One of the things that I’ve decided to do more of this year is to visit places in Seoul. When the time comes to leave Korea it would be a shame if I’d spent so much time traveling around the rest of the country that I hadn’t seen very much of the city that I had lived in. With that in mind, I’ve been eyeing up a few of the various mountains within the city. Some of them, like Bukhansan, are pretty well known, but there are plenty of less familiar ones as well.
On Saturday Jen and I went for a walk up a couple of the hills that are over in the East of the city, Achasan and Yongmasan. They aren’t particularly high at 287m and 348m respectively, but combined with a trip to the Mokdong baseball stadium for the visit of Lotte Giants it made for a decent day out.
We got the subway to Yongmasan on Line 7 and it was easy enough to find the park that the trail to the top starts from. There was a football match going on in the park that was probably a school game, as the players all looked to be about sixteen. It was well organised though for a game at that level with the ref and his linesmen all dressed in regulation fluorescent kit. The pitch was in the shadow of the hill, with some quite Braga-esque cliff faces providing a very pleasant backdrop.
We watched the game for a few minutes before pushing on further up the trail. Just around the corner is a man-made waterfall that I read somewhere is the biggest one around. I can’t remember if it is the biggest one in Asia or just the biggest in that end of the park. Sorry. Anyway it wasn’t turned on so the effect was somewhat less impressive than it might have been.
The views of Seoul weren’t a great deal better than the turned-off waterfall. It was a muggy day and there was a fair amount of that yellow dust hanging over the city. The path was busy though, Yongmasan is quite a popular place at this time of year, mainly I think, because of some of the purple flowers that line the trail.
We got to the top easily enough, although I wouldn’t like to have tried to find somewhere to sit down. There were dozens of people up there, picnicking, exercising on the equipment provided or taking photos of each other. We went for the latter option, although the bloke who took the photo managed to give me the sort of flat top to my head that would be ideal for resting a beer on.
I was tempted to have a go on the giant hula hoop, but I suspect that it involves a fair bit of skill.
It was about another hour’s walk to Achasan where there was a burial mound at the top that looked so new that I reckon the relatives will still have had their black ties on. A bit further along was an old fortress wall that I grudgingly accepted might just be reasonably original. There was also a bloke selling ‘ice cakee’ which looks and tastes just like ice cream but has the benefit of a much better name.
By the time we got down from Achasan and found Gwangnaru subway station we had spent three and a half hours wandering around. It’s an enjoyable route and our plan is to return and walk it in the reverse direction but with the addition of another hill that should extend the walk by another hour or two.
Next up was Nexen Heroes against Lotte Giants at the Mokdong stadium over in the West of the city. Gwangnaru and Mokdong are both on Line 5 of the subway but unfortunately they are twenty six stops apart. The carriage was crowded but we eventually got seats and arrived at the stadium with around half an hour to spare. There were a lot of food sellers outside and as I’d only had the ice cakee since breakfast I was keen to get something to eat. It was all fried chicken though and that can be a bit of a gamble at the baseball. Some of the vendors were selling it in pizza style boxes which would raise my hopes before I’d discover that it was actually just more chicken.
We didn’t have much better luck in getting one of the good seats near the plate where you sit at a table. They were all sold out. In the end we just got the fifteen thousand won general admission tickets and found ourselves a pair of seats to the left of the action. With no pizza available we eventually settled for a box of fried chicken that seemed just that bit too soft to me. Perhaps it was undercooked or possibly it had just been too long in the box. Either way, the one piece that we each had was probably one too many.
The beer was ok though. They had draft that they had pre-poured into unlabeled litre plastic bottles. It’s the sort of thing that my daughter would probably describe as ‘scruffy’ had she seen it, but it went down very nicely.
The baseball season is only a week old and this was the first game we had been to since October. I struggled a bit to remember a lot of what I’d learnt last year and so tended to concentrate on enjoying sitting in the sun with the beer. The cheerleaders were of interest though and the bloke who tries to get the crowd singing had a new coat. I doubt he will be wearing that in a month or two when its a bit warmer.
Each team is allowed two foreign players and one of them, Nexen’s Cory Aldridge, was fielding just in front of us. I looked him up on the internet and he has had a couple of short spells in the American Major League. He played a handful of games and from what I can work out the highlight was that on one occasion he managed to hit the ball far enough to be able to run to third base. Although I don’t know if he got all the way to third base in one go or whether he had to gradually make his way there.
I’m going to try and identify some of the more notable players this year and focusing on the foreigners seems like an easy place to start. We didn’t stay until the end of the game though as after a couple of hours it had turned cold and we’d had enough. Six innings was sufficent for the first game of the season, particularly after the hiking and lack of edible food.
As often happens, it all got a bit more lively after we had left. Nexen extended their lead from a narrow 5-4 to a much more emphatic 12-6 final score with Cory Aldridge surpassing his MLB achievement by scoring his team’s only home run.