There’s something about climbing a mountain that makes you want to go just a bit further. You want to see what’s around the next bend, over the next slope in the land, and before you know it, you’re almost within reach of the summit. That’s how I ended up at Namsan; though with a 262 meter peak, it hardly qualifies as a mountain.
I wasn’t planning on hiking that day. I took the bus into Seoul with the idea of walking around whichever neighbourhood piqued my interest. After wandering down a few alleys I ended up in Namsan Park, and naturally, I followed the steep incline.
What struck me minutes into the climb were two very distinct choices in hiking apparel. On the one extreme, you had individuals fully clad in hiking gear – mountaineering boots, hiking poles, day packs, touques and whatever other bells and whistles you might need to reach Aconcagua or Everest base camp. I’m certain their sherpas were not too far behind… These guys were set! Looking down at my skinny jeans and lace-up leather boots, I began to question whether I was dressed for the big event.
But then at the halfway mark, I noticed a different style making it’s way up the mountain – runway style. Girls in tulle skirts and bright coloured shorts were hiking Namsan, boyfriends in tow. Like any other girl, the first thing I noticed was their shoes, and why wouldn’t I? These women were hiking in stilettos! I daresay they looked quite poised doing so (clearly masking the agony of blisters). Not only that, while I was wearing the thickest hoodie I own, a jacket, had my scarf wrapped several times around my neck, and was wishing I’d remembered to bring my gloves; these girls were donning cute pastel cardigans and light spring jackets. Very chic but hardly enough layers to keep warm!
Seoul’s fashion continues to baffle me. You won’t find me sacrificing warmth for style anytime soon (though I like to think I can balance both). I am, however, trading in my boots for a decent pair of running shoes. My guidebook tells me there are 37 mountains in Seoul’s surrounding area, and I intend to climb some of those peaks in South Korea!
p.s. I wouldn’t recommend the fried maggots sold along the path to Namsan. I know for a fact the person didn’t wash their hands on their way back from the toilette…and by toilette I really just mean the bush. Just saying.