Hiking culture

Dress in your brightest apparel, get as drunk as you can, and huff up that mountain. Please, mountain, make sure that there are absolutely no switchbacks, way too many stair cases, and the climb should be straight up. 


One day my friend Stacey & I were hiking on a mountain near Ulsan. As we were frolicking up the mountain we ran into a 70 year old man named “Mr. Jeong.” He spoke English well and asked if he could join us for the remainder of our trek. We chatted and enjoyed the outdoors together for the next few hours. When we got to the top of Munsu we relaxed and enjoyed the view. This was only the start of the fun. Mr. Jeong offered to buy us beondegi and magkeolli post climb so, of course, we accepted. It is very common for Koreans to drink magkeolli throughout the entire hike. Well, it’s common for Koreans to drink all of the time. 


Mr. Jeong wanted to continue his free “tutoring” lessons and I ended up going on a few more hikes with him. On our next outing it was pouring rain and he was dressed just perfectly for the occasion: nice slacks, a button down shirt, dress shoes, and, of course, his umbrella to keep him from getting wet. We trekked to some rolling hills and had a “picnic” of ramen and magkeolli in an old abandoned hut. He was pleasant to be around. 


Stacey and I would often be outdoors and made our way one summer day to Sinbulsan. It took us a couple of bus rides to get there from Ulsan and it wasn’t easy. We got there with not a plan in mind on how we would return. We drank our magkeolli, made our trek, lit fireworks (it was American Independence Day), and ended up in a little hut eating pajeon. After a few bottles of magkeolli post climb we were feeling pretty warm. And how were we supposed to get home? We were at least 20 miles outside of Ulsan and the buses had no regular schedule out on the mountain. 

Luckily, we found a guy in a van and hitched a ride. I offered him 20,000 KRW ($20) to get us back to the city. He didn’t speak any English so we just kept shouting “ULSAN” assuming he would be heading that way. We drank in the back of his van and found that, yes, we were going in the right direction. He ended up taking us back but started veering away from our destination. We ended up a bit scared so jumped out of the car at the next stop light and ran the remaining three miles home. 


So, if you want to ever go on a little Korean trek, bring the magkeolli and plan on making friends. 

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