Trip Start Jul 17, 2005
31Trip End Ongoing
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Koreans are very gregarious people. My friend Soyon actually confessed to me that she feels embarassed when she goes to the movies or out to eat alone. I think they also couldn't believe that I was alone during their "Chuseok (Thanksgiving)" holiday which they associate with family. I suppose it is like being alone on Christmas for them. Chuseok, obviously doesn't have the same meaning for me. This lady that I bought fruit from gave me some free juice because she felt sorry for me
Honestly, it was a little scary at times. I was too tired to plan for the trip, so I literally just bought the bus ticket and planned to figure it out when I got there. When I got there it was dark, out in the country, and I had no accomodation booked. Not as many people speak English out in the country. I got dropped off at the bus terminal where there was this young couple fighting. The girl seemed like she was loosing it, because she was screaming loudly at her boyfriend. Then, I tried to get in a cab and they kept passing me up and shaking their head no. Being out of Seoul, I thought perhaps I didn't know "Gangwondo Taxi Protocol." Anyway, I figured they were only picking up groups of people, not singles. I finally got a cab driver to stop and thankfully he spoke English. He was all excited to talk to me and I negotiated for him to take me to the best Sauna on the beach. It was pretty good I must say. Big and clean and almost empty. In Korea, you can sleep on the floor at the sauna. It is like 6 bucks. I love to do it because it is such a deal. I feel like I am getting away with something.
So, I spent the first few days at Gangneung beach and spent the night at this sauna
All I had at this time was a map of the province written in Korean which I could read but not necessarily understand. Anyhow, I located the bus that took me to Mt. Odaesan National Park, saddled up my backpack and headed off. It was a lovely place. The nature was music to my soul. The hike was along a river called "Sogeumgang," which literally means "little Geum river, " which was my next destination. The hike wasn't too challenging, more horizontal than vertical. I ended up meeting some friendly Koreans who pointed me in the right directions. The sun was starting to go down and I was getting nervous because I had hiked for about an hour and still had to get back. So I ran. When I was done I had a splitting headache, so I stayed at a Min-pak, a little room, in this case inside a restaurant, rented out by the owner
In the morning, I headed off to Seoraksan, the big daddy mountain that was the goal of my trip. It was amazing, when I finally got there. This trip was all about trial and error. I will be an excellent tour guide next time for someone who can learn from my mistakes. The bus to Seoraksan dropped me off in the city of Seokcho right next to the mountain. This city was a big waste of time. Plus I arrived on the actual Chuseok holiday when the Korean people barely come out of their house. It was like a ghost town and I figured I shouldn't get myself into the mountains and not be able to get back. So I stayed put at a motel and watched movies all day.
I had a scary experience here too. I got on a bus to this "hot spring." I expected it to be something special, but it was just a regular sauna kind of place connected to a hotel. I paid the sauna fee thinking I could also spend the night, but later realized that it is a hotel, "duh" and they won't let you sleep at the sauna for the cheap price. So anyway after that I had to get myself out of there and it was dark.
Buses in Gangwondo stop running around 8:30pm so I just took whatever bus came by just to get me back into the heart of the city
My assumption that the bus was headed directly for the city was wrong and we headed onto a dark highway away from the civilization. At this point I was the last person on the bus, which is not really a good thing, and he finally parked the bus at some hotel and turned off all the lights (this means it is the end of the route). Oops. After the driver's 5 minute cigarette break where I sat there in the dark on the bus all alone, we turned around and headed back to the city. I knew the place I stayed at the night before was near E-Mart, so I got off the bus there. No damage done, but I learned my lesson to get back to my destination before dark.
Finally, the next day I got to Seorak Mountain
I headed toward this peak that supposively had a "cave" at the top (Geumganggul). When I got to the top, all I found was a little hole carved out of the rock which housed a little Buddhist temple. Bah. So I came down. I was going to call it a day as I was tired, but I actually ran into someone I knew and they recommended Ulsanbawi, this peak on the other side. So, I headed that way and didn't intend to go all the way to the top, but it is kind of addicting. Once you start going up you can't really quit. So I hiked all the way to the top. I have never experienced such an endless series of stair climbing. They build these metal stairs because otherwise you wouldn't be able to get up without some chiseling and swinging from ropes.
I had quite a queezy feeling up at the top, especially when I looked down. I was right up with the clouds. The clouds were awesome. Right in front of my face! It was so peaceful watching them float by. They look like floating steam but white
After this hike I had the worst headache ever which actually brought me to tears. I think it was the altitude thing, up to one peak, down, and then up to another. I think I came down too fast again.
So this about sums it up. Sounds dangerous at times but it really wasn't. Korea is a very safe place. I trust Koreans 90% of the time.