Seeing the sunrise in Seoul has been high on my want list nearly my entire stint in Korea. It’s not so much that I overlooked it; on the contrary, I thought about it often, it was always the gumption during those early morning hours that was lacking. I’ve seen the sunrise while finishing those last drops of soju (Korean styled rice vodka) after dancing late into the night, but I had simply never sought it out. Besides, seeing the sun rise from where I lived was not easy.
Consider my apartment a valley in an oasis of concrete jungle. On a good day, you can catch glimpses of blue sky but with high-rise apartment buildings towering in ever direction, the portion of the day when the sun greets the world and departs is hidden in the depth of solid walls that continue as far as the naked eye can see. Knowing my time in Korea was coming to an end, seeing the sun rise had crossed my mind several times in the weeks leading up to my departure. I had been contemplating another venture to Seoul tower, believing it would be worthwhile to see the sunrise. And I had yet to ‘hike’ there. I knew the trek had to be done, and even if it was a cloudy day, the attempt would make it all worth it. The time was now.
I’d say the walk up, brisk as it was in those early February hours, took about a half hour. From below I could see the sky breaking and the emanate light of the sun glowing in anticipation. Eagerness in our last few meters we anxiously ran to the top, seeking out the best viewpoint. To our dismay, turns out the watchtower and ideal viewing spots are for some reason blocked off after hours. Begging the aggushi (older man) in my broken Hangul he waved us the go ahead, and in moments of anticipated bliss, we were only able to capture snap shots of the sky between screens. Retreating outside the blockade we enjoyed the peaceful, gradual ascending sun through the trees at the geographical center of Seoul. Seeing the fiery ball of light first peak over the mountain was surprisingly exhilarating.
Our ragtag crew that assembled in those early hours clambered down together and we made our way through the Namdaemon Market where, in Korean style morning hike tradition, we had blood pork sausage and sundae from a boiling stone pot to warm all our bellies after the morning’s adventure.
Side note: after realizing I went 11 months in Korea without seeing the sunrise, I have since decided and made it a priority to see the sun rise in every country I visit. Since this morning venture in February 2013, that’s been nine countries, ten if I include my own where I have successfully seen the sunrise.