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Friday, August 29, 2008

Sokcho

I told you'd we'd be catching up eventually! This is a bit out of order, as we actually went to Jeju before we went to Sokcho, but a) Sokcho was the more "interesting" trip (i.e. we did more than lay by the pool) and b) I already posted a few pictures from Jeju, but none from our super fabulous trip to Sokcho.

Sokcho is on Korea's East Coast, just a 4 1/2 hour bus ride from Seoul. The buses in Korea have the Greyhounds back home beat by like 200 times over. For just $44 per person round-trip we were treated to arm-chair sized leather seats with foot rests and a rest stop half-way there that American rest-stops could learn a thing or two from!

So, we hopped on the bus with a vague idea of what we would be doing over our 4 days there and had decided to pretty much just wing it. Sokcho appealed to us because it had both the beach and the mountains in close proximity. It turned out to be one of our absolute favorite trips we have taken so far and we are already making plans to return this fall!

Sam's family went to Sokcho during their trip to Korea and picked up a brochure for "The House" hostel. We tried to call ahead and make reservations, but ummm... forgot, so we thought we'd just see when we got there. The man who runs this place is super friendly and helpful and came and picked us up from the bus station to show us where the hostel was (it's a bit tricky to find). For just $30 a night we got a small, functional room with a bathroom, ac, a water cooler and a mini-fridge. We also got a modest (free!) breakfast each morning and there was a computer with internet access. Plus the lobby was super cute. The bathroom was a bit dicey, and if you're planning on heading out during the summer I would definitely make a reservation, we had to move rooms the 3rd night to a room with no AC (but they were nice enough to accomodate us even without the reservation).



Our first order of business was to check out Seoraksan National Park. As you can see, it was absolutely gorgeous. The entire time we were there was great hiking weather! The first day we took a short hike up to a waterfall and then the cable car up to a peak whose trails were closed.


Not a great picture, but I post it because when we got up to the waterfall everyone had their shoes off and was enjoying splashing around, and I was amazed by all the tiny kids they managed to haul up the literally 20+ flights of stairs that make up the end of the hike. (Plus, they couldn't get this kid to stop picking his nose for their own photo which kind of cracked me up.)



Sam and I split up on the 2nd day and we both had quite the adventure. Sam climbed the highest peak in the park (which I'm sure he will post about some day) and I decided to set off to find Hwajinpo, a small town north of Sokcho.

Let me just say that whoever writes directions for a certain very popular guidebook might need to be fired. For most of the day I thought I was lost in the Korean countryside and would probably not ever find my way back... but I ended up making to my final destination unscathed beside a minor sunburn from hiking in the direct sunlight (and slight embarassment because they neglect to mention that entrance they guide you to is actually a vehicle entrance so I waited in line with a car both in front of and behind me MUCH to the amusement of the woman at the ticket booth).

While there I was able to see this house, which is where the infamous Kim Jong Il summered as a child. It was pretty interesting, but maybe not so much worth the 1.5 hour bus ride each way and then half hour hike. If only that guidebook had told me there was a great beach nearby I would have brought my suit!

We loved going to the beach at night. It's quite unlike the States where they have to shut the beaches down early so that people don't wreak havoc! Instead it's like a big party with families everywhere shooting off fireworks and walking along the water.

Our last morning there we decided to walk along the harbor and see the fishing boats that had just come in from their night's work. We got to see some fresh caught squid and guys working on their nets.

Then, we noticed these gentlemen gesturing at us and they invited us to sit down for some raw squid with chili paste. It was absolutely delicious! They spoke very little English, and we speak only a very little Korean, but we had a really nice conversation for about half an hour. They were super impressed that Sam climbed the mountain, and they all wanted to touch his beard.

Then we decided to check out the lighthouse. Poor Sam, soooooo many stairs the day after he climbed the mountain! However, it yielded a rare decent photo of the two of us together, so I think it was well worth it!


After all that walking and climbing and such we decided to treat ourselves to the "Sokcho special" of... fried goodness. We got ALL of this food, plus the ddok bokki in the background for $2! The fried shrimp and fried pajeon were amazing, and I'm not even that big a fan of fried things.



So, there you have it, more than you ever wanted to know about our trip to Sokcho!

1 comment:

Brother said...

You should have asked Sam to climb up some stairs and then, oops, nevermind.