Sokcho Beach

North Korean Expats and Pig Blood Sundaes – Sokcho Part 1

I knew that I wanted to see more of South Korea than Seoul and following a random tip from a random American expat I met on the metro, I decided to head to Sokcho. I had asked the girl, who was teaching English in Seoul, where she recommended I go for a day trip. Not only did she recommend going to Sokcho, but she told me it was her favorite place in South Korea and recommended the very cool hostel/hotel I ended up staying in.

the mountains in Sokcho South KoreaSokcho isn’t a big place. It’s a couple of hours from Seoul by bus and when the bus is coming in you will be astounded by the gorgeous mountain scenery of the place and then if you are clueless as to what to expect (as I was) you will be very surprised to descend quickly to the Sea of Japan. Sokcho is located in Gangwon province and has a population of about 84,000. Despite this relatively small size, however, the city sprawls out for a fair distance in seemingly all directions. In the summer months it is a favorite holiday destination for people from Seoul, but in the winter it is a blissfully empty place.

In addition to the Sea of Japan and the very nice beaches in Sokcho, there are a couple of other draws that bring people. One is Seoraksan National Park and the other is the extreme proximity of Sokcho to the DMZ between North Korea and South Korea.

Sokcho BeachArriving in Sokcho, I had no idea where the The House Hostel was located in relation to the bus station and since the weather was nice, I decided to walk. Not knowing at this point the sprawling size of Sokcho, I got extremely lucky and picked the right direction to head. I walked along the beach enjoying the snow on the sands and the many odd fish sculptures along the sea shore. It turns out that Sokcho is quite well known as a place for fresh fish.

Sculptures on the Beach in South KoreaLeaving the beach, I walked towards a large iron bridge and noted the thousands of fish drying on the roofs of nearly every house I passed. When I see a big bridge like that, I know that I should walk across it. So, that’s what I did and I found myself in the most interesting little warren of streets and fish shops I had yet seen in South Korea. There was something very different about this place but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Later, I was to find out that the island village I’d come to is called Abai and that it is populated almost exclusively by expats from North Korea who had escaped from Kim Jong Il’s insane country. Abai was the setting for a popular Korean TV drama called “Autumn in My Heart.”

While I was happy to be seeing this very interesting place and still wondering why it was different, I wanted to find The House Hostel and realized it was not on this little odd island. After about an hour of wondering around (thankfully I travel with just my satchel and it isn’t very heavy), I found that there were three ways to leave Abai 1) take a boat to somewhere 2) walk back across the bridge (I hate backtracking) or 3) take the very cool hand drawn ferry boat back to the mainland. You can easily guess which option I chose.

hand ferry in South Korea, Sokcho, AbaiThe ferry man used a metal hook and a cable to pull the boat across and as I stood watching he motioned for me to grab a hook and help him out. I was more than happy to work side by side with this North Korean ferry man to reach my destination. The cost of the ferry was 500 won, about half a Euro.

sokcho seafoodOne other note about Abai is that it is famous for something called the Abai Sundae. Don’t expect ice cream though, it’s made of squid intestines, pig blood, kimchi and other things I chose not to eat, but the girl who recommended Sokcho told me it was one of the most delicious things in South Korea. In this case, I chose to avoid pork like a good Muslim should.


As always, if you are heading to Sokcho and want to ask me anything about it, my travel advice is free for the asking or you might find the resources in the box below to be helpful.


Sokcho Resources

South Korea Hotels
Hostels in South Korea
Travel Insurance for Sokcho
South Korea Guidebooks
Sokcho and Around the World
Last Minute Flights, Hotels, Cars

Sky Sun and Statue Silhouette in Barcelona

Barcelona Sky Sun and Statue Silhouettes

Sky Sun and Statue Silhouette in Barcelona

Barcelona Sky Sun and Statue Silhouettes

Like most of my photos, I don’t think this is going to win any competitions because there are some technical problems, the lens flare, the number of pixels etc etc….BUT….

I like it. It feels good. Look how beautiful that sky is and check out the rooftops in the distance. Look at the two statues and note how they almost come to life because of the lack of detail. Finally, just look at the texture of those clouds. You can tell it was a cold day…you can tell the sun was shining…and you can feel the joy in this picture.  That’s why I’m sharing it with you.

Kayakoy ghost town

Kayakoy – Greek Ghost Town that Isn’t Completely Deserted

We decided to visit the ‘Greek Ghost Town’ of Kayakoy because we had some extra time in Fetiye. If I would have known it was so cool, we would have scheduled the time on purpose.

Kayakoy is  an eerie place.

It looks like there should be a lot of people living there – but there aren’t. It’s like a holocaust film.

We caught the Dolmus from the station near the Mosque in Fetiye. It was 3.5 lira each each way so a total of 7 TL per person to go and then come back.

So, what is Kayakoy? How did it become what it is?

Kayakoy, ghost village, greek village, Fethiye, Turkey

Prior to World War I there were big Greek communities throughout Turkey and big Turkish communities throughout Greece. One such Greek town was Kayakoy, then called Kaya or Karmylassos. It was a fair sized place with around 3000 stone buildings, 3 pharmacies, a school, a couple of churches, and a few monasteries. The town dated back to the 1400’s.

After WWI, when Turkey was building a Turkish Republic, there were population exchanges where entire communities were uprooted and forced to return to their native lands, even though their family roots dated back to the 1400’s or earlier.

Whole towns full of Greeks in Turkey were forced to move to Greece and whole towns of Turks in Greece were forced to move back to Turkey. Kayakoy was one such town, the only hitch was that the Turks who moved back, didn’t want to live in Kayakoy and so it was largely abandoned and allowed to fall into disrepair.
Kayakoy, ghost village, greek village, Fethiye, Turkey
In the 1950’s there were big earthquakes in the regions and the people in Fetiye and other cities nearby, used all the wood parts, doors, and windows from Kayakoy to repair their damaged homes. After that, the weather did its bit and finally the government decided to make it a monument.

The charge to get into the abandoned village is 8 lira each. It seemed a bit much for a ghost town, so we got out of the Dolmus and started hiking up the hill to enter the town from the side and thus miss the gate where we’d have to pay.

Somewhere along the way Hanane lost her little wallet and with a hundred lira in it, karma, maybe. Luckily it didn’t have her passport or anything irreplaceable in it, just money. Still, she was inconsolable. Almost

Nothing consoles my wife better than finding a big fig tree full of fruit that nobody is eating. As we walked up the hill, I looked around and realized that these houses on the edge of Kayakoy were not derelict at all, there were people living in them! These weren’t ghosts and this wasn’t a ghost town! Still, I didn’t want to spoil Hanane’s recovery by telling her.  So we at figs from the big tree and wandered further into the maze of Kayakoy.

Kayakoy, ghost village, greek village, Fethiye, TurkeySoon we came to a path with a small dog tied on it. My wife is fearless in many ways. She will pick up bugs, stand up to thugs, and face down police, but I am baffled by the two things that do scare her, dogs and lizards. She is absolutely terrified of both. Lucky for us, this was a dog  on a rope which is the lessor of her two terrors.

She wanted to go back, but I realized this was a chance for us to meet one of the ghosts of Kadikoy, so I stood just out of the dog’s reach and shouted hello down to the stone farmhouse which did obviously have inhabitants. Pretty soon a voice answered me. Then a big Turkish woman lumbered up and said hello to us. She was wearing those big colorful clown pants old Turkish country women wear.

The path into the part of Kayakoy where everyone says you should visit was through her yard, so we thought it prudent to make  friends with her. She spoke just enough English for me to know that she interacted with tourists pretty frequently.

Kayakoy, ghost village, greek village, Fethiye, Turkey
I asked if we could see her house and she smiled and said yes. Inside we sat with her and her mother and she told us about how her grandfather had come from Greece and taken the house. Not many of the repatriated Turks had taken houses in Kadikoy, but some did. Now she lives there with her wizened old mother and her brother. She gave us fruit and water, offered  me some coffee, and treated us with incredible hospitality as most Turks do.

She was a very nice woman and told us about the herbs she grew, showed us her garden, and escorted us down to the path that would take us to the abandoned churches and buildings. She then showed us her craft stand where she sells overpriced things to tourists. I didn’t want to insult her hospitality by giving her money but I did buy two of the very overpriced bracelets she was selling.

I just took her initial starting price of 10 lira each which was about 9 lira too much, but the fact is the food and stories she had shared was worth more than the 16 lira we would have paid to enter. Was she scamming us and tourists? A little bit with her big prices, but then, it wasn’t like she had other job opportunities living there as a woman in her 50’s supporting her old mother. Still, Hanane wanted to strangle me for paying so much.
Kayakoy, ghost village, greek village, Fethiye, Turkey
I have to admit, there were a few fleeting moments in Kayakoy where I caught chicken skin. It was a little like being in a nuclear war zone or a place where the people have just disappeared.

The two things spoiling it were the fact that I knew that the people had been transplanted and that  European and American tourists would come around corners every few minutes talking and laughing loudly. I asked one guy “Seen anything interesting?” and his reply was “No, not really. Not here anyway.”
Kayakoy, ghost village, greek village, Fethiye, Turkey
We, however, saw plenty. We saw the churches, the walkways, the houses, and the many holes dug everywhere. I later found they were the marks of treasure hunters. We went back to our new friend’s house and joined with some of her relatives from Izmir who had just arrived. I helped her brother in law harvest  big bunches of red grapes, we drank some thick plum juice which I suspected would soon be wine judging by the sugar that was liberally added to it in the big jug it was in, and sat feeling the breeze as it cooled down the valley below us.

Our new friends loaded us with plums and grapes and gave Hanane a pair of woven pot holders. I think she may have felt bad for the price gouging she gave me earlier, but I felt like it was money well spent.
Kayakoy, ghost village, greek village, Fethiye, Turkey
On the bus ride home we went through the tourist town of Oludeniz which seemed like a total and complete version of hell. Every restaurant sported signs that said “English Breakfast”, every sign showing prices was in pounds, and more chubby English middle aged women in bikinis were walking around than I had ever seen in one place before. The ghost town of Kayakoy was far better than these old broads  with just about everything hanging out. It wasn’t pretty.

Kayakoy, ghost village, greek village, Fethiye, Turkey

This was a gorgeous Turkish beach town which seemed to be catering exclusively to the Bucket family. The only thing missing was a trailer park. As we passed the many ‘pubs’ and munched on figs and grapes, I realized why our friend was able to charge so much for her bracelets. It was the people who make their holidays in Oludeniz that funded the grapes we munched on.

Back in Fetiye, which didn’t seem nearly as terrible now that I’d seen Oludeniz, we gathered up our bags and waited for the shuttle to come pick us up and take us to our night bus to Goreme.


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