Saturday, February 08, 2020

big-ass walk today

My Korean buddy JW lives about a mile from where I do. JW texted me last night, while I was doing yet another evening walk, to ask whether I'd be interested in going on a big walk on Saturday. I said yes; JW suggested we do Namsan; I counter-proposed that we walk to Namsan from JW's place.

So I met JW at his place near Samseong Joongang Station, and we walked the 9.4 kilometers across the river to the National Theater, which sits at the foot of Namsan. From there, we walked the "easy" bus route up to the mountaintop (Namsan is really more of a glorified hill than a bona fide mountain), rested a bit, then took the stone stairs down the other side to go into downtown to find the place pictured below:

The resto is called Ddukbaegi-jip (roughly, "House of the Pottery Bowl"; a ddukbaegi is an earthenware bowl into which you usually put some kind of soup or stew— click on a good reference here). JW had taken me there years ago so I could try the place's specialty: ureong dwenjang, a type of stew featuring little grey/black snails called ureong (rhymes with "who rung?"). The restaurant is extremely popular among locals, but as JW and I discovered to be true just about everywhere during our walk, people were rather scarce today, thanks to the not-quite-rational fear caused by the coronavirus.

After lunch, JW said he wanted to visit some local markets, so we walked into and through Gwangjang Market, Bangsan Market, and Jungbu Market. JW was looking to buy some dried squid for his parents, but everywhere we looked, the squid was hellishly expensive at over $100 for a large plastic bag. You'd think that, with fewer visitors and thus less demand, the markets would lower their prices, but Korea doesn't always think in the most capitalistic way. Disappointed, JW and I hailed a cab and rode back home.

The walk was about 30,000 steps total; we probably did close to 20 km of walking, but at varying speeds, from casual strolling to a full-on march. I was surprised to find myself pulling ahead of JW during the Namsan-uphill portion of our walk; JW is several orders of magnitude more athletic than I am, so he was either "letting me win," so to speak, or his smoking habit was finally catching up to him. (Like a lot of Korean men, JW lives the paradox of smoking heavily while also being pretty athletic.)

All in all, a good way to spend a Saturday. Had JW not texted Friday evening, I probably would have had a much lazier weekend. This is what friends are for, I think.


John Mac said...

Ah, our old friend Namsan. Many fond memories of hiking there. The stairs up are a bitch though.

Kevin Kim said...

Yeah, I think there're around 1100 steps if you go up the Namsan Public Library side. We saw quite a few brave souls walking up while we were walking down.