Thursday, January 30, 2003

The week's are flying by here in Ulsan. Another busy weekend passed, and we're now looking at a five-day break for the Lunar New Year or Sollal as it's called in Korea. Sollal is a time for Koreans to pay respects to their ancestors and family, which means the country descends into utter chaos for 3 days as 10 million people hit the roads to travel to their hometowns. I think we're just going to lay low and relax for a while, and then on Monday Amy and I are heading to Muju Resort to go snowboarding with some friends. I'll have a full report next week.

Last weekend, on Saturday, Amy and I and our friend Will ventured out of the city to Eonyang, a smaller town about an hour from Ulsan. It was our goal to hike 1,240 metres to the top of Mount Gaji (Gaji-san), one of the many peaks that make up the Yeongnam Alps that surround the Ulsan area. We hit the parking lot at about 11:30 am and started up the trail, and we were surprised to find a significant amount of snow on the ground. Undeterred, we continued upwards for a couple hours, surrounded by magnificient views of the Korean countryside. Apparently, Koreans don't believe in switchbacks, as the trail continued unmercifully straight up the side of the mountain. On the way to the top, we passed many Koreans, most of whom were decked out like they were out to scale K2. Hiking is a bit of a national obsession in Korea, and people take it very seriously. We chuckled to ourselves at some of their outfits, especially at the large crampons most had attached to their boots. Little did we know, we would soon come to regret not having them ourselves!

Once at the top we took the obligatory snapshots (check 'em out online at > Gajisan hike) and had a quick bite to eat. Suddenly, off in the distance we could hear the distinctive 'Whomp, whomp, whomp' of a helicopter approaching. Curious, we hung around for a bit to see what was going on. Out of nowhere appeared two Korean Search and Rescue guys, one of whom had what can only be described as a large sled attached to his back. They were off to one of the other peaks to attend to a casualty of some sort. The helicopter came in low and fast, and it was a strange looking contraption with no tail rotor. All in all, it was quite exciting!

Our descent down the mountain was a comedy of errors at best, as we slipped and slid down the snow covered trail. Note to self - pack crampons next time we try and hike in the winter. That evening we relaxed with dinner at Will's apartment and met up with some other friends to go and try and find a jazz club we had heard about. Oh yeah, we hit the batting cages as well.

Sunday, Amy and her friend Kristine and I headed down to Pusan. We wanted to try and find a large English bookstore that is there. While at the bookstore we met up with a very friendly Korean guy. We chatted for a while and then invited him along for lunch. We went out to Hyundae beach, which is a very famous beach in Korea. Reminded me a lot of Waikiki in Hawaii, except that it was pissing with rain and generally a very unpleasant day. We had some excellent Indian food at a local restaurant and had a Starbucks coffee on the beach... felt just like being back in Vancouver!

I hope you are all well. It seems my email address is not working at the moment, so in the meantime, you can reach me at


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