Once across the channel, I found myself wondering in the modern part of town where I found a Baskin Robbins with free wifi so that I could figure out where the heck The House Hostel was. South Korea is a weird land of contrasts. On one side of a hand drawn ferry is a North Korean fishing village and on the other is a Baskin Robbins with wifi. Both have their charms.
It turned out that I was just a few blocks away from The House Hostel which is very near the intercity bus terminal. I had arrived at the Express bus terminal on the other side of town. My instincts had led me in the right direction though. Once at The House Hostel, the owner, Mr. Hyu Jun Yoo gave me an awesome orientation on the things to do and see in Sokcho.
At the top of his list was to see sunset from Seoraksan National Park and to visit the gorgeous Biryong Waterfall. Seoraksan more than 25 peaks, the highest of which is Daecheong-bong. The clustered peaks are magnificent. In the summer there are azalea flowers everywhere but since I was there in winter, I saw the snow covered peaks and deserted trails in crisp grey skies. It was gorgeous too. The bus ride was about 45 mintues from the hostel.
For those who like to know the names of things to visit, he recommended Geumganggul Cave and sunset from Ulsanbawi Peak. He gave me a map and showed the options for different hikes or not hiking since you can take a cable car to the top where Gwonggeumseong Fortress sits. I have to admit, the nature was stunning and despite the cold, this was one of my favorite places in South Korea.
Along the hikes there were plenty of food carts and thanks to the cold, there weren’t too many people. Once I was there, I just wandered around as is my wont and so I can’t tell you exactly what it was I saw, but I enjoyed it and recommend it.
Another recommendation of Mr. Yoo was to have a fresh seafood dinner along the beach and look at the pagodas along the Sea of Japan. I did that my second night in Sokcho and the fish was amazingly good. Once again, like a guy who is on holiday, I didn’t write down the name of the restaurant but it was fairly cheap and delicious. Search and you will find many like this in Sokcho but be careful because I saw more than a few that seemed to offer poor fare at high prices. I ate several streets away from the lighthouse observatory. The streets closest seemed to offer higher prices. My dinner was around 35,000 ($35) won but the places nearest the observatory advertised 60-70,000 won (about $70!)
Also recommended in Sokcho is the Naksansa Temple. This is one of the very few temples built along the sea in South Korea. The place exuced an extreme calm and I can just imagine what it is like to watch the sunrise from there, but not in winter since I can imagine how cold it would be. The temple was built by a Buddhist monk)in the 11th Century.
While I didn’t take the time to visit the many thermal resorts in the mountains since I was traveling solo, I can’t tell you definitively that they are wonderful, but from the sounds of it, they are. If you go to Sokcho you might want to check them out. On a themish side of things is Seorak Waterpia, a hot spring theme park that uses 100 percent natural hot spring water. A hot spring theme park itself sounds odd enough to be worth checking out, unfortunately, I only heard of it after I had left Sokcho.
You might want to find out about the Gangneaung Danoje Festival and the Gangneung Kwanno Mask Drama which happen every May 5th. These are traditional rituals performed for the gods and goddesses of Daegwallyeong- the high mountain pass that everyone must pass through to go from east to west. Dances, shamanistas, and masks all make this a South Korean Festival you shouldn’t miss (but I did).
One more thing that was definitely worth doing while in Sokcho was going to the DMZ between North and South Korea. I chose to hitchhike to the DMZ which I will write about in the next post.
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.