We found lots of attractions in Seoul but by all means there are other places to visit in Korea. From the country’s capital we made our way to this medium sized city famous in South Korea for its beach life and natural parks. We headed straight to The House hostel, recommended by the staff in Seoul’s guesthouse and it turned out to be a great call (see insert).
Sokcho might be the beach destination of choice in South Korea, but the weather was not very good while we were there: July 29- August 1st. We woke up on day 1 to rain and thunder, thus deciding that trying a hot water spa was the call of the day.
At 4000 Won it was quite cheap, offered several hot water indoor pools at different temperatures and saunas (dry, humid and finnish) separated by gender. There was an outdoor pool as well, but the water was too cold to be enjoyed and so was the air temperature. In addition to that my back was being a bit of a nuissance again so I had to be careful.
The two most unusual pecularities of this experience were: one, finding out that it is mandatory to be unclothed in one of these springs, and two, what I call the sit-showers: imagine a row of about five to ten showers not taller than one meter with a small one person bench, a single-use sponge, and a large mirror in fron of it. I later found out that it is part of the Korean public bath experience, and you are meant to clean every angle of yourself slowly, peacefully- with twenty people or more around you doing the same.
On day two we did what most people who come to this town do: visit Seoraksan National Park and enjoy any of the several possible treks. We chose to reah Gunyung Rock because of its unusual shapes and the splendid views it usually offers- we did not get to see much because the clouds were quite low but did enjoy the hike. There’s an interesting temple to visit and a small waterfall where we slipped our sandals off and dipped our feet in the cool water. Make it cold water. And no, there were no reports of floating dead fish further downstream later that day.
The hikes were pleasant and fun despite the crowds (Korean summer holidays had just started) and my back had not been a problem, which made me think that I could have joined Jose ( a Chilean traveller we had made friends with the day before) on an easy climb to the highest peak in the area. The pictures he showed us the following day made me jealous: sunrise had been spectacular when see from the summit, with a sea of clouds drifting between the mountain below him and the sun rising into the clear blue sky. It was the second time I had been denied the opportunity to climb a mountain in this trip.
I cannot finish this post without mentioning one of the things I like most: food. Not because there was a local delicacy that stood out, but because there were two buffets that rank highly as the ones I have most enjoyed. At 3.5€ each (yes, you read that right) one includedsushi, fish and noodles of different sorts and the other pig, cow and chicken meat marinated in different styles grilled by yourself on a bbg set in the center of your table. It was an incredible experience that perhaps can only be understood by you readers who have backpacked for a long time.
We spent a great few days in Sokcho, and my suggestion is that if you are in South Korea and want to visit a place other than Seoul, Sokcho is the place to shoot for.