3 ways to enjoy the roads
When autumn comes, you may find yourself going for long solitary strolls—with headphones in your ears and your every step enjoying the satisfying crunch of brown, fallen leaves. This night walk to the Seoul Fortress Wall and beyond isn’t that. It isn’t meant to be appreciated on your own. It’s one where I remember the spots not by their official names or history; but by the people I went there with. It’s, “a walk for the people I like best,” as I once said on a date. The prelude to the walk itself starts at Exit 2 of Hyehwa Station, right next to Marrioner Park where often aspiring actors from Sungkwunkwan University are trying to memorize their lines and then climbing up the stairs of Naksan Park in a huff and puff reminiscent of Paris’ Montmartre. Pay special attention to Jazz Story at the foot of the entrance to the park where vinyl records are matched with cheap beers and sepia-toned lighting. At the top, you’ll arrive at the Seoul Fortress Wall. Built in 1396 during the Joseon Dynasty to protect the city from invaders, the 18.6 km wall outlines Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan and Inwangsan—with Naksan being my personal favorite. After you finish your ascent, reward yourself with a short rest before continuing.
Since I live right below Namsan, I hike that mountain whenever I get the chance. If Namsan can pick up my mood, imagine how much of a high I get while in the mountains of Bukhansan or Dobongsan. Both locations are as beautiful as any of the other famous mountains in the country, especially if you consider the fact that they are within the heart of the city. But it’s no easy task making the 800-meter hike to the top of Bukhansan all the way to Baegundae Peak. If you love the mountains, but don’t have the physical capacity to make it all the way to the top and would rather go for a quiet nature walk, then the walking trail on Bukhansan is a great route for you. It only takes two to three hours to finish the hike, making it the perfect when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and breathe in some fresh air. The trail was created from a side road that was later connected to the foot of the mountain, allowing people to enjoy walking along the gentle slope. Out of the entire 71.5km road, the first 45.7km, which includes the Seoul city section and Uiryeong-gil (across the center of the mountain) was opened first, and the rest in 2011. The mountain has 21 different trails, with tree-lined, dirt, forest and village paths that are intertwined with several other types of paths. With a light backpack and a friend by my side, the first walk I went for was through the eighth course, Cloud Garden Trail.
If you cycle around Seoul, most likely you bike around the Han River. The bike lanes there (with the exception of a few places currently under construction) are fairly easy to ride along, don’t have any tough uphill or downhill routes and are wide enough to ensure the safety of the rider. There are many well-known cycling routes and the Han River Bike Path (Seoul section) allows you to travel east to west, all the way to the Gyeongin Ara Waterway, with the wind in your hair and your eyes soaking in all the sights of the Seoul’s bridges along with the nature enveloped in the cityscape. It’s highly recommended for novice riders. However, when fall comes with its crisp, cool breeze, these cycling routes are not the best for biking. People swarm to the Han River to walk, and with joggers running along the riverfront, there’s a higher risk of getting into accidents. Bugak Skyway is no exception as the amount of cyclists and cars on the road cause traffic jams at times. Still, if you haven’t had a satisfying cycling session, then I recommend going the extra mile and taking the route that starts at the Han River Bikeway and ends when you reach Namhansanseong Fortress. This is the course I regularly take since I can start from my front door. You can ride straight along the Han River, and the more distance you put between yourself and the city, the less riders there are on the road, making it a more pleasant journey.