A few weeks ago a rather dear friend came to visit. This is a friend I've known for 30 odd years; we grew up in the same street and went to the same schools. The kind of friend who happily reminds you of the time you showed off your lyric-remembering-skills by reciting that bit from Madonna's Vogue. The kind of friend where you find yourself frequently saying 'oh gawd, do you remember when we were 12 years old and had matching 'Smoking NO WAY' t-shirts?'. The kind of friend that you know you'll know until you are both very, very old. It was pretty great having her in town.
As part of her visit we went to my favourite-place-in-Korea-to-take-people-to (aka Seoraksan National Park) and it was as breathtakingly beautiful as ever (and now even has a rather hip coffee shop, with actual good coffee! It's housed in a newly built hanok and seems to be run by the local monks. Pretty great.).
We stayed at the Seoraksan Tourist Hotel which is right inside the national park. Great for natural beauty, not so great for eating options, but I'd definitely recommend it for a night or two. It meant we could stroll through the park in the dark of night. Which was actually rather spooky, especially after I came face-to-face with (okay,
several many metres away from) some kind of giant wart hog creature.
We stayed for two nights and we did three walks - the easy stroll at the top of the gondola, a moderate stroll to the Yukdam and Biryeong waterfalls, and the rather more strenuous hike to Ulsanbawi, a 833 metre high granite crag. The Ulsanbawi walk starts of as a rocky tree lined path, weaving along streams and temples, and ends as a succession of crazy steep metal stair cases bolted to the side of the rock. Quite the work out, but worth it for the amazing, truly vertigo inducing views (you can see all the way to Sokcho on the eastern coast). Because it was mid-week the only other hikers where the fully kitted out Korean retirees - so friendly! And so fit; there's nothing quite like being over taken by a grey haired 60 year old to give you the motivation to get up that last set of stairs...
The day before we arrived there'd been a snow storm, so the ground was thick with (rapidly melting) white stuff. By the last day there was a warm spring breeze blowing, hardly any snow on the ground and green buds all around us. From Winter to Spring in three days!