Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sokcho Daepohang (속초 대포항) Visit

Last weekend we did a whirlwind trip to Sokcho in order to climb Mt. Seoraksan before the masses arrived for viewing the fall colors. Once that happens, all hell breaks loose and you end up taking 3 hours just to take a bus from town to the mountain (usually it's about 20 minutes drive). Since we aren't into all that traffic and insanity we find late September/ early October the perfect time of year to actually do the hiking and climbing in the area because it's not too cold and not too hot and there aren't too many tourists.

Of course, you certainly don't need to climb anything if you go so Seoraksan, you can just hang out in the valley and eat a nice lunch or take the cable car to the to of one of the peaks. Don't feel like you need to put yourself through the hell that is a mountain of stairs. Smart people just grab a cappuccino and sit by the river, or take a quick spin around the temples. We are not smart people so this is how our day went.

For only the second time ever in my six years of traveling in Korea, I made an actual reservation online for this trip. Mostly because I was traveling with others and wanted them to feel relaxed since one is currently doing his military duty and doesn't have a lot of time to relax.

Just in case there was traffic, I wanted us to be close to the park but also near the water so we could enjoy both aspects of Sokcho while we were there which meant we stayed in Daepohang (대포항), a tiny port just south of Sokcho. There isn't much there, but what there is is pretty awesome. Some of Sokcho's fanciest and their most affordable accommodations can be found in this area. It's a mix of working class and fancy. Since we aren't made of money we decided on  mid-level minbok pension (where you sleep on the floor). These rooms are excellent for groups because everyone just sleeps on the floor like a big old slumber party.

고형민벅페션 was 100,000 for the night for a room that held 5 people and had a kitchenette and lovely little balcony with a view of the town. The place was very clean and super quiet. We booked it via and found the reservation process painless and easy if you know a little Korean, if you don't then have a friend who does to book a place for you here.

Our choice of accommodation turned out to be an even better choice than we anticipated since we arrived into Sokcho late on Saturday night and didn't feel like running around town in search of anything. We wanted to park and be done. As it turns out, 대포항 has two separate areas for eating seafood on the water front, the affordable one just happened to be across the street from where we were staying. Talk about the best luck ever. We wandered through a beautiful little sculpture park next to the road and over to a long line of seafood restaurants keeping the fishing boats company.

The five of us had a rather large taste sashimi and spicy fish soup dinner for around 65,000 won total. It was one of the best 회 (Korean sashimi) meals I have had in the six years I have lived in Korea. Sokcho fish quality is far superior to other areas of the country. Since this particular fish market isn't in the tourist areas, it's much more relaxed, friendly and affordable. It's mostly local fishermen, taxi drivers, and the folks staying in the Pensions.

In the middle of dinner we did have to take a quick break to rescue a grandfather who fell in the harbor, but that's a story for another time. Let's just say it was dinner with a splash of adrenaline.

After a long nights sleep, we woke up and went to a convenience store on the other side of our pension's parking lot. They had a tiny espresso machine where we filled up on surprisingly good espresso for the morning. A tiny little restaurant next to the quickie mart happened to be open for breakfast so we stopped in for some Kimchi jjigae which turned out to be the best we have ever had with GIANT think cuts of pork belly and kimchi that would make your grandma proud. Our friend actually said, "This is even better than my mom's." Please, nobody tell his mother.

Once we were stuffed and caffeinated we headed into Seoraksan and started the hike. Of course, about 10 minutes into the park we stopped off at a cafe for another caffeine fix before charging up the mountain.

Who knows how long it took us to hike the mountain. All I know is that we made it to the top. The views all the way up stunning of course, but the fact it's stairs nearly the entire way is pretty brutal on your legs. For the last two days I have just been limping about and screaming out in pain pretty regularly. I can ride a bike for days, but about 5 hours of stairs turns my legs to mush. When I do this climb I have both equal things, "This is and awesome experience" and "I am the stupidest person ever. Why am I doing something so completely miserable when I could be eating a cookie by a stream?" In the end it was totally worth it because I caught three Pokeman at the top... oh, and the views were stunning.

Personally though, I think the best part of climbing the mountains in Seoraksan is that you are suffering together. Equally miserable as you hike through beautiful scenery and take in the stunning views. Then you get to complain about how much you hurt for three more days creating a truly bonding experience you will remember for ever.

And when you are finished with the hike you can get more coffee... where you can talk about how pretty it was and not really that hard at all. Which is a totally lie but feels true after you have survived.

Before leaving Sokcho we made one last stop in an area called Sokcho Food Town near "downtown" and stuffed ourselves with some delicious meat. The perfect meal at the end of a long days hike. We needed all the help we could get for the 4 hour drive home that night. These types of trips are brutal, but totally worth it.

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