Friday, October 14, 2011

Sokcho Serenity

This post is a bit overdue...

The first weekend of October (October 1-3) ended up being a national holiday here in Korea. The 3rd is known as Foundation Day and is celebrated as the day that South Korea was founded. Basically, one of my co-teachers explained it this way:

"The heavens opened up and there was Korea."
Simple. Well put. No questions needed.

So Sam, Rachel, Andy, Emma, Katie, and I decided to take advantage of this new found freedom and get out of Seoul.

Destination: Sokcho City
Location: East coast of South Korea
Highlights: seeing nature again, hiking Mt. Seorkasan, being on a beach in October

We left Seoul Saturday morning by bus. The 2 1/2 hour ride ended up taking 5 due to the large amounts of traffic also fleeing the city for the break. We ended up in Sokcho around 2 pm, hailed a taxi, and headed off to our resort. The place that we stayed at was a little ways outside of town and very nice. It was basically the size of an apartment back in the states (a small, efficiency size apartment), but we all agreed that we would take this place over our own apartments in Seoul. There were four different rooms, but no beds. We soon discovered that we would all be sleeping on the floor on sleeping mats. This definitely made the decision of who would be gettting the floor TONS easier!

After checking in, we went in search of food and ended up back in town on a street that was lined with food options. As we got out of the cab, we all noticed the same phenomenon: silence. We were standing in the middle of a city and there was not a living soul in sight. No cars. No dogs. No people. Just us, the buildings around us, and silence. It was really nice. I hadn't really noticed how immune I have become to the noise in Seoul until this trip. Makes me appreciate growing up on a farm in Iowa a bit more.

Lunch! Delicious combination of chicken, rice cakes, and veggies! Yum!
Lunch was fantastic! Once we had all gorged on the delicious concoction pictured above, we headed back to our hostel to nap, regroup, and figure out our plan of action for the rest of the weekend. We ended up staying in the resort until about 7:30/8:00 pm, and then headed back down to the city center to grab some food and social time. The two places that we ended up wining and dining at were a lot of fun and we had a really good time just sitting around talking and chatting it up. Upon our arrival back to the resort, we discovered that there was a bowling alley. So of course, what else are you going to do at 1 am but bowl a few games! I ended up winning both games (there must be something about South Korea because I never bowl very well in the United States).

On Sunday, we headed to Mt. Seorkasan. This mountain is one of the largest in all of South Korea and is home to one of the best national parks as well. The bus ride there took F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!!! There was so much traffic and construction that a 20 minute bus ride ended up being about 1 hour 15 minute bus ride. Once we got to the mountain we figured out where all of the people in town were at: they were all on the mountain! We decided that we wanted to do a bit of hiking, along with the cable car to the top of one of the peaks. We ended up getting tickets for 5:45 pm. We got our tickets at 1:30 pm, so we had plenty of time to do some exploring and hiking. See the below pictures for what we saw:

View of Mt. Seorkasan before we started hiking

Big Buddha statue...what national park is complete without it?

Temple along the way to the below rock

Giant rock formation at the top that people were repelling down
Sunset with Sokcho in the distance
Following our hike/cable car ride, we headed back into town, grabbed some food and then headed back to our resort. The next morning, before heading home, we decided to check out the beach. Now there was a beach nearby our resort that thought we were headed to. However, our cab driver decided to take us like 15 minutes away instead. We really couldn't communicate, which always makes things more difficult. We ended up a really nice beach along the coast. The sun was out, the weather was gorgeous, and the sand felt amazing in between my toes.

Namsan Beach, on the East Sea

Standing on a beach in October...love it!
We ended up making it back to the bus terminal in plenty of time to catch our bus home. The bus ride home took about as long as it did to get to Sokcho due to the insane amounts of traffic we encountered. We arrived back to Seoul around 5:30. I then met up with my friend Steve and his friend from Canada visiting him for the next month, Jay. We grabbed some food and I headed home, crashing as soon as my head hit the pillow.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Getting out of Seoul for some time was needed and it was great to see nature and green again. The concrete jungle of the city can be a bit suffocating at times. This weekend I am joining about 20 other people as we are going to get together to celebrate 4 birthdays by taking a river cruise on the Han River, then heading to Itaewon for some grub and drinks. It shall be an eventful and fun night!

Until next time...