Hiking Bukhansan Amid the MERS Scare

A few weeks ago, South Korea accidentally ran headfirst, like a drunken idiot toward an unseen sign post, into MERS. Schools closed, hospitals prepped for the worst, residents freaked out; however, the three people who actually HAD the disease decided to take a flight to Hong Kong, go drinking at a pub or hit the golf course! The safety worries aside, I hopped on a subway and headed to Bukhansan: the world’s “most visited park per unit of area.” I hiked it once before about four years ago, but with 21 different trail heads, like the proverbial river, you can never step on the same rock twice. Due to the clouds, a slightly happy drizzle and the viral outbreak, the mountain was gloriously uncrowded, a treat in such a dense metropolis. I saw birds, chipmunks, a cat and a dog, monks, a giant gold Buddha, as well as the scenic cityscapes from 800m above the city. Sometimes, getting out alone with a heady mix of fresh air and tasty tunes is just the recipe for city ennui.

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15 - 5It’s a great hike, steep yet secure with a scattering of hermitages, sweet views and helpful signposts.

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15 - 18Finally, after about five hours on the mountain, with achy knees and a quaking stomach, I followed some other hikers to this noodle shop. The soup was boring, bland and bleached of color. But, at least it filled the hiker’s hollow hunger.

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