Duped by the Visit Korea website which claimed this to be one of THE places to see fields of silver grass, I embarked on a mid-week hike up Oseosan (오서산) in Chungcheongnam-do (충청남도). Although the silver grass at the top of the mountain was nothing to shout about, the trails were one of the prettiest I have been on thus far in Korea, with wooded areas and clear streams to cross nearer the bottom and more challenging rocks to clamber over nearer the top. The views from the top were outstanding and unhindered (on a good day, the sea is visible). Being just 791 metres in height, this is a very doable day hike.

About two and a half hours outside of Seoul via a train from Yongsan Station (용산역), the station that is nearest the mountain is très quaint, a small blue building with flowers and persimmon trees growing along the track. On the way to the trail, there are yellow fields, wooden houses with mud walls, small mounds of grass that mark graves in Korea and the distinct whiff of countryside. The whole area just seemed to be the epitome of what one would envision the Korean countryside to be.

The practical information:

From Yongsan Station, the train to Gwangcheon Station (광천역) leaves every two hours and costs 9,900 won or 14,900 won (depending the type of train). From Gwangcheon station, a ten-minute cab ride to the parking lot at the foot of Oseosan costs 7,000 won (cabs will not go meter so agree on a fare beforehand).

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For the first time since its construction 44 years ago, the overpass at Seoul Station was closed to traffic for a few hours and opened to pedestrians. The city’s government is planning to convert the overpass into a garden and today’s closure was aimed at drumming up support for its plans. Typically, there is a constant stream of cars plying the network of roads around Seoul Station (one of the main stations that connects the city to the rest of the country) and it is difficult to appreciate the area amidst the traffic. Today however, people came to take advantage of the opportunity to appreciate the views from the overpass while not being stuck in traffic, for once.

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Last Friday was National Foundation Day (개천절), which celebrates the founding of the first kingdom of Korea by the “godson of heaven”, Dangun Wanggeom (단군왕검) in the year 2333 BC (oddly, his mother was a bear-turned-woman). Seems slightly strange to me that there is a national holiday to celebrate a mythical event. Nonetheless, one should not complain about more holidays.

Spent the day at the Independence Hall of Korea, the largest museum in Korea, in Cheonan. The photographer side of me won and, rather than looking around the museum, ended up spent most of my time by a cluster of Korean flags because they made such a good background for photos.

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Taipei is one of my favourite cities, first and foremost because the people are the warmest I have ever met in any city, hands down. It is also a city of leafy streets and dinky shops selling interesting wares, perfect for wandering around and getting lost. Architecturally, Taipei’s streets have a distinct North East Asian feel, looking like a crossbreed of the streets in Japan and Korea. And of course, mention must be made of the fantastic food.

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