June 20, 2011

hearts, hills and the House...

It seems like every time that I need an escape from Seoul I head to Sokcho. I can't fully explain my love affair with this town. I believe that there is a mix of a lot of different elements. I definitely think that it has something to do with its distance. It is far enough away that I can mentally check out on the bus ride there. Once I step off the bus I feel refreshed, like a new person.


This past trip was my third expedition to the city, and I was hoping for it to be my most ambitious one. My hopes were quickly quashed by a lack of sleep. Life has been stressful of late, and sleeping hasn't been the most enjoyable pastime. It was my original goal to hike Ulsanbowi shortly after arriving in Sokcho. In fact I even dreamed about the hike while I was sleeping on the beach. The beach was as it turns out was exactly what I needed. I made myself a lounger in the sand, and watched as my friends frolicked in the sand and water.

Later that evening, and just like my previous visits to Sokcho, included fireworks. The fireworks aren't necessarily cheap there, but that isn't really the point. The best part is the fact that you simply can use them. Procuring and holding a package of 20 roman candles, is worth much more than the corresponding price. Especially when you watch other people launch them from their fingertips. A note for those who follow my previous posts about Sokcho, no I did not hump any fireworks into the ocean. I was a semi responsible adult and did not launch from the hip. Yet, I wasn't fully responsible and launch them from the sand.

My overall feelings of laziness did not improve on the second morning. The dogs outside decided to forget they were canines and instead think they were chickens. They barked as a rooster would crow at the invading sunlight. I laid on the floor of the hostel room and pondered, why me? why do I drink so much soju? it does nothing for me, but enlarge my waistline.

While I was eating breakfast the owner of the Hostel, Hyu-Jun, approached me, and without hesitation he welcomed me back. His genuine and thoughtful approach is something that I've come to expect from this hostel. I first visited it back in September, and to be honest I'm not that surprised he recognized me. Hyu-Jun runs a great operation, and is one of the kindest Koreans I've ever met.

The House is exactly what a Hostel should be. It doesn't seem to fit in the Korean landscape though, it would fit much better alongside other hostels in Europe. It has all the amenities, conveniences and charm you'd expect from a hostel, down to a shelf of battered DVDs beside a communal television. The walls are decorated with postcards of praise from prior patrons, and bookcases filled with random trinkets. I easily recommend this hostel to anyone staying in Sokcho (you can visit its website here).

I've never had two days of sunshine in Sokcho, there is usually at least one day ruined by rain. I was told that my last day had an 80% chance of rain, but scoffed at that report as I stared into a hazy blue sky. We made our way up to Seoraksan National Park late in the morning. I was fully aware that I wouldn't be climbing Ulsanbowi, but I was happy and excited that I'd get a great opportunity to play around with my camera.

I got my best photos after a short cable car ride and 5 minute hike. It took me to the peak of one of the mountains. The last time I ventured up to this peak I couldn't step foot off the path, water was flowing like a river down the slippery rocks, and my knee was only about 25% healed. The lack of rain helped, as I scoured the rocks. The park staff has done a great job in making the hike up to the summit safe, but once you are at the top you are free to do as you please. I find it shocking that people are allowed to freely climb these rocks, one false step will lead to death as you'd be tumbling down the mountain.
There will be another return to Sokcho sometime in the future. I heard whispers about the fall, but I doubt I'll last that long without making my way back. There is something about the town that keeps calling me back. Perhaps it's the goodbyes I get. It always seems to rain whenever I'm leaving Sokcho. I suppose it is the coastal town's way of saying goodbye, with buckets of tears.

1 comment:

  1. Great post...I put in a post of mine on..