Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Post 90: 111006 Sokcho & Seoraksan

Last week in South Korea was Chusok. I don’t know a lot about Chusok apart from that it’s a national holiday and we get plenty of days off work. They call it the Korean thanksgiving, taking place at harvest time and involves dancing, games and giving thanks to the ancestors.

For me it was a time to get away from the apartment and head to the coast, climb a mountain and check out some distant temples. I went to a town called Sokcho, a kind of beach resort town on the east coast. We were fortunate to be given a room in a swanky hotel with commanding views of the nearby mountains and the ripe yellow rice fields surrounding us.

I’m not overly impressed with Koreans attention to details, like when we get into our room we find food on the balcony from the previous tenants, an air conditioning unit that doesn’t work and no mini bar. Okay so the mini bar I can do without but the details are what make a place, something the local tourist trade is yet to master. Oh and it s good idea to stay away from the taxi’s. They say their prices are Seoul prices after midnight but paying extortionate prices for a ten minute taxi ride in the middle of a weekday afternoon put me in a sour mood.

Sokcho itself boasted an expo a few years back, the site of which can still be visited and a central tower scaled and a great view of the harbor enjoyed. Right next to that is the IMAX theatre which they seldom use apart from the odd booking so a group can watch a DVD. If there’s only a few interested in watching a film then they wont open it so I’m guessing the locals have lost interest.

Right in downtown there is a very impressive market, larger than the one in my current hometown. As you’d imagine for a seaside town, there is plenty of fish in every shape and size and many other sea dwelling edible stuffs lining stalls and flopping in dirty tanks.

The main reason to go to this particular town however is its proximity to the Soraksan National Park. Inside which are a network of walkways, temples, a gigantic Buddha statue, restaurants at every altitude, mountains in their rugged beauty and the mass of sumptuous trees that cover them. Not to mention the squirrels at every turn.

We spent several hours exploring the slightly less than congested walkways and made our goal a temple cave where outside sits a several ton boulder that the locals delight in wobbling with constant shoving. We’d hoped to take a cable car up to another mountain but by the time we went to get out tickets there was a several hour queue and the day was already getting too long.

As a signifier to the pleasure found in our time in Sokcho, I enjoyed the drive back to Uijeongbu just as much as my time there. It was an enjoyable drive.

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