On Wednesday, April 8, 2009, we caught the bus outside Mrs. Kim's house for the twenty five minute ride into Gangneung City. There we took a taxi to the express bus station, and bought two tickets to Sokcho, a small city about an hour and a half ride north up the coast. It was another one of those comfortable express motor coaches, providing a pleasant ride, with great views of the countryside on the left, and the ocean on the right. Here is a link to one of the videos I shot during this ride: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5K9xcjrUNQ. We got off in Sokcho, and went down to the beach to take some pictures. The beach here is mostly rocky, but, pretty just the same. We walked across the street to the local bus stop, so we could catch the bus up to Seoraksan park, about fifteen miles inland. We waited about ten minutes 'till it came along. The ride up to the park took about twenty minutes. The bus pulled into a parking lot filled with tour busses, and cars, and let us off. The driver told us that whenever we were ready to go, just come back to this same spot, and another bus would be along shortly. It was a typical Korean scene outside the park entrance. There were souvenir shops, restaurants, convenience stores, and vendors selling everything, lined up along the sidewalks. We browsed the souvenirs for a while, then went up to the entrance, and bought our tickets. There were many tourists there that day, but, it never felt crowded. We were in a long river valley, with mountains all around, and a park road paralleling the river. You really couldn't drive into this park, at least not here. Everything was within easy walking distance, though, and there was plenty to see. The groundskeepers do an excellent job keeping the park looking good. There was a Buddist Shrine, a burial ground for old Buddist Monks, a very large Budda statue, with prayer candles, flags, and all. There was a tourist lodge with a very nice restaurant with outside dining under the trees. Another river joined the main one about a half a mile in, coming down out of the mountains from the right. There were several very beautiful bridges over this tributary, another cafe' and store, and several hiking trails leading off into the mountains. By far the biggest bang for the buck was the cable car ride across the main river, and up to the top of a very high mountain on the other side. We bought our tickets, and hopped aboard for a very nice ride to the top. Topside there was a building housing the upper cable car terminus, a restaurant, restrooms, a good coffee shop/icecream parlor, and on top, an observation deck. There was another Buddist Shrine up here. You could see the elaborate rooftop off through the trees, and hear a monk chanting. Amazing! Outside the main building, a trail led up to the actual top of the mountain, about a half mile distant, and a couple thousand feet up.We fell in line, heading up the trail with a group of old ladies, middle-aged couples, and a bunch of youngsters. Up near the summit, there was a stand with a guy who would sell you photos of yourself up on the mountain. He had a lot of customers. There was another stand with a guy displaying a lot of high tech mountain climbing gear, none of it for sale. He wanted to sell you a medalion, with your name engraved, celebrating your success in making it to the top. The last bit up to the summit was a hands on climb up a very steep, rugged section. I was amazed at the number of old ladies who were making this climb. It was a climb like I was used to making, as I'm a rock climber from my youth. I was just wishing that they would get out of my way. I finally had to squeeze in amongst them, and make my way up. At the tip-top, there was a group of middle-aged ladies who just did not want to leave. I eventually joined them up there for what has become my mountain top ritual: pull out the flask of Scotch, salute the four cardinal points, thank the mountain, give the mountain a little splash of Scotch, and give myself a healthy shot. The group of ladies next to me looked at me like I was a crazy foreigner, which I was. It was great to be on top of another mountain! Ok Hwa was waiting for me just below the summit, near the guy selling photos. We hiked back down to the coffee shop for coffee and ice cream, then hopped aboard the cable car for the ride back down. Here is a link to the video I made on the way down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkooXEsEUFw. Down below, we wandered around making pictures for an hour or so, then bought a bunch of souvenirs, and went to wait on our bus to Sokcho. The ride back to Sokcho resulted in another video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW2_UTjLxnk. In Sokcho, we bought tickets for the return trip to Gangneung City, and enjoyed another pleasant ride back. In Gangneung, we hit the market area for fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats to take back to Mrs. Kims. We had another great, home cooked Mrs. Kim meal, and shared our day's adventure with them.
Here are links to two slideshows of pictures I took in Seoraksan Park this day: http://s594.photobucket.com/albums/tt23/allenhare/Korea%2009/Trip%20to%20Seoraksan/?albumview=slideshow,
The official website of the Republic of Korea: http://www.korea.net/.