Monday, April 13, 2009

Stropping Around Korea - Sokcho / Gangneung

Making an earlier start, we headed up to Yanggu on highway 46 for no other reason to have a bit of a look. As it turns out, there wasn't a lot to look at apart from farming equipment and a rather quaint looking town. We are a month early for the tea festival so not a lot was going on. We did a quick circle through the town and headed out the way we came.

Our first stop was just north of Chuncheon at the temple of Cheongpyeon. The drive to the temple was along narrow, winding roads but the walk up to the temple was gentle and relatively short. Set amidst the mountains and decked out for the coming birthday celebrations on the 2nd of May, the simple effort in getting here was greatly rewarded. Once we got back down to the restaurants beside the car park, we got out the gas cooker and made ourselves noodles for lunch on a covered table attached to one of the restaurants. The grandmother was generous in letting us make our own food while sitting at their tables.

On our way to the coast we drove through Seoraksan National Park which is truly breath taking. Wild rocky peaks covered in sparse vegetation surround us, occasional bursts of white from a tree covered in blossoms or the beginnings of spring leaves do little to obscure the harshness of the mountains. Running beside the highway is a river that has been completely remade, sculpted embankments and channeled waterfalls that nature would be ashamed of and in fact had stayed away from as the river bed way practically dry.

We stopped at the mid way point with a commanding view of the path we were yet to take. For a coin you could briefly hire a pair of mounted binoculars to take a closer look or should you wish to spend more there were gifts galore available. You could even had a meal at a restaurant with large windows giving you a spectacular view as you ate. It was enough for me to buy a cup of coffee and use the loo before getting back on the road.

Once we got to the coast we headed north to the township of Sokcho where there is a lively fish market right next to the wharf. You could dine on all manner of sea creatures fresh from the ocean while staring out at the boats that caught them. The people are all friendly and call out as you walk by, attempting to entice you inside. One guy even proclaimed his love for me. We decided against having a meal here but bought a few rice cakes to tide us over.

Heading back down south, our target was the town of Gangneung. Just before reaching the town, we stopped at the Ojukheon Municipal Museum which is based around the originally dwellings of the mother of Korea, Shin Saim-dang who will be soon appearing on the new 50,000 won note. There are several museums on the grounds showing replicas of some of her paintings as well as selling the expensive take home kind but i was thoroughly impressed with the condition and design of the whole complex as well as the small entrance fee.

Rather than stay in the actual township of Gangneung, we decided to look for a place closer to the beach in Gyeonpodae and were pleasantly surprised to find a place within a roads breadth from the white sands for the very reasonable price of 25,000 won. Because of the price we have decided to stay two nights giving me time to do a little writing and to soak up a little relaxation. As i write this in a small Internet cafe attached to a coffee shop the owner sits a few computers down from me with his head leaned back and snoring contentedly.

Last night was sushi night. At the restaurant downstairs from where we are staying we ate a large if not a little expensive meal of raw fish, so much raw fish that we couldn't finish it all but we did finish three bottles of soju, another reason perhaps for the extra time in this idyllic location. I am officially no longer a vegetarian!


Mama said...

Congratulations, you are now officially a Meat-eater!! What an amazing experience you are having. Feel like I'm sitting in the back seat looking out! Notice I said backseat!!!

Anonymous said...

What are those green, white, orange, and burgundy 'things'??

vegted said...

They are rice cakes made of different flavours such as the yellow ones are pumkin flavoured.