Onto our fourth day of the tour and our last day in Seoul for the time being. We headed to the East Seoul Terminal and boarded a bus bound for Sokcho, which arrived in a little less than 3 hours. It was most awesome: a bus driver saw our tickets and said it was okay to take his bus and so we left earlier than our ticket. Although we were slightly worried it wasn’t legit, it was. He got us there and other than a little scare when two of my friends found out they left some of their stuff on the bus (a sweater and an iPhone), we were safe… and just in time for lunch!
The city of Sokcho has a small town feel with the cutest English motto the uses the word “fresh” and “Sokcho” – Fresh Sokcho, indeed. We stayed at The House Hostel, which is pretty close to the bus terminal. I loved it’s home-like atmosphere and it’s obviously well loved, with all the notes everywhere from past travelers.
Sokcho’s known for the nearby Seoraksan National Park, which was what we were there for, but it’s also rather close to the DMZ (and above the 38th parallel) and was under the control of North Korea until after the Korean War and is known for their seafood. On our first day, everyone was so tired and were moving at a snail’s pace that I moved the hiking for our second day. Instead, we explored a bit of what the city had to offer..
It reminded me of Macau; it looked big on the map but when you’re exploring on foot, it’s not all that big. I loved it!
As we walked, we made it up to the top of the lighthouse, where the view was magnificent and the sea breeze most comfortable.
Then there was dinner. On the way to the lighthouse, we passed by a boribap (barley rice) restaurant so we mentally bookmarked it to come back for dinner – and we did!
What I love about eating out in Korea is the sheer amount of food that you get. The awesome part is that all of the side dishes come with your main order for free. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. T__T
Early the next morning, we took the bus to get to the nearby Park. I welcome you to Seoraksan! The Autumn colors are a major plus. 🙂
Because we only had half a day reserved for this, we ended up taking one of the shorter hiking routes to the Biryong Waterfalls, but it was enjoyable all the same and the weather was very much in our favor.
Roughly 2 hours later, we made it to the Falls and though the waterfall itself was rather small, it was still a really serene place. My friends and I all chose our own boulder to sit or lay on for a while and enjoy the atmosphere before heading back to the main area again. We were starving at this point so we stopped by a place on the way back down so we ordered some bibimbap, mushroom pancake, and potato pancake. The small eateries actually reminded me of the spooky middle-of-nowhere place that was featured in Secret Garden (2011).
I honestly wanted to try hiking to the huge rock formations that Seoraksan is known for, but due to time restraints and how half of my travel mates aren’t hiking material… one of my friends and I just tried to make it as far as we could (up to the stone steps where the real hiking began) before we needed to meet up with the other half of our party who had decided to explore a temple on the park grounds instead. I will conquer you next time!
Ah, time: you can certainly be my worst enemy. Either way, it was time to move on with our tour, but Sokcho was one city I would not have minded visiting for longer, also so I could conquer Seoraksan. We went back to our hostel to pick up our things and returned to the bus terminal to take a short bus ride to nearby Gangneung, which is actually the biggest city on the east coast in Gangwon Province. A Korean-American friend had recommended this seaside town to me and so we came here and stayed in our first pension ever – a cozy little 2-story apartment-loft – where we ate their famous Sundubu. Gangneung was to be our little rest stop… other than the early wake up the next morning to catch the sun rise.
Surprisingly, we weren’t the first ones on Gyungpo Beach to watch it rise, but it was still beautiful. I seriously wanted to live by the sea at this point; too bad Galveston Beach has nothing on the coastline of Korea. We brought our breakfast there and just hung out for an hour before heading back and packing for the next leg of our journey. In fact, this was the day that I did not look forward to though we would be passing through my home city of Daejeon. We would be making our way across the country from Gangneung in the Northeast all the way to Mokpo, another seaside town, in the Southwest all in one day to catch an early ferry to Jeju the next morning.