight.

After having an Em and Ta day, I was then able to spend some time with my older sister, Nicole. We were able to spend the day at our parents house, looked at her new wedding photos, and hung out in the pool! ๐Ÿ™‚ Towards the end of the night I began the “last” of my packing. I soon discovered that this would spiral into a stressful event that would roll over to the next day! After packing and weighing each luggage 12 different times, we were finally done! This was also after we came to the realization that I had to use a third suitcase to fit all of my stuff! As of then, it seemed as if I was ready to leave for the Kansas City airport! The rest of my time with my family consisted of taking multiple “last family” photos before my departure. Additionally, we all went out to a soft serve frozen yogurt shop because Dad has never been to one before! It was a great time for family bonding.

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Later that night, when mostly everyone went to sleep in their hotel rooms, my sisters and I spent our last night painting nails, watching a movie, and doing a practice run on how my luggage pick up will occur once I arrive in Seoul! We practiced this luggage pick up about three time! haha The following video is a recording of the FINAL practice run! After that run through, we decided I would be ready for the real thing! ๐Ÿ™‚ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrbZKzFJsFI&feature=youtu.be After all of the family time, packing, and practice runs of the big day I was ready to go! I am so thankful for the support system I have. If I did not have this support system, I would not have the courage to make this move on my own. After hugging my immediate family members goodbye at the airport, I began to board the plan. Although a few tears were streamingย down my face, I continued to confidently walk down that terminal and onto the airplane. This is the start of my new adventure. (Last family photos before I left!ย โ†“)

ํšจ๊ฐ€๊ฐ€์š” (I’m going on a vacation).

It’s official! My flight to South Korea has finally been booked! On August 4 I will be saying goodbye to loved ones and moving out of the United States. I have been out of the country before, but I was traveling with a group of people. This will be my first time flying out of the country on my own! Additionally, last night I was informed that no one will be meeting me at the airport, so I will have to find my way to Daejeon City on my own. I was given instructions on what I need to do once I arrive to the airport in Seoul, but it shall be interesting because I do not know much Korean!

Although there are minor things that are beginning to stress me out, I am extremely excited! Last week I began learning the Korean alphabet, Hangul! So far I know all the ten vowels and a few consonants. Not only have I learned half of the alphabet, but I also know a few words: ์•ผ (Hey!), ์šฐ์œ  (Milk), ์•„์•ผ (Ouch!), ์šฐ์œ ์š” (It is milk.), and ํšจ๊ฐ€๊ฐ€์š” (I’m going on a vacation.). These are essential words and phrases I need to know, right?! Hopefully I learn to say the word “bathroom” before I leave because I know that will be a word I need! After I learn that world I think I will be set!

I am sure it will take me some time to learn the language, but I am excited to immerse myself in this new country and learn everything as I go along. Hopefully by my post next week I will be settled into my new apartment, learning a few more words, and loving my new home!