After nearly three hours after departing from Seoul Express Terminal in Gangnam, we finally reached Sokcho Metro Bus Terminal. Sokcho is a quaint, sleepy city located on the eastern coast of South Korea. Located in Gangwon province, it is the gateway to the eastern part of the country and is going to be our next stop in South Korea.
One might ask, “What is there to see in Sokcho?” Admittedly, when we were preparing our itinerary, we had no idea what and where Sokcho is. We just innocently searched on the best places to visit in Korea during the autumn season and one of the top destinations in the list is Seoraksan National Park. The pictures of the park were so enticing that we included it in our list of places to visit. Sokcho is the gateway to the said national park.
So in Sokcho we find ourselves at around 1 AM of October 23, 2017. When we alighted from our bus, we were instantly greeted by the strong eastern winds which made us shiver to the bones. It was coming at us with such force that we were drawn back into our bus. We had to brave it though until we reach our accommodation. Even though it was already the wee hours of the morning, there were still cabs roaming the deserted streets. As expected, we had difficulties relaying to cabdrivers our destination. After standing in the cold for a couple more minutes, we were finally hail to flag a cabdriver who can understand English.
A total sigh of relief, at least for now. Yes we are true blue mountaineers but I don’t think we are capable of withstanding the the ominous winds any longer. Our faces grew long when we realized that our hostel has already shut down for the night. Unfortunately, in our haste, we forgot to notify our hosts that we will be arriving late. Left with no other options, we persistently buzzed the doorbell hoping against hope that the owners will wake up, which they eventually did. Indeed, our luck was running high in South Korea.
After a very, very long day (our forays for the day started at 6 AM the day before), we are now ready to settle in for the night. Oops, morning rather. A simple time check reminded us that it is already 2 AM. We still have a long day ahead of us so it is time to maximize the very little resting window we have. Annyeong for now!
South Korea travel tip # 4: Annyeong is a very common and very useful phrase in South Korea. You can use it to greet anyone you meet. It is the Korean version of “Hello”. It can also used when saying “goodbye” or “good evening”.
A couple of hours later…
Joheun achim Sokcho! I was awoken from my slumber by the gleeful excitement of my friend. It seems that the euphoria of being in South Korea has not gone down his system yet. Truthfully, even I am still in cloud nine, riding this emotional high that I could not seem to describe. This still feels too surreal for me. A little bit exasperated, I roused myself up to prepare for the adventures that are awaiting us for the day.
Then out of the blue I realize that we are on the eastern part of Korea. It only means one thing – a picturesque sunrise. I quickly got up, after having an earful of my friend’s constant prodding. After taking a bath, I joined my companions for an early stroll around the city. Our hostel is located near the waterfront and the port which gave us a wonderful view of the sea. and the sunrise. As always, the sunrise is captivating as we move closer towards the waterfront. As is customary, we snapped pictures of the magnificent sunrise.
When we’ve been re-energized by the morning sun, we started to walk towards the city center which is also within walking distance of our hostel. Our first destination is Sokcho’s famed fish market, Jungang Market. On our way to the market, we passed by the City Hall but what made the greatest impression on us is the immense number of clothing stores that flanked the city’s main thoroughfare. We passed one clothing store after another. Korean’s obsession with clothes is truly remarkable and far-reaching that even a small city like Sokcho is filled to the brim with clothing stores. To give you an idea on its extent, we barely noticed any café or restaurant while strolling around.
A few minutes of walking led us to Jungang Market. Unfortunately, it was still too early and the market is still waking up from its slumber. Although some shops are already open, there was very minimal activity. We then searched online for other places to visit in Sokcho. A simple search and Abai Village popped out as one of the top places to visit. Curious, we searched further about Abai Village.
Due to Sokcho’s proximity to the demilitarized zone, many defectors from North Korea have settled in Sokcho. They have even established their own settlement, hence the birth of Abai Village. To devout Korean drama fans, Abai Village is a must visit destination. Abai village is one of the shooting destinations of one of the most renowned Hallyu drama, Autumn in my Heart. Unfortunately, my friends and I opted to return to our hostel instead of looking for the village because we thought that it was far from the market.
Thankfully, our accommodation included free breakfast which was comprised of oats, bread, milk and/or coffee. Apparently that is what comprises a free Korean breakfast as the other hostels we stayed in pretty much served the same variety of breakfast. Not that I am complaining though. After having had our breakfast, my friends and I prepared our things because we are checking out before proceeding to Seoraksan. We asked our hosts if we could leave our things at their place and they gladly accommodated our request. Indeed, Koreans are equally hospitable as Filipinos.
After suiting up for our next adventure for the day, we went to the bus stop to wait for the bus going up to Seoraksan. That’s it for now. Do watch out for the next part of our Sokcho trip in the coming days!