Monday, July 12, 2010

Mountain paradise

It's been cloudy and gray for weeks, but today the sky finally cleared a little and we got a better of Mount Bukak from our porch.

Mount Bukak is one of the four mountains that surrounds old Seoul. You might remember that back in November, I took a hike through a newly opened trail on the mountain. The mountain butts up to the Presidential Blue House and the trail I went on was used by North Korean would-be assassins in 1968 on their way to kill President Park Chung Hee.

To get to the mountain's trails, all we have to do it walk up a couple flights of stairs behind our house and we're in the forest. It's pretty amazing being this close to nature. I can't wait until it's cooler out so we can spend more time out there.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Farm

View from our new porch

So it's been a little over a week since we moved into our new place.  It's in Seongbuk-dong, a quiet neighborhood in northeastern Seoul that's nicely tucked away in the mountains far enough from most of the hustle and bustle of the city that it almost feels like the country but close enough to things like restaurants and the subway to be convenient.  Since we're at the top of a pretty steep hill, it can be a bit of a pain to climb up here (especially in the summer heat), but the calm breeze and views once you reach the top are worth it.  What's great is you can see Bukhansan National Park from our porch, and get a fantastic view of the city from the large wooded park just a short climb up the stairway behind our place.

We're actually on a second floor of a pretty large house -- our downstairs neighbors are a family of five with an amazing garden filled with greens and a persimmon tree that the father tells me gets ripe for the picking in the fall.  The biggest change, though, has been the noise -- or I should say, lack of.  At night you can barely make out the hum of cars from the nearest road and the most prominent sound in the morning is the birds.  Birds, I say!  They're actually loud enough to wake you up at sunrise if you have the window open, which is a bit annoying, but still a billion times better than the constant roar of cars and trucks that could keep you up at night in our old apartment.

There are compromises, of course, which I won't get into because they're far outweighed by the advantages of this place.  I've already noticed how much calmer and at home I feel here than in Sinchon (O, you neighborhood of blinking lights and drunken revelers) and I wonder sometimes how we even managed to live in our old apartment for so long without going totally crazy.  This is a side of Seoul I don't even think many locals are familiar with and I can see why.  There aren't a lot of stores with loud music blaring onto the sidewalk, it can be little tough to find a bar, it isn't a good place to look for new clothes or a new cell phone, and instead of tall buildings everywhere there are all these tall trees and mountains.  And those damned birds singing their bird songs!  What a shame.