Fall has been in full swing here in Korea and it’s perfect time to view the fall foliage (단풍). I’ve not been out nearly as much as I’d like, especially after a summer filled with hiking. Around the time I was thinking of a hike I got a call from my older friend, Kyeong Han, who I hike with every so often. He’s been busy working at his company and I’ve been busy with school. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so he asked if I wanted to hike. We set a date and met. When I met him early morning on Sunday, he wasn’t alone. He brought his wife along. I met her a while back and was pleasantly surprised to see her join. They’re both in their late fifties, but she’s just as sprightly as him. She led the way the entire time, moving at a casually fast and consistent pace even during the long steep sections. We hiked in the Bukhansan National Park, a sprawling area north of the city and home to a few of the tallest mountains in Seoul. Kyeong Han mentioned to me we’d visit a temple. He said in broken English “I know you write and take photos. We’ll go to a temple so you can write” He remembered my blog from the one time I showed him over dinner. He looked through at the places we’d visited together and said “very good, very good!”. Along the way we talked, followed by periods of silence. It’d been a while for me since I’ve been in the forest and away from the business of daily life, so I was simply enjoying the space and quiet.
Our hike was more of a long walk. I didn’t have proper shoes for anything too demanding and they were planning something closer to long walk than tackling anything too steep. On the way down we ate lunch together and afterwards meandered our way back to the train station, passing through the Buam Dong village, somewhat of a younger cousin to Bukchon..much smaller and lesser known, it’s home to many traditional style hanok homes, cafes and art galleries. After passing through this quiet area, we walked through a park to an area of land my older friend owns, which was once a home for the nobles. Now, the foundations can be seen as well as the empty hole of an old pond. On our way there, we passed a temple, again whose name I forgot. It’s near the base of Bugaksan and sits above a small waterfall.
At the old noble compound grounds, now a public park. A group of middle aged korean women and men were playing guitar and singing traditional Korean songs, while a few women danced to the songs. My friend and his wife knew all the songs well, having grown up in the 60s and 70s. I’ve been told, by him and his wife, that Kyeong Han sings well. I’ve yet to hear, but he promised me he’ll sing for me someday.
The old pond. A couple is sitting across the way, in front of the group of singers. It’s also a great season for dating in Seoul, not that anytime isn’t in this city, but it’s still rare to see younger couples going outside of the city perimeters to the hills for quiet time. Most of the time I hike it’s mostly me and packs and packs of older korean men and women.
Samchon (Uncle) found some nuts had fallen from a tree. His wife was calling asking where he went, as he scurried around underneath the trees, excitedly like a kid. He reminds me of an older version of one of my best friends back home. Spending time with him is always a reminder that just because we add years onto our lives does not mean we must leave behind our youthfulness and joy.