Sokcho and Seoraksan National Park (설악산국립공원)

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Living in a huuuuge city like Seoul has its challenges. Every now and then you start craving fresh air, despite the fact that in my case, I get to cycle to work along the river on regular bases. So one Saturday morning, my friend and I escaped to the country. Escape is a strong word, since it took us a whooping five hours to cover 190 kms it takes to get to a little town called Sokcho. Thanks traffic. I hear it is not always so bad, and we were just lucky to go during the two weeks period, before local Thanksgiving when everyone is visiting their grandparents. Anyway, we made it. Sokcho is famous for two things – Seorakasan National Park and local beaches. And one more, which is fried and fresh seafood, since it is essentially a fishing village. The ocean was really rough with massive swells, so we opted for the mountains.

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I’ve heard that Seorakasan is exceptionally beautiful in autumn, with pretty colorful foliage and fresh air. Well let me tell you, that at the end of summer it was also rather lovely.

You can hike up the top or take a more lazy option and hop on a cable car, which we did. Fresh air makes you oh so tired. Cable car took literally a minute to get all the way up and cost a mere 9,000 won return, or 6,000 one way. Apparently it gets soooo popular in peak seasons (summer and autumn) that some people wait in line for 2-3 hours. I can only imagine how busy it gets on the top. Koreans sure love their lines.

As sort of expected, there are a few cafes at the observation point. Korean honey pancakes were delicious, just a wee bit oily. You can watch lovely ladies making them through a handy window at the shop.

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Once you had enough of ladies watching and exploring the peak, descending from the mountain will take some time, but if you are not up for it, there is always a cable car option.

There are also lots of hot springs in close proximity to the city center, which are worth checking out in cooler weather. In summer though, beach is the place to go. If the waves are really high, the beach will be officially closed with lifeguards watching you closely.  Other than that, the three beaches we went to were beautiful, clean and accommodating, with changing rooms and showers handy. Unfortunately for us, we could not go for  swim due to big swells, so we settles for enjoying the view and a bit of people watching.

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If you had enough of Korea, hop on the ferry boat and visit a Russian city Vladivostok. 16 hours and you are there, it is a shame that you will probably need a visa. I have met someone who traveled the opposite way, so from Russia to Korea, and according to him, it is a pleasant journey in calm sea.

And last but not least is accommodation. There is only one decent backpackers, but it’s lovely! The House Hostel is very clean and cosy and staff speaks good English. They will tell you all you need to know, can recommend a good cafe or restaurant and also have plenty of brochures and maps.Breakfast is included (cereals and toast with jam, plus tea or coffee). There is a beautiful veranda, where you can hang out with a fluffy pooch (but no touching please as it gets a bit moody sometimes). Definitely my kind of place. The price is also very reasonable 50,000 won for a double room, dorms are also available.

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To be honest, I enjoyed the hostel so much, especially having a cup of tea on the balcony outside, so I would really like to come back and discover Sokcho in autumn.

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Bus to Sokcho leaves every 30 mins from Express Bus Terminal in Seoul and should take approximately 2.5 hours. Ticket can be booked online here

Full photo album can be viewed on Flickr by following this link.

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