Posts Tagged ‘Sokcho’
We caught our first train in Korea to Jeongdongjin, a beach resort town where we stayed in a hotel overlooking the beach and the train station. Crowds of high school girls flocked to the station which apparently featured in episodes of a popular TV drama. They almost all had the same haircut - straight fringe and a shoulder length bob that curled slightly under at the ends. Middle aged women tend to go for short, curly hair and we’re wondering if women simply go into the hairdresser, state their age and get the appropriate haircut?
The North Korean submarine at Unification Park had an interesting story. In 1996 in an incident which the South Korean sign said “was a great shock to us and incurred our wrath” a North Korean submarine got stuck on rocks near Jeongdongjin while doing reconnaissance (which the South Koreans call spying). The 11 crew members were shot by their own side and all documents burnt before the 14 spies tried to escape back to the north. One was captured alive, the rest were shot by South Korean soldiers and in the 49 day process 11 South Korean soldiers and 6 civilians died. Inside the submarine there is still a strange smell in the cabin where the documents were burnt and we hunched our way through wondering how 25 people could live together in such a small space.
On a headland in downtown Jeongdongjin was one of the more bizarre buildings I’ve ever seen. It was a resort in the shape of a massive cruise ship perched well above the waterline. There are plans afoot to make the complex even bigger to incorporate the small cove underneath the monstrosity. We ate dinner nearby, feasting on a banquet of shellfish barbequed at our table by the obliging restaurant owner. He seemed to be accustomed to honeymooning couples as he was finding heart shapes in everything.
Since then we’ve spent most of our time in Seoraksan National Park, a beautiful granite lumped and pine treed area to the north of the country. It’s apparently South Korea’s most popular park and with good reason, even in some of the less than perfect weather we had it’s easy to see the beauty. Unfortunately that meant that we didn’t exactly have the place to ourself. On the hike up Ulsanbawi, a granite outcrop dominating the skyline on one edge of the main valley, we were at least spared mass tourism by virtue of the fact it was a longish climb. The final section climbed very steeply up to a small and disappointing peak from which we saw cloud, cloud and more cloud. At least the people buying medals here engraved with their accomplishment had something to be proud of. The man in full climbing gear selling medals 10 min from the top of the cable car seemed a little silly.
On our way to the more remote parts of the national park we spent a night in Sokcho in a massive pink castle of a motel. No 4th floor or room 504 as well as the dried fish tied in yarn hung over the door suggested South Koreans are as superstitious as people in other Asian countries. I say as I refuse to split a pear with Brett (symbolises separation in China). At night down on Sokcho beach the lights are bright and pointed out to sea to detect any North Korean landing. All along the coast up north we’ve seen barbed wire and military outposts. It’s hard to imagine living daily with the threat of invasion but I guess it’s like living in Tokyo in a way. Its 16 years overdue for a massive earthquake yet after living there for a while it became something I didn’t really think about. My earthquake chocolate supply was constantly raided and the headlamp ended up in the camping equipment. Meanwhile, back in Sokcho, the spice in a bowl of yukgaejang (peppery beef soup) brought tears to my eyes, a disturbingly frequent occurrence over here in South Korea.
In Baekdam town we spent an afternoon sheltering from the rain then headed out hiking the next day with the hope that the forecast of improving weather was correct. It was and it wasn’t. The clouds needed one last dump before they stopped raining and we just happened to still be hiking at the time. It was a nice easy hike along a river but by the time we got back to the bus stop I resembled a soggy rat. Thankfully the next day’s weather was better and we had a fantastic hike up another river valley from Namgyori. Steeper but also much more spectacular than the previous day’s we spent 8 hours hiking through the Sibiseonnyeotang valley where 12 fairies came down to bathe in the 12 pools. They certainly picked a beautiful place.
2 nights ago we arrived in Seoul but I’ll write about the megacity in my next post as we’re planning on spending another week here exploring. The day after tomorrow my mum leaves us to fly back home and Brett and I will spend another 3 weeks exploring before heading to China.