With 3* weekends left in Korea before returning to fabulous England and its awesome new government (extreme sarcasm for the latter) Me and Jen decided to go and hit up the East coast, Gangwon-do province the chosen holiday destination for almost every single student I teach. So we did another wake-up god early, take the subway to the Express bus terminal and purchase return tickets to Sokcho, with the intention of hoiking it around on the beach and taking a wander up Seoraksan, THE mountain range of Korea.
The first thing we learnt was that the guidebooks (Rough Guide & Lonely Planet) lie. On two counts. Firstly that it takes 3/4 hours by bus to reach Sokcho, secondly that its a viable day excursion from Seoul. FIVE HOURS ON THE DELUXE EXPRESS LATER, we pulled up in Sokcho, maybe the torrential rain on the way hindered the journey slightly, or possibly the heavy traffic, but hey ho. We made it! YAY!. I spotted the hotel almost immediately…
Is there any surprise in that?? Umm no. I like pink!.
The decor on the inside was also, well… genius!
The plastic bouquet above the bed, did make me think for a minute that I was on honeymoon… and the mirrored bedhead, WOW!
Anyhow, so after checking into the Hotel/Motel, we went to find the International Tourist Information centre, and figure out if we had enough time to get to Seoraksan and back before it turned dark. The tourist information was based in the biggest most ostentatious glass building in Korea, and was also possibly, the worst tourist information I have been too, considering they pride themselves on being International and helping all nationalities, their English was abismal. however we somehow found a bus stop, we waited for around twenty minutes before discovering that we were on the wrong side of the road, then we gave up and took a cab. 15 minutes later and we were at the base, ready to ascend the mountain. Using our initative we thought, heck why climb when there’s a cable car, so we bought tickets and jumped on. The weather, it wasn’t raining any more, made us slightly nervous about what the view would be from the top, it was thick with cloud and a few minutes from ‘take off’ the cable cars simply dissapeared into oblivion!
However, luckily, the mountains are so fecking huge, they peaked above the cloudbank, and the view was, putting it mildly, spectacular
After arriving at the top cable car station, we took a wander up to the ‘peak’, Seoraksan has a whole bunch of peaks, this was just one and I can’t remember the name… (insert later, when I have found the information guide!) This involved a mild hike for me, and a slightly more strenuous one for Jen as she decided to go further up a mound of rock, I can do the up, but I am TERRIBLE at the down, so stayed where I was! After hanging out for a while, we then went to investigate a small temple nearby, where we met the lovely resident monk, who was impressed by our templestay and kept telling us about his Buddhist monk friend Mary who lived in Oxford… very cute!
We then made our descent (again by cable car) and went to find the giant stone Buddha, we had seen from the top of the mountain.
Our previous mountain excursion, when we climbed Bukhansan back in the autumn also lead us to a giant Buddha, and this one was equally beautiful, situated again near to ‘Sinheungsa’ another beautiful temple…
By the time we found our way to the bus stop it was getting dark, and we were starting to crave some much anticipated seafood, so we took the bus to Daepohng port ‘Raw fish complex’, where we wandered the strip of harbour gawping at the amount of restaurants and stalls before settling down in a tiny restaurant to a sensational plate of raw fish washed down with beer. It was freshest fish I have ever eaten, from swimming to stomach in less than 5 minutes.
After wandering the market for a few hours atleast, we then decided to purchase some of the freshly made local dish ‘Ojeondae Sundae’ – aka stuffed squid – looked amazing, and lets be honest squid and anything is nearly always a taste sensation, the idea was to grab some beers and head back to the hotel… a trip to familymart meant the beer was upgraded to Strawberry wine and eating our umm second dinner in that sensational hotel room was pretty amazing.
The next day, we took a walk up the seafront (well actually the dual carriageaway parallel to the seafront) towards Abai village, the former landing point of North Koreans, which turned itself into a North Korean refugee camp so to speak and to the beach where we spent a few hours chilling out, dipping our toes in the sea etc
We then headed back to the bus terminal, via e-mart and a restaurant to indulge in another meal of the lucious ‘Squid Sundae’. Once board the bus, it took another 5 hours through heavy traffic, two subways and the trusty 9710 bus to get us back to Munsan. Essentially a fabulous final roadtrip!
*I know only have two weekends left…EEEEEKKKKK