Myeongseongsan, Pocheon

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February 13th 2016
Published: March 13th 2016
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We drove north of Seoul to Sanjeong Lake and Myeongseongsan Mountain. Normally, when the bus pulls into the parking lot, there are a million other buses there, disgorging brightly clad hikers. However, this place was like a ghost town, maybe we got there early or maybe this place isn't too popular. We headed towards the trail Today's hike would be pretty easy. We walked through the valley, along the edge of a frozen river. It was a pretty surreal hike. Although it was winter, a lot of the trees still had dead reddy brown leaves on them. Also the weather was pretty warm, it definitely felt more like a late autumn hike, rather than a winter one. The only indication that it was winter was the frozen river, which looked pretty. We kept walking along it and after a while we reached a frozen waterfall When I think of frozen waterfall, I think they should be pretty, but most of the ones I have seen are a bit of a let down, this one included. It is just a large, flat sheet of ice. Give me a proper waterfall any day. We crossed over the waterfall by bridge and continued on the trail.

The trail then headed away from the river and started to get a bit steeper. It had rained a lot the day before, so the ground was muddy, but there were plenty of rocks to stand on, too. We hiked further and further up. The higher I got the nicer the views I was rewarded with. I could see the countryside all around me and the low lying clouds. The clouds made it look really pretty. We headed to the ridge line, but the views were obscured by the trees and low lying clouds. I could only catch a glimpse of the lake below. I also saw some animal running through the mountains. I think it was a goat, I was surprised as I never really see any large animals like that when I am hiking. The last stretch to the peak was a little steeper, it wouldn't have been to bad if the ground wasn't so muddy. I was slipping allover the place. Even at the peak, we all had to be careful.

There is a pagoda at the top of Myeongseongsan, so I climbed the stairs and took a short rest. Because of all the clouds, there wasn't really much of a view, but I bet it would be nice on a clear day. This peak is 922.6 metres high. Myeong means crying and Seong means sound in Chinese characters, so the mountain is called crying sound. The legend goes that King Gungye, I think from the Three Kingdoms period, fled to the mountain after he was ousted during a power struggle. From the peak there are three or four routes down. We took a different route to the one we came up. We hiked along the ridgeline, this track was a lot more rocky, so it took longer. The descent was quite tough after going down some normal stairs, we came to a lot, and I mean a lot of stone stairs. These were really tough, as it took a lot of concentration to figure out the easiest path. Also because of the rain, it was a little slippery.

On the way down, we could see the lake better. There was a bit resort on the other side. One of the guys told us that area had been part of North Korea before. The leaders used to come to the lake and relax in that area. They had built a resort there a long time ago. At the end of the trail,we came out at Jainsa Temple. I was told that this temple is a little different in style compared to most Korean temples as there is a Chinese influence to it. The temple had some unique looking statues. I loved looking up at the temple and seeing it nestled in between the surrounding mountain peaks. It looked really pretty.

When we were looking around the temple, one of the lads got talking to a woman who worked or volunteered there and she offered us a free feed. Score! I have heard about temples offering free food to people who are visiting, but have never been in the right place at the right time. She took us to a dining room, where there were a few ajummas ready to dish up. The food was nice, basic, but tasty. We got rice, kimchi, kkakdugi (radish kimchi), some other veggies, seaweed soup, and some pretty fiery homemade gochujang (red pepper paste). They even had a machine that dispensed mix coffee for free! Well, I say it was free but the temple do welcome donations. There was a big wooden box near the kitchen, so I stuck a couple of thousand won in it.

After lunch we headed back towards the bus, we took a walk around the edge of the lake, Sanjeong Lake. It was quite pretty, but it did look a bit bleak, too. I think it was because it was now pretty overcast. There was a kind of amusement park at one side of the side. It was pretty quiet as it wasn't the best day to be out and about, however they still had the music blaring, that was what we could hear, when we are hiking. I really think Korea doesn't know how to appreciate silence.

We drove for maybe half an hour and we came to the makgeolli museum. The museum is free to enter, but I found it pretty boring as all the displays are labeled only in Korean, I quickly skipped through the museum and headed down to the shop and tasting area. At the till you pay 2,000 won and you get a tasting cup, which you get to keep. There is a big bar in the centre of the room and loads of bottles alcohol. They have all kinds of makgeolli, from very weak to pretty potent, I didn't enjoy the stronger ones, but the regular makgeolli was delish. There was also a really nice beer. There were different liqueurs to sample, I did like one of the fruity ones, that wasn't too strong. They also had a lot of arak, which is pretty potent. There was plenty of water available to wash your tasting cup out with so the flavours didn't mingle. They also had a snack bar set up, so you could munch on some stuff that was a bit like Bombay Mix and bread to soak up the alcohol. I did end up buying a few bottles, I stuck to the cheaper stuff though, beer, makgeolli, and something alcoholic and fruity, that I had enjoyed. They had lots of reasonably priced booze.

We drove a bit further to reach the sulfur sauna. The entrance room did look pretty ghetto. I had already decided that I didn't want to go, so I headed to get some dinner instead. We found a budae jjigae (army stew) place nearby. I love budae jjigae, it is just a big bowl of spicy, hot crap. Spam, hot dogs, baked beans, you name it, if it's bad for you, it will be in budae jjigae. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.

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