Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sokcho and Soraksan

After my DMZ tour, I took a four-hour bus ride to the East Coast and spent the second half of the trip making my way south.
restaurants at sunset
There isn't much to see in Sokcho, just a beach and some seafood restaurants. I wasn't man enough to try the local specialty - a purple sausage stuffed with seafood and veggies.
Since it's pretty close to the border, the beaches are lined with barbed wire and they shine lights on them at night to watch for spies.
abandoned furniture
The night in Sokcho was the low point of my trip. Seoul had been pretty non-stop, seeing people, seeing things, having fun. And then all of a sudden I was alone in a ho-hum town. The old lady at my motel made a mistake counting my change and came up and yelled at me, thinking I'd somehow taken more than I should've.

Then, when walking down the street, a couple young Korean guys came up to me, looking really excited and smiley. "Russian?" "No, no - I'm American." "Not Russian?"

It's not uncommon for white women traveling alone in Asia to be mistaken for Russian prostitutes.

I told my friend from Seoul, a Korean-American guy, and he was flabbergasted, maybe even a bit disbelieving, which made me think about how when you're traveling you always experience a place through your own identity. It makes a difference.

The next morning I woke up - the old lady apologized - and I headed for Soraksan (Mt. Sorak).

And have it noted: Aside from the mistaken identity and the change issue at the hotel, Koreans were helpful throughout my trip. Every bus driver made sure I got off at the right stop, everyone was good about giving directions, etc.
Road to Soraksan
Soraksan is one of Korea's top nature destinations.
Chilis drying
near the part entrance
The air was crisp and fresh, the sky was blue. I was tempted to just stick out the duration of my trip on the mountain.
boarding the cable car
Since I was by myself, I opted out of serious hiking, and took a cable car to one of the summits.
looking out toward the sea
rocky peak
After the summit, I went for a short hike toward a waterfall.
notice the walkway, trails are much more developed in Asia
As I was walking up the trail, my friend's roommate, Heather, was coming down the opposite direction. I'd seen her about a month earlier, and we both knew we were going to Korea over the holiday and discussed exchanging emails in order to meet up, but never got around to it. Instead we just happened to be on the same mountain, on the same day, on the same hiking trail. Sometimes the expat community in Asia seems very, very small.
on the mountain
We decided to meet up the following day and travel south together. That night I think I was the only guest in the mountain hostel I stayed in. There was a glow-in-the-dark Winnie the Pooh decal on my dorm door and it gave me the willies. So rather than enjoy the natural quiet, I listened to my iPod.

Suffice it to say, I was glad to be meeting up with friends the next day.

Next Post: Penis Park! Stay tuned.

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