Thursday, February 27, 2014

Busan: Hiking Jangsan Mountain

[I spent this past weekend in Busan, Korea. On Friday evening I took a walk along Moontan Road. On Saturday I checked out the Jagalchi fish market and the Centum City area.]

Lately I've been playing with the idea of getting a haircut, but it wasn't until Saturday night in Busan that I thought of looking for a place to get it cut there. I found one with a Korean hairdresser who had worked in Canada for many years, and the website said they were open every day.  I was doubtful, but went to Jangsan (only 2 metro stops from my hostel) on Sunday morning to try to walk-in at this salon.  There was really cool artwork in the metro on the way to my exit:

I was right to have doubted the website, because the sign outside the closed salon said "Monday - Saturday".  Now what to do?  I remembered reading online that there was a mountain nearby with good hiking, Jangsan Mountain.  So I went back in the metro to go out a different exit, and bought a few snacks while walking through. There were lots of other hikers headed to the mountain, too, easily recognizable by their hiking attire and gear.

^^That's Jangsan Mountain ahead, a 10-15 minute walk from the metro stop

Since something like 70% of the country is covered in mountains, hiking is a huge past time here in Korea. Almost all had collapsable walking poles, nice hiking shoes, and hiking/sporty clothes.  So not only did I feel out of place for being a westerner (only saw two others all day), but I knew I looked ridiculous in my everyday shoes, jeans, big long black winter coat, and drawstring backpack bag.  It made the hike all the more entertaining, as I could constantly laugh at myself and my poor attire as I came across each new obstacle, while imagining what the Korean hikers thought of me.

There was a really gorgeous view at the start, with water falling over large rocks into a small pond:

Jangsan Mountain in Busan, hiking

The view was accompanied by a continuous incline, and I was sweating so much!  I took off my big black coat and was carrying it for a while while continuing to sweat profusely through all my other layers.  At some point I got the idea of tying it around my waist (high up, so it wouldn't drag), and did that for the next hour or so.

As I got higher, more and more snow started to appear in the woods, until the path was completely covered in snow.  This means there was plenty of mud and slush on the way, too.

Jangsan Mountain in Busan, hiking through snow

My thin, non water-proof shoes were so happy I was wearing them on this hike... haha.

After maybe an hour and a half of hiking, I came to the first mine warning sign. Apparently part of this mountain used to be a mine zone, so it's just fenced off and you'd better not stray from the path!

 The path towards the peak got pretty intense/crazy soon after this point. The black coat went back on because I had cooled off some, but mostly because it was getting in the way of the climb.  I have no photos to document this part because it would have been impossible to take a photo without sliding down the mountain.

It was completely snow-covered, and quite packed down from others' footprints, which made it really slippery (especially with my shoes). And a big incline. I was so glad there weren't others around to watch me for most of this part of the trek, as it must have been a funny sight to watch. I'd grab onto a tree and hold on, so as not to slide down, and try to figure out where the heck my next step was going to be, because there wasn't another tree to grab onto within reach. If I took a step without holding on to anything, I would have slid right down to the bottom.  I seriously cannot believe I never slipped down the hill nor fell in mud during this part through the woods. I was really close numerous times. Slipping and sliding. A walking stick would have been so incredibly useful.

While going up an especially steep incline, the thought first came to me: How the heck am I going to get back down? It was a legitimate concern. Climbing up was difficult enough, but I made it work by jabbing holes for my toes in the snow and quickly pushing myself up so I could get to another tree or shrub which I'd then grab on to while my feet slipped on steep, packed snow. I wondered if I shouldn't turn around, as I had no idea how much farther until the peak, and it was going to take a long time to get back down this hill.

But I kept going up this nearly vertical side of the mountain, hoping the peak wasn't much farther. And then I got to the top of this hillside. I could not believe my eyes: A road!  Some people had hiked to the top via this road, whereas I appeared out of the snow-covered forest from a path that hardly looked like a path at all.

I walked a little ways along up road, and then through this muddy path...

To the peak! Where you could see the city of Busan, which was out of view during the entire hike.

Absolutely none of my pictures can do this view justice. It spanned over 180 degrees: The city scape, the coast, the mountains. So, you'll just have to go to Busan and climb to the top of Jangsan Mountain if you want to see what I saw.  Until then, here are a few glances:

And then it was time to head down the mountain... which was another adventure in itself. I did not go down the way that I came up (I couldn't even see where I'd come out as I walked back down the road). The road soon ended and split into two paths through the woods (in areas not so completely snow covered).

Hikers were going down both, neither were marked, so I picked the second one and started walking. There were some tricky spots over big rocks and mud from the start, but this time there were other hikers around to watch me as I worked my way through without a walking stick or good shoes to help. I stopped to let a group of 4 pass, as I figured out how I was going to take my next step. The older Korean man pointed to his shoes with his walking stick when he passed me and said something to me in Korean (I'm guessing: You need hiking shoes!).  Yes, I said.  I know.

So I kept going along this muddy muddy path for a while. Except it wasn't really going down. And at this point, I just wanted to get back down the mountain. No more dilly-dallying; it was going on my third hour, and I didn't want to get lost up in this mountain's various paths.

The path got more difficult and muddy, and I grew more unsure if I was even going the right way. So I stopped and just started walking back where I came from. Twenty seconds into that decision, and another older Korean man saw me and said something - I think I'd seen he and his wife earlier on my hike. I pointed my finger down, to show that I wanted to get down the mountain, and then pointed to where I'd come from and where I was going, to ask which way I should go. The man pointed towards where I'd just come from - the way I was originally going, and the way they were going too.

He asked me something else in Korean, and then the English word "house"?  What? I hadn't been to any houses on this mountain, so I said "park" because at the bottom of the mountain where I'd begun the hike was a big park, though I couldn't remember its name at the time (Daecheon Park).  Maybe he would know the English word "park".  I'm not sure if he understood, but I was now walking behind them, awkwardly following for the rest of the hike (am I walking with them, or on my own?).

Then we got to an open area that branched out into three different paths. Again, he and his wife tried to communicate with me, and I just kept saying "park" and pointing down. So they pointed towards the middle path that they were also going down. I followed behind them. At one point while going through an especially muddy part (after over a half hour of walking "with" them), the man offered one of his two walking sticks to me, but I declined.

A few minutes later and he was talking on his orange flip phone -- only the second flip phone I've seen in this country thus far (everyone else has a smart phone).  Next thing I know, he's handing me the phone!

"Hello?" I say.  "You are lost?" the woman on the other end asks.  "I don't think so anymore." I say, since we had just finally passed a sign with the park's name and an arrow pointing towards the way we were going.

"Where you going?" the woman asks, "Your house?  You lost from your house?"

What? No I didn't get lost going to my house on this mountain... I just want to get down! "No, I'm trying to go to the park at the bottom of the mountain."

"What mountain? There are many mountains."

Shoot, I couldn't remember the name of the mountain I was on. Jang / Jung / Jeng something. But does that matter?  "I want to go down the mountain, to the park."

"What mountain you want to go to?" Uhh it appeared she didn't know the situation, that we were on a mountain right now! But wouldn't that be what the Korean man had told her when he first called?

"No, we're on a mountain. We are hiking now. I want to go down the mountain."

"What city you want to go to?"  she said. No, I'm not trying to get to another city! How do I explain myself. Before I could say anything else, she said again:

"What city you want to go to?  What city you want to go to?"

Uhh I made eyes with the Korean man and shrugged. He stuck his hand out so I gave him back the phone, while the woman was still talking mid-sentence. I also made the sign with my hand and said "OK", so he would know I knew where I was going.  He talked briefly with the lady on the phone, and then hung up.

"Thank you" I told them in Korean. I was so grateful for their concern and efforts to communicate with me.

I knew we were going the right way. I kept walking a few steps behind them the rest of the hike. When we were 10 minutes from the starting point, the man stopped to readjust something, and I kept walking past him. His wife was in front, already at the bottom of the steps we were going down. So I told her "thank you" again, and went on ahead by myself.  I wanted to show them how appreciative I was, but had no other Korean words I could offer.  It wasn't as if we'd been talking together during the hike down the mountain; I had merely been awkwardly following them, tagging along in the rear.

So alone I turned at the bottom of the stairs and kept along the main path, it was easily recognizable from my way up. And 10-15 minutes later I was back in the park where I'd started, only with mud-covered shoes this time around, and about 5% of the energy I'd started with.

I'm so glad that's how I spent most of my Sunday in Busan; it was great to be outside, doing some type of exercise, and surrounded by nature.


What: Jangsan Mountain (Busan, Korea)
Metro: Jangsan Station, Exit 10
Directions: Take Exit 10 and keep walking straight along the sidewalk, towards the mountain in view. After 10-15 minutes you'll reach Daecheon Park. Keep following the road/path up, and you'll soon see signs for the mountain.
Tips: I'm sure conditions are different in other times of the year, but in February it would have been nice to have a walking stick and shoes that I didn't mind getting dirty. There are bathrooms (and restaurants/snacks) both in the park and a few minutes into the walk (at the exercise park). Bring some water and snacks with you!
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  1. Wow. I think that view beats La Crosse's bluffs. :)

    1. Hah yeah, it took a lot longer to get up there!

  2. Hi, so how long is the total time to go up and down till you can reach the top and got the Busan city view ? thanks :))

    1. Hi there - I'm not really sure, because I probably didn't take the most direct route. Maybe 4-5 hours total?