Sokcho I Didn't Know

Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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sightseeing & hiking

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Road trip!  In Korea?!  Yeah, it's much easier than you think (unless it's a holiday here).  This is probably because I lived and drove in several large cities before.  Also, the road rules are pretty much the same as in America.  The only real difference is much of it is written in hanguel (Korean alphabet).  But it was no problem because we had a Korean friend with.

안시희 (Sarah Ahn), Jennie (my American friend living here in Korea), and her friend, Amanda hit the road for the east coast. Since Sarah doesn't drive and Jennie and Amanda don't have Korean driving licenses I got to do all the driving.  We were blessed with the use of Sarah's husband's full size sedan though.

It's a five hour drive from our end of Seoul (about 20 minutes south of Seoul) to Sokcho.  The drive was thankfully uneventful especially since we specifically choose a non-holiday weekday for our trip to avoid the incredibly crowded roads.

Our first destination - the beach.  We weren't interested in any swimming though.  I guess it's kind of like seeing the ocean for the first time when you're raised in the midwest - you just want to be able to say you saw it.  This part of the ocean, the ocean floor drops of quickly, so most of the people stayed relatively close to shore (which there is an abundance of).  The "boardwalk" was all Korean.  No saltwater taffy or coney dogs here!  Just lots of dried squid and rlyameon (Korean ramen).

With some time to kill, we stopped at a historic landmark, a palace.  It is moderate in size compared to most I've seen, but none the less lovely.

We soon moved onto find dwellings.  We could have done so right on the beach.  Many families pop up a tent and make a camping weekend on the beaches here.  We chose to stay at a 찜찔방 (jim-jill-bang).  This was the first time I have ever done this unique experience.  Sorry I don't have any pictures of the interior, but there's a good reason.  It's a sauna where everyone is naked!  Of course while bathing, the males and females are separate.

As a modest American this is a bit nerve raking at first, but very soon after it was a very freeing experience.  Being the only westerners there (and in all of Sokcho so far as we could see), we got a little bit of attention at first, but in a short time everyone was pretty much oblivious of us.  It was a very relaxing, natural experience.  All the same, this was not the best part.

Jimjilbangs are like a communal hostel.  There are not only saunas, showers, and baths, but lounges, restaurants, and sleeping areas.  Locals come to them on a regular basis with the entire family.  The lounges/sleeping areas are just really big rooms (warehouse size) and everyone sleeps together.  There are some slightly separated areas in an upstairs with pony (half) walls.  All of this at less than $10 per night!  I just loved this experience.  We really got to be a part of the Korean "village" (somewhat) and not pay hotel rates, yet be in a safe and clean environment.  Cool!

Our first night there was not easy for me to sleep though, because we had slept near a restaurant and they were rattling dishware into the wee hours.  All the same, in the morning we were on our way to Seoraksan (Seorak Mountain) for a bit of climbing.

Expecting cooler weather, I was a disappointed with the heat and humidity.  The views made up for it though.  As usual, it was fairly crowded, but, also as usual, the Korean people were polite to friendly.  We conquered Seonbowi.  A moderate accomplishment in this park.

After an even more appreciated stay at the jimjillbang (and quieter), we visited a historic landmark.  The Ojukheon House is a palace estate.  Moderate in size compared to the palaces in Seoul, it was elegantly beautiful.  It is also currently famous for the mother of the king who is featured on the new 50,000 won bill.  (See my comments in the pictures.)

Lastly, we saw some tourist sights in Sokcho and took a boat tour of the habor.  All in all, a very good value.  Very inexpensive, yet comfortable, interesting, and enjoyable.

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