Sunday, May 3, 2009

In and Around Gangneung

Gangneung City lies almost directly east of Seoul, Korea, across the peninsula on the east coast. The sea there is called the East Sea by the Koreans, and the Sea Of Japan by the Japanese. The east coast of Korea is rather hard edged, with beautiful sandy beaches backed by pine trees, and mountains that come almost all the way up to the coast. The high spine of the main mountain range of the Korean peninsula closely parallels the east coast, about twenty miles inland, so it's a rather dramatic drop-off from the high mountain pass, down onto the narrow coastal plain, and the city of Gangneung. It's a compact, densely populated medium sized city of about two hundred thirty five thousand people. I found it to be just the right size. Big enough to supply all your needs, but small enough to still be friendly and easy to get around. It's not big enough for a metro rail system, but they have an efficient city bus system, and plentiful, cheep taxis. There is no ring of suburbs. Once you leave the city, you quickly enter a patchwork of agricultural lands, and small farming communities running north and south along the coast. The high mountains to the west prevent much development in that direction, however there are a few small pockets of civilization up there, centered around agriculture, or tourism.
We arrived in town on Tuesday afternoon, April 7, and departed back to Seoul, and Incheon on Saturday. We spent that night in Incheon, and on Sunday afternoon, returned to Gangneung for the remainder of our stay, departing on Wednesday, April 15. So, all together, we spent around eight days in Gangneung. We stayed with my wife's mother, Mrs. Kim, every night we were in Gangneung, except one night, Sunday night when we had just come back from Seoul, and checked into a hotel. Even that night, we still went out to Mrs. Kim's house in the country, and had dinner with her, and her husband. Every day we would wake up and have breakfast with them, then get our cameras, and head out for a day of sight-seeing and picture taking. Most of those days we would make it into downtown Gangneung for one thing or another, usually to the fresh food market to pick up fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats to take back to Mrs. Kim's for dinner. Here is a link to a video I shot at the fresh food market: What a fascinating place. I never saw a U.S. style supermarket the whole time we were there. It seems that most Koreans buy their food in open air markets, tiny shops, and sidewalks near their homes. The bus back to Mrs. Kim's place stopped just outside the fresh food area, so it was very convenient for us to shop there on the way back "home". The bus back out to Mrs. Kim's took about twenty-five minutes to get there, and she lives right by the last stop on that line. The bus turns around there, and heads back into town. Here is a link to a video I shot on one of these rides through downtown Gangneung: Just on the outskirts of town, there is a wood carver's shop, which we would pass by every day on the way in, and out of town. It was so interesting, that one day we stopped there for a closer look. Here is the video: There are so many interesting things to see in, and around Gangneung City. The mountains, and the beaches are just a short ride away. The beach, lake, museums, and cultural village at Gyeongpo, are within the city limits of Gangneung, as well as the great museum/shrine called Ojukheon. More about these places in future posts. There is the large Odaesan National Park just east of Mrs. Kim's house, up in the high mountains. Also, there are many ski resorts it these mountains that run north to south along the coast. With our recent trip still fresh in our minds, we are planning what fun things we can see and do on our next trip to visit Mrs. Kim.
Here are some pictures of Gangneung City:
The official website of the Republic of Korea:

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