Back from the Park

The one advantage to having my internal clock still be set a few hours early is that waking up to hike at 6:30 a.m. is not a problem. By eight Claude and I had already gone a few kilometers and were well on our way to the first big rock of what would be a long day of hiking. We hiked 4.4km up to a giant rock face, with an elevation change of 873m. Most of this was in the last kilometer. (You have to hate that I just switched to metric, but it is what is used everywhere else, so why fight a better system?) At the top a Korean offered me a piece of candy, and I thanked him in Korean, which made his day. He then offered me some hot tea that he was drinking with his family, I declined, again in Korean, and he was ecstatic. I saw him again on the hike down, and he bought me some peanut and rice candy that you see in my hand. A poor man’s PowerBar.
After the first climb, we got tickets to the cable car, which had been closed in the early morning due to high winds. (They almost knocked me off a cliff, they were incredible.) We then hiked a few more kilometers to a waterfall and back before heading up the cable car to the most amazing view I have ever seen in my life to date. Click on image to see the panorama in a larger scale. It is breathtaking.
Seoraksan Range
Seoraksan National Park Range

Wow, so there is not internet access in the mountains other than when the
landlady sneaks you onto her computer when her husband is not looking. It
turns out that that is what the youth hostel lady did when she let me on
the first time because her husband would have none of it.
Don’t worry mom and dad, I’m still alive. I have about 150 more pictures to upload when I get some time online.

On the way to the Park

Yesterday was all about traveling and fighting jet lag. It was time for me to leave Nathan and Rachel’s place and head out on my own. Due to a combination of jet lag and the effects of the previous night, I wasnn’t feeling so great and really just wanted a place to go to sleep for a while. I was ready to leave Seoul as well, for as interesting as it was, it was a huge city, and I wanted to see the rest of the country. I made my way to the nearest bus station, which was about a 30 min walk, and with the help of a security guard who could tell I had no idea what was going on, I bought a ticket to Chuncheon . It is a smaller city, with a population of only 240,000. When I arrived, it was already dark, and I just needed some food, and a place to sleep. I walked down the street from the bus station and saw several buildings that were motels in a line. I stopped in the first one, and found it to be w39,000 per night, and decorated in an ultra modern, sharp edges everywhere , all glass and doors that retract into the wall theme. Not for me. The next motel I walked into was much better, with wood, an nice lady at the front desk who was so thrilled to see me that she called a friend out and we spent a few minutes having fun trying to communicate what I wanted. We eventually made it clear that I wanted a small, cheap room, and I wanted to pay by credit card. As I was walking away, she gave me a free toothbrush. When Koreans want to give something free to a foreigner, they give it, and say “Service, service.” This is true of toothbrushes, flaming 151 shots, and many other things. Being a foreign traveler here is difficult because of the language barrier, but the Koreans are extremely willing to help in anyway that they can.

I am currently struggling with the food a little. Everything is spicy, and nothing is plain. This is all well and good, but sometimes you just want to eat a meal, and not still be tasting it an hour later every time you burp. I bought a pack of assorted cereal at the E-mart, which is Korea’s version of Wal-mart on crack. Three stories, everything you can imagine, and extremely helpful people at the end of every isle to make sure you get what you want and thee place stays looking orderly. By orderly I mean the second I took the box off the shelf, there was a tiny Korean woman running towards me who jumped up as high as she could to grab a box off the top shelf and put it in the middle where I had disturbed the geometric precision of her stacking. They also give out samples of everything, including wine, in the store. I almost had a full meal while I was shopping.

I left Chuncheon pretty early and took a 10:30 bus ride to Sokchu, about 3 hours away. No help needed this time in buying the ticket, just in finding where the actual bus left from. In the process I have now learned the difference between the Korean letters for ?eat?and ?latform.?I am obviously a stupid American because I did not know this when I bought my ticket, or so the bus driver of the first bus I tried to get on thought. I wandered around Sokcho for a while, went and saw the beach there, which is the beach to what the Koreans call the East Sea, but the rest of the world knows it as the Sea of Japan. (Koreans hate Japan and avoid having anything to do with it, at least culturally, financial dealings are another matter.) I caught a w1000 (approx USD $1.00) bus ride up to the entrance of the Seoraksan National Park where I checked into the Mt. Soerak Youth Hostel. After the usual pantomiming and broken Korean / broken English conversation, I had a share room for w20,000 a night. A great deal in this very popular tourist destination. Originally the room was mine alone, but there were two bunks, and one of them was soon occupied by Claude, a well traveled older man from Belgium. He spoke a decent amount of English, and it was great to talk to someone in English again, even if we had to figure out what we were trying to say some of the time. Claude and I had the same game plan, to stay here tonight, then wake up early and start hiking. This meant that we both had to get the trail maps before the park office shut down for the night, so we headed out and walked to the office, then farther towards the entrance to the park to see the sun set over the mountains.

Out of Seoul

I left Seoul yesterday morning after saying goodbye to Nathan and Rachel. It was a little daunting to be starting out on my own with almost no understanding of the language, but so far I have managed to do alright. I made my way to Cheonchun, which is a town that is surrounded by lakes. No pictures from here as I did not get in until night had already fallen, and I was exhausted. I walked down the street, found a motel, and relaxed for a little while. It felt really good to have a room to myself after couch surfing the past two nights. There is just something about being able to throw your stuff everywhere and be messy. I was starving so I went to the E-mart, which is like Wal-mart on crack. It was three stories, with sample vendors all over the place and people at the end of every isle making sure things stayed orderly. By orderly i mean that the second I pulled a pack of assorted cereals off of the shelf, a tiny woman ran full speed towards me and jumped as high as she could to grab a replacement box from the top shelf.

I slept pretty well, but woke up at 4am because my internal clock is still messed up. I called home with skype, but the connection was bad so I just got to say hello to my dad before it went out. This morning I got up and went back to the bus terminal and caught a bus to Sokcho. I am heading to the Seoraksan National Park to do some hiking. There should be a good amount of pictures from this, so check back. Right now I am in a PC Bong, which is a darkend room full of computers that asians use to play video games on for hours at end.

More hopefully tonight once i check into the youth hostel.

Seoul in a Day. (or: One palace, a Market, and a Temple.)

Where to begin? Today was amazing. I woke up at about 9:30 a.m. despite the jet lag (which is hitting me now while I write this) and started planning my day. Nathan woke up soon after and made some coffee, which we both downed quickly in our attempt to clear the fog. Dough BallsHe got a call and was asked to speak for 15 min. on the differences between Korean and American education practices at a lecture tomorrow for $100. Pretty nice. I left their place and made my way to the subway where I picked up some dough balls for breakfast. Koreans don’t really eat breakfast, they just have more kimchi, which is a spicy mix of vegetables that I really didn’t want for breakfast.

016 I took the subway to the north part of the city and visited Changdeokgung Palace, which was built in 1405. I spent over three hours walking around exploring this huge expanse of “Secret Garden” that is in the middle of a giant city. Most of the pictures you see of pagodas and the like are from this palace. I got a little audio guide that walked me through it all. After I got tired of pagodas, I left and wandered down a street that is known for its trinkets and street vendors. This was very interesting because there was so much for sale, and I have no money to spend! This place was packed though, and I ended up getting lunch here (a hot dog… just like in America… not real dog) before heading to Jongul Tower for a while.Wall of 1000 statues

I had read about monks playing at a Buddhist temple closer to the center of city, so I got back on the subway and headed in farther. The temple was beautiful, and I felt like I was invading a sanctuary by pulling my camera out, but I did it anyway. There was a 45 foot tall Buddha, several worship pavilions, and a room with 1000 statues. I ended up catching the monks’ performance and have put a minute of it below. Check out more in the Videos Section. There are about 60 more photos in the Albums Page as well.



On the way home I picked up some food from a street vendor and brought it back to eat. Mmm… Delicious.


Welcome to the land of “I’m the tallest person here”

Welcome to Seoul Took that with the cell phone on the way in. I am so happy to finally be here. It took just over 24 hours of total travel time for me to arrive at the door of my gracious hosts. Seoul is massive. The third largest city in the world, and it seems like it. Wikipedia info on: Seoul

Tonight, Nathan had to leave almost immediately after I arrived, but Rachel took me to their favorite restaurant, and we ate Dalk Kalbi, which is a noodle, chicken, and fire spice mix. I did not bring my camera out with me, but will do so tomorrow, because the street we went to was incredible. I have never seen so much neon.

On the way over here I ended up getting a seat on the exit row next to a guy named Michael, who was coming over here to do translation work for the Air Force. (I didn’t find out he was in the Air Force until we were in line for customs.) He went over my Korean phrase book with me and helped me get a basic understanding of the language. I am able to slowly start to phonetically pronounce words now, even if I have no idea what they mean.

Here is a look at a very small part of downtown Seoul. Wait till you see what I have to upload tomorrow.

Last Post from the USA

The PackEverything is purchased, prepped, and (almost) packed. I still have to throw the last minute things together, but I am pretty much ready to go. My pack is pretty small, and should fit as a carry on. The picture is what it looks like, and it isn’t very big at all. Hard to belive that it will last me for an indefinite amount of time. I leave in six hours, and am to stressed/busy/tired to write a proper post, but wanted to throw something out there before I left.

Adios America.  Please do not elect another Clinton to the White House while I am gone. I want to still have a country to come back to.

One day left

I spent my last weekend in the States camping and climbing with some old friends up in North Georgia. Brit and I went up on Friday night and got a campsite, then were met on Saturday by Will and Brooke at the mountain. Since we all arrived at different times, and none of us had ever been there before, finding each other on the rock was a little difficult, but we managed.

It was a good way to step back from the past few weeks and get in the zone to get ready to go.The next 24 hours will be full of packing, stress, and trying to make sure I don’t die in Asia. Wish me luck.

(Oh yeah, remember that PacSafe thing I was talking about in this post? Well it came in, and it is awesome.)

Four Days and Counting

I have four days remaining in the USA for what could possibly be the next year and a half. That is an incredibly scary, exciting notion. On one hand, I know that I can come home if I want to, but that would be simply going back to what I have always known, and I know that it isn’t enough for me. I find enough to do, but it is not what I enjoy. Maybe I end up in Asia, and find that it does not fit me at all, and that I am drowning in culture overload combined with lack of planning (which was purposeful). If so, there is nothing keeping me from up and heading to Europe, spending more time in India, or going to Australia. There is no feeling quite like that of knowing you can head anywhere you want to at the least substantial whim.

There are so many people I want to see before I head out, but I just don’t have time. If you are in the southeast, a bunch of us are going camping this weekend, and we would love you to come. I am not sure the best way to contact me while I am gone, but email will always works, and I have Skype, username: ben0602.

Sold my car for a laptop

Kind Of.
I finally sold my car on Friday, and the first thing i bought was a new laptop. I got an extremely cheap one, since I know that it probably will not survive long while I am traveling. Then I upgraded its ram so that is is respectable, and it has Vista (which I am still deciding if I like or not). Adobe CS3 is up and running and I am ready to go. The laptop has a built in webcam, which is really cool, and a media card reader, and a remote. So all in all, I am happy with it. I am now just getting everything the way I like it and messing around with what it can and cannot do. I leave in just over a week, which is crazy, and I still have to finish the deck I have been building for the past few weeks. It is coming along now faster than ever, but it will be close.


Shop the current Moosejaw Sale!

The actual planning has begun.

Nathan and RachelI have started to figure out a little bit of my trip. The first two nights I am in Seoul I will be staying with a couple, Nathan and Rachel, who I met over They seem like they are kind, intelligent and interesting. since this is my first surfing experience, I was a little apprehensive, but they have sent me maps, directions, and a plethora of information that has been amazing. I get into Seoul at 3:20 p.m. local Korean time, and will probably spend some time exploring the city before I go to meet up with them.

I have also started to get my pack ready, and my current list of items is growing. It is important for me to keep it small, since I have to be able to carry with me at all times. I do not want to have to ever check my bag.
Current Pack List

  • Camera (dSLR, so it is bigger than it probably should be)
  • Laptop (Small, under 5 lbs, and able to run Adobe CS3)
  • 3 shirts (Two long sleeve that I can roll up, one short, all quick dry)
  • 2 pairs of pants (Zip off legs so they can be shorts, quick dry)
  • 3 pairs of quick dry hiking socks
  • Head Bandana
  • 3 pairs of boxers (Quick dry Capiline)
  • Small med kit
  • Small wash kit (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, quick dry towel)
  • Travel Sheets
  • MAYBE- a small travel pillow…
  • There will be some books, and probably an Ipod… but not sure yet about how much space and weight I will have left. I also don’t want to look like a walking ATM target, so my pack is dirty and will stay that way. I don’t plan on taking my laptop out in public at all, and only using my phone when I absolutely have to. I would rather be out of touch and on my terms, which means that the phone will be off almost all the time.
    More later,