Dobongsan, ROK

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    Hello Folks… I served a tour in Korea (2002-2003) and I was assigned to a small installation called Camp Jackson, which is somewhat half way between Seoul and Uijonbu. I was well known amongst my peers, both Korean and American, for my beliefs in absorbing all that is/was possible regarding the culture of the country that you’re in. During my tour, I lived, breathed, slept, ate, and experienced all things Korean. The ROK Army Officer assigned as an advisor at our post knew me very well and would regularly boast that I was more Korean than the average Korean. I can tell all of you very honestly that not once during my entire assignment in Korea… not once did I ever waiver and eat non-Korean cuisine… and there was nothing that I ever only tried once.

    Sadly… there are those folks that visit Korea for whatever reason… and they get their advice or information from others that have visited before them. Whether good or bad, happy or sad… most visitors limit themselves and their adventures to the ‘Tourist Districts’, e.g. Itaewon. Now… I have absolutely nothing bad to say about anything in Itaewon other than you better have a fat wallet or purse when you go there. Itaewon is very popular with tourists and American Soldiers and is highly ‘Westernized’ to say the least, and there is very little of nothing… that cannot be found, bought, or experienced in Itaewon.

    Me… myself… I refused to limit myself to the average “American in Korea” experience. I was so fortunate to have my wife with me in Korea, and like me, she loved adventure and the culinary arts.

    So… when am I going to talk about this place called Dobongsan? Right now I suppose… but I should point out that my post is not just about one specific restaurant, but rather a culture and cuisine. When I first arrived in Korea, immediately I familiarized myself with the subway and train system for there is no place in Korea that you cannot access via a simple old train ride. Those folks thinking they need a car to get around the country let alone the cities… will ultimately discover that they had spent the majority of their visit sitting in traffic. People in Korea are healthy for many reasons but one of the biggest reasons is that they are very physically active and I’m not talking about the youngsters. Every weekend; spring, summer, and fall, Korean folks young and old were steadily pouring in to our little town at the bottom of the mountain. Carrying their packs, walking sticks, and wearing their boots… dressed for an affair with nature… by the dozens and even in the hundreds… they ascended up the Dobong Mountain.

    For those folks not familiar with the area… Surak and Dobong Mountains are paved with nature trails, camping areas, shrines, and temples. What I could tell you about them… well… I don’t think I have permission to use that much space here on the website, but I will tell you this: If you visit Korea and you do not make it a point to go to either the Surak or Dobong Mountains, then you’ll have missed out on one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine places to visit.

    OK… at the base of the Dobong Mountain, Dobongsan is sort of a burrough or suburb of Seoul. I know there are many Korean folks that would describe it differently but I think many of you will get my point. Dobongsan is easily accessible via the subway system, just take the Orange Line out of Yongsan to the Green Line… or you can take the Blue Line directly as well. Either way, Dobongsan is approximately a 40 minute trip out of Seoul on the busiest days and that’s including wait times… and did I mention that, unless you’re walking, there is no other cheaper way to get there?

    A person could walk the streets of Seoul and depending on their appetite, they may never make it more than 10 or 15 blocks simply because the choices in restaurants and other likenesses are so abundant. Take a trip to Dobongsan and tour the town. You’ll feel like your in Seoul no doubt but you will also experience this overwhelming feeling that you are in some small Colorado town at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Except for the signage and folks speaking Hangul all around you… you might very well feel like you are at home. If you love fruits and vegetables, you’ll get your chance to fill your bags and pockets as soon as you walk out of the Subway Station and you can do it for pennies and dimes, not $5 dollar bills.

    My wife and I patronized a restaurant called Itaewon Kalbi on Friday nights… in Itaewon of course. The manager/owner initially became an acquaintance, however he became a beloved friend and he always waited for us to arrive on Friday evening right at 7:00pm. The food was great, the wine (Bokbunja) was excellent as always, and his friendship and hospitality was respected, not expected. Saturday evenings faithfully took us to a restaurant in Dobongsan called… you guessed it… Dobongsan Kalbi. It was a family run operation and I have to tell you… they would not let you leave their restaurant hungry. For a Kalbi dinner for the two of us in Itaewon, we usually forked out 90-100,000 won and we were both always happy but never full. In Dobongsan for the two of us we always paid 45,000 won… that was 20k for each of us plus the 5k for the wine. We were always stuffed, happy, laughy, and well satisfied.

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