Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Great Outings in Seoul with a Dog: Bukaksan

In the brief time that is left to me before I move to the US, I am endeavoring to spend as much time with our dog Kongi (actually Unni's sister's dog) as possible. I bought a fashionable carry-bag so that I can take her with me on the bus or train, and we have been going on special outings every weekend. Since there seems to be no information on Seoul's official tourism pages about which places allow dogs, I thought I would share some of the best places we have found in which to walk or play.

Let Kongi be your guide to the best-smelling flower patches in Seoul!
Today we will be introducing the series of trails around Bukaksan, probably our favorite place so far. The southern end can be accessed via the trailhead near the Samcheonggak villa, or by following Seoul Seonggak north from Hansung University station. From the north, you can access the trails from the Bukak Pavilion or the Haneul-Gyo bridge on the Bukak Skyway road.

This is a great place to take a dog because not only is it less crowded for some reason, but it also has some sites of historical interest, allowing Kongi to learn something about the history of her homeland.

For instance, the western edge of the park features a scenic stretch of the old city wall, also known as Seoul Seonggwak.

Also, one section of the trail known as the "Kim Shin-Jo route" (in red on the map) passes by the site of the famous 1968 gun battle between South Korean security forces and a group of 31 North Korean commandos who had snuck all the way down from the border, intent on assassinating the President (this episode is most memorably depicted in the movie Shilmido). Kim Shin-Jo is the name of the only commando who was captured alive, who was later rehabilitated into society and became a Protestant minister. The site is dominated by a large rock formation pockmarked by bullets from the gunfight. Each bullet mark has been helpfully highlighted in white paint.

The trail generally winds uphill as it moves northeast, passing through a series of valleys and climbing several long Escher-esque staircases. Each landing features a nice wooden bench, tempting frequent breaks. This is a great spot in which to crack open a beer and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

At the northern end of the park, just before the Haneul-Gyo bridge, there is a scenic lookout picnic area with nice views of the mountains to the north of Seoul.

There is also a workout area with exercise equipment for people who still aren't tired out from climbing all those stairs.

From there, the trail joins the Bukaksan Skyway road. There is a nice walking path along this road that offers some good views of Seoul. This can be followed east all the way back down to the 1162 bus stop near the Haneul-Hanmadang and Seongbuk Park, another of Kongi's favorite hangouts.

Stay tuned for more adventures with Kongi in the near future!

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