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Archive for hiking

Hiking Mt. Apsan in Daegu, South Korea

Once again, I have allowed a considerable stretch of time to pass since my last appearance in the blogosphere. So many travel-related things have happened in the past few weeks that I could have written about, but I’ve been too busy (and too lacking in motivation) to bother. Long story short, I moved to South Korea on Feb. 20 to teach English with EPIK. After landing at Incheon Airport near Seoul, I was whisked away to Konkuk University in the city of Chungju, where I spent a week listening to lectures and participating in seminars at EPIK Orientation. After that I was put on a bus and carted off to Daegu, where I started teaching at a middle school on March 6. I like the job so far, but lesson planning has been taking up a lot of my free time, and blogging — as so often happens — has been put on the back burner.

Anyways, last Saturday I decided to reward myself for completing my first week at the new job without any incidents. (Well, without any major incidents…On my first day of teaching, I accidentally said “shit” in front of an entire class of second-grade middle-schoolers, resulting in the biggest eruption of laughter the school probably heard all week. OK, maybe that does count as a “major incident,” but it could have been worse, right??) Since Daegu is surrounded by mountains and is known for its fantastic hiking opportunities, I decided to climb up one of the city’s most heavily-hiked mountains: Mt. Apsan.

I found Mt. Apsan fairly easy to get to via public transportation. The night before I planned to set out on my hike, I consulted a few other blogs and websites to figure out how to get there. All of them said that I would need to catch a bus in order to get to the beginning of the trail. This bummed me out a little, as I was worried about having to go through the hassle of figuring out where and when to board the bus. Luckily, however, when I looked at a map I found that Mt. Apsan is only about a 20-minute walk from Hyeonchungno subway station (on the red line). No bus required! Hassle averted (this time).

I arrived at the base of Mt. Apsan at 11:00 a.m., and began my long hike to the top. There are several different trails of varying lengths and difficulties that you can take to get there. Since I didn’t have a map with me, and didn’t know where to get one, I stuck to one rule: Whenever I came to a fork in the trail, I took the path that led the steepest way UP. I mean, when climbing a mountain, one cannot go wrong as long as one keeps heading in the general direction of “up,” right?

Finally, at about 12:30, I arrived at the top of the mountain. I still had a short way to go before I reached my main objective — Apsan Observatory — but my efforts were rewarded here with a little peek over the city as it stretched off into the distance.

hiking Mt. Apsan in Daegu

hiking Mt. Apsan in Daegu hiking Mt. Apsan in Daegu

After walking along the trail a little longer, I came to a café that looked like this:

hiking Mt. Apsan in Daegu

On top of the café was a viewing platform called Sopra Observatory. No purchase from the café was necessary to visit the observatory, so I walked right on up. On reaching the top of the stairs, I was met with the most spectacular view over Daegu.

hiking Mt. Apsan in Daegu

hiking Mt. Apsan in Daegu hiking Mt. Apsan in Daeguhiking Mt. Apsan in Daegu

Apsan Observatory on Mt. Apsan in Daegu

Apsan Observatory


After staring at the magnificent scene before me for several minutes, trying to make note of all the tiny details, I continued on my way along the trail. Finally, at about 1:00 — two hours after I began my ascent up the mountain — I arrived at Apsan Observatory. A rather sizeable crowd was gathered on the viewing platform, but there was still plenty of space for all of us to admire the amazing vista spread out before us. As is always the case when hiking a mountain, the view more than made up for the arduous trek to the summit.


I must have accidentally taken one of the longer trails up Mt. Apsan, because I went back down by a different path and it seemed to only take a matter of minutes. (Obviously I know that walking DOWN a mountain is much easier than walking UP. But even when taking that into consideration, I’m sure the path I took back down was a lot shorter than the one I took up.)

On the way back down, I passed by the beautiful Anilsa Temple. My phone’s battery was almost dead by this point, but I couldn’t resist stopping for a bit to snap some photos of the colourful, intricately-detailed architecture of the temple.


By the time I arrived back on level ground, I had just enough charge left on my phone to navigate my way back to Hyeonchungno station via GPS. Next time I go hiking, I will remember to bring my portable charger!

My day on Mt. Apsan was definitely a day well spent, and just the release I needed after a week of being cooped up inside, slaving over lesson plans. If you’re looking for a great way to while away a sunny afternoon in Daegu, you can’t go wrong with a hike up Mt. Apsan!

 

6 Days in the Cinque Terre 

After spending a week on the Amalfi Coast, I was curious to see how the Cinque Terre would compare. The two regions are the most celebrated stretches of coastline in Italy, and I’d say their popularity is pretty much equal. As it turns out, the two are quite similar in many ways, but there are some important differences between them.

The biggest difference between the two is that while on the Amalfi Coast you get around by bus, in the Cinque Terre you get around by train. This means that it’s much quicker and easier to hop between towns in the Cinque Terre than it is on the Amalfi Coast. It’s more comfortable, too, because the trains aren’t as crowded as the buses on the Amalfi Coast (although the seats on the train are almost always full and there are usually some people standing in the aisles).

Cinque Terre

The looooooooong, zigzagging staircase from the Corniglia train station into the centre of town

Cinque Terre

Train tracks and tunnel in Monterosso

When you arrive in the Cinque Terre, the first thing you do is buy a Cinque Terre card at any one of the train stations in the towns. This card gives you access to all the trails in the area and lets you ride the train between each of the towns for free as often as you want. It also gives you access to the toilets and the wifi in the train stations (although I never could get the wifi to work in any of the stations). You can choose to buy a card that’s valid for one day (16€), two days (29€), or three days (41€).

If I could give you one piece of advice about the Cinque Terre, it would be to NOT buy a three-day Cinque Terre card. I made the mistake of splashing out 41€ for a three-day card and later found out that all the trails except the Blue Path (the most popular trail) are free to hike. So really, I was paying 14€ a day just to ride the train around. Tickets for the train rides between each city are only 4€, and I knew I wasn’t going to be riding the train more than three times a day. Plus, the only trail that you have to pay for, the Blue Path, can easily be done in a single day. So it doesn’t really make sense to buy a pass that’s valid for longer than one day. Buy the one-day pass and hike the Blue Path, then just buy individual train tickets on subsequent days.

Hiking the Blue Path is definitely the one thing you should do if you do nothing else in the Cinque Terre. The first two parts of the trail — from Riomaggiorre to Manarola and from Manarola to Corniglia — are unfortunately closed until 2018, so you’ll have to skip them. Take the train to Corniglia, then hike to Vernazza, and from there hike to Monterosso. The trail is super easy to find as soon as you exit the train station in Corniglia. The views along the trail, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, are killer.

If you bought a two-day Cinque Terre card (which is only worth it if you plan on riding the train quite a few times), then you can spend your second day hopping between the five towns by train. Although they’re all quite similar in many ways, each town has its own unique vibe, so make sure to visit them all!

Cinque Terre

Prickly pear cacti in Corniglia

Cinque Terre

Manarola

Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore

Cinque Terre

A beach in Monterosso

Cinque Terre

Vernazza

After you’ve seen all there is to see in the five towns, I recommend hopping on a bus and heading to the town of Portovenere for an afternoon. The bus stop is only a few minutes’ walk from La Spezia train station, and the ride only takes about 35 minutes. Portovenere is a beautiful town with great views of the sea. You can easily spend a couple of hours exploring Doria Castle and the Church of St. Peter.

My next and final stop on this trip (where did summer go?!) is the romantic city of Venice. Fingers crossed I meet a cute boy who invites me to take a sunset gondola ride with him along the canals. (I’m not getting my hopes up about that one.) Stay tuned!

A Week on the Amalfi Coast 

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. If you stand at any viewpoint along the coast and gaze out at the ocean, you actually cannot tell where the sea ends and the sky begins. The two just blend together into a seemingly infinite mass of blue. It’s almost surreal.

Amalfi

Amalfi

Amalfi

Amalfi

I stayed in a small village called San Lazzaro, which is part of a group of villages collectively known as Agerola. It wasn’t the most convenient place for exploring the Amalfi Coast, since the only direct buses from there are to Amalfi town. This meant I always had to change buses in Amalfi if I wanted to go to any other town along the coast. The other negative about San Lazzaro is that there is pretty much no nightlife there, at least as far as I could tell. It’s a very small, quiet town. 

The good thing about staying in San Lazzaro, though, is that it’s much cheaper than the more popular towns on the Amalfi coast, such as Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. The difference in food costs was actually striking. I paid literally half as much in San Lazzaro restaurants as I would pay in Positano for the same amount of food. I couldn’t believe how much cheaper San Lazzaro was. Another nice thing about it is that it’s so much less crowded, less touristy, and more laid-back than the other Amalfi Coast towns. It’s a good place to unwind at the end of a long day of hiking and sightseeing. 

Amalfi Leonardo's

Salad, pasta, and bread for daysssss. All this for only 9€ (including the cover charge) at Leonardo’s in San Lazzaro!

In order to get around to the other towns along the coast, you have to take the SITA buses that connect all of the towns with Amalfi. Make sure you buy your tickets in advance at tobacco stores or souvenir shops because they’re not sold on the bus. The price of the ticket depends on how far you’re travelling. (I always paid between 1.30€ and 2.90€ for a one-way ticket.) The buses are easy to figure out but they’re extremely popular, so don’t expect to get a seat most of the time. I almost always ended up standing in the aisle on my way back to San Lazzaro from Amalfi (an hour-long ride). 

If you visit none of the other towns on the Amalfi Coast, make sure you at least visit Positano. It’s definitely the most beautiful town in the region. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of pictures of it elsewhere, but here are some more. Because how can you ever get tired of looking at Positano? 

The best way of getting to Positano is to hike to it along a trail known as the Path of the Gods. It’s the most popular trail in the area, and the views it affords are spectacular. The trail starts in a town called Bomerano (which is a 15-minute bus ride from San Lazzaro) and ends at a town called Nocelle. From Nocelle, you simply walk down a looooooooooooong staircase to reach Positano. The whole hike, from Bomerano to Positano, took me three hours. Make sure you start early to beat the heat and the crowds. I started the trail at about 8:30am and that was perfect. People would pass by me every so often, but I was alone for the most part. 

Amalfi Positano

My first glimpse of distant Positano: love at first sight

You’ll also definitely spend some time in the town of Amalfi, since that’s where all the bus routes connect. It’s slightly less pretty than Positano, but it’s still an absolute beauty. Make sure you take a look at the beautiful Cathedral of St. Andrew in the Piazza del Duomo. 

Another town that you should be sure not to miss is Ravello. It’s not quite as well-known as Amalfi or Positano, but it’s a very pretty town that’s definitely worthy of a few hours of your time. It’s only a 25-minute bus ride from Amalfi, and you can save yourself a one-way bus fare by walking back. It took me a little under an hour to walk down the stairs from Ravello to Amalfi. (I wouldn’t attempt walking UP those stairs!) The top of the stairs in Ravello is right by the Villa Cimbrone. Just follow the signs to the villa and you’ll find it easily. 

If a nice beach is what you’re after, you’re spoiled for choice on the Amalfi Coast. There are tons of beautiful spots to go swimming. Personally, the only place I actually went swimming was in the town of Maiori, which happens to have the longest beach on the whole coast. It’s almost a kilometre long. I wasn’t ambitious enough to actually manage to snap a photo of the beach (I was too anxious to get into the water) but here are a couple pictures of me awkwardly posing in Maiori.

My next stop is none other than Rome. I visited the Eternal City five years ago when it was one of the stops on a cruise I took. I only got to spend a few hours there, so of course I barely scratched the surface. I’m so excited to be able to actually explore at my leisure this time!