Just last week, my mum and younger brother came to visit me in Korea.
It was the first time for my brother, Gary. He always refused to come because he “hated everything Korean just because I liked it so much.” Well, he says I was always playing those Korean videos when he was trying to study. -_-
I have been telling him to visit for the longest time, that his sister has really built a life here and would like for him to see how it’s like. He always challenged me, “what is there to do in Korea but shopping?”
I’m not sure what moved his sails, but he finally decided to visit, so I’ll show you what there is to do in Korea besides just shopping!
The only kinds of exercise I am willing to do are dance, badminton, and martial arts. Anything else that falls under the exercise category, I prefer to keep to a minimum. Including walking.
Gary is exactly the opposite. He’s a pretty active little boy, so his lazy elderly sister had to make a compromise. I agreed to take the family to Soraksan, but we would do the easier trails with him and can turn back anytime we are too tired to go on. Also, lots of sleep time for me.
It was actually my second time to Soraksan. Personally, I think it is the most beautiful mountain and hiking trail in Korea. The last time I went, it was in autumn. Even though the leaves had all fallen and most of the greens were covered with snow, there was still this solemn eerie beauty to the land. For the first time in my life, I saw that rocks, simply just rocks, could be so beautiful.
Soraksan (설악산) is located in the city Sokcho (속초). It takes around 3 hours to get there from Seoul. For directions, you can always call the Seoul Foreigner Helpline (02)-1330. Very nice, helpful, and speaks English.
We stayed at the same hotel I was at the first time, Sorak Tourist Hotel. Prices are very reasonable, the view is amazing, and rooms very decent. For 3 people, our room was just 65,000 won ($55USD) per night (80,000 won [$70USD] on weekends).
The owner, Charlie, is very nice and helpful. If there is anything you want to see, do, or eat, just ask him.
Also, the hotel is literally right at the base of the mountain. This is especially good if you go with hikers of different levels. You can turn back anytime you want and take a nap!
Yep. I think Gary likes the room.
Temples and Minor Trails
The great thing about Soraksan is there are many different trails of different levels. If you are not a big hiker, but just want to get away for a weekend, you can go for the cable car, temples, and minor trails (and the low priced raw fish and seafood coming up!).
Do you notice that the orange pipe has nothing visible holding it?
If you see rocks stacked on top of each other in Korea, it’s usually placed there as a wish token. Place your own rock and make a wish!
The Actual Climb
The first time I visited Soraksan, I had seen 금강글 the cave from afar, but we didn’t have time to hike there. My friends and I all agreed that it was something we’d like to come back to do, so I made this the goal of our trip. However, the cave turned out to be really small and made into a tiny temple. It was honestly pretty disappointing. The climb up was pretty challenging though, and just being up there became the reward.
The hike up was 3.1 km, as Gary points out below ^^
The trail has a lot of variety and the scene keeps changing — bridges, rivers, mini waterfalls, lakes, forest trails, trees, mountains and rocks just everywhere. Up until here is what I would consider the easy part and where most people would turn around.
This is where it gets real. I was literally using all fours!
The climb got so steep and rocky to a point where we were literally taking breaks every two minutes. I hate doing that because once I’m sitting down, I don’t want to get up, but my mom kept calling break -_- So, to entertain ourselves, we kept playing with her ‘ajumma hat’ XD
From 3.1 km… to 02. km to go, and the hardest and scariest part >.<
To be honest, I was mostly just holding on for dear life. Yep.
Finally! Made it to the top to drink the spring water that makes you younger the more you drink, except the climb up probably knocked a year off my life span, so I’m not sure how that will work out T_T
The water definitely tasted a lot like… rock so it was real interesting. Don’t be put off my the pot there. Gary pointed it out and wondered if the spring water was real, but the lady uses it to heat up the spring water to make coffee for people who buy something or make a donation.
Now, all we have to do is spend another 2 hours going back down…
Who’s idea was this again????
Nearby Food and Raw Fish and Seafood
If a 5 hour hike at the risk of falling into a bottomless pit for a sip of water is not exactly your cup of tea, most people go there for the fresh and low priced raw fish at DaePoHang (대포항), the Raw Fish Port. You won’t find prices like these in Seoul.
There are lots of places to eat at the foot of Soraksan, most of them selling SanChae Bibimbap (산채 비빔밥), or rice mixed with mountain vegetables, and PaJeon (파전), or Korean style pancake. The best one to go to is the little restaurant attached to a souvenir store right outside the Sorak Tourist Hotel. We tried all the other places and kept wanting to return to this one because they have the best Seafood PaJeon!
Our first meal at DaePoHang Port.
With great directions from our hotel owner, Charlie, we arrived after a 10-15 minute bus ride.
The last time I was here, all I remembered was that our meal costed 30,000 won ($27 USD) or so for 3 people to have a whole plate of raw fish and spicy fish soup (매운탕), which is an extreme bargain. We walked down the seafood restaurants and they all quoted prices of 60,000 won ($52) — twice the price!
Finally, we got to the end of the street where there is a little path that turns into a parking lot like area. I almost missed it if not for my mom pointing out that all the people were walking there, and we hit jackpot! The ajummas there all held out a basket variety of fish for 30,000 won.
Note, though, that veggies (5,000 won), soup (6,000-10,000 won), and everything else is charged separately. We ordered the plain instead of spicy soup.
To be honest, one meal of raw fish and soup was hearty and filling enough, but my mom thought it was such a great deal she wanted to go once more before we left Sokcho.
This time, we did an upgrade and got 도미 (bream?), which itself costed 30,000 ($27 USD), plus a variety of other fish for 30,000. We got about twice the amount of raw fish, which really works out to the price.
With the veggies, soup, and rice, our meal came out to around 75,000 won ($65 USD), which is still pretty darn good for all that raw fish. Imagine the price of eating it at a Japanese restaurant!
Favorite Photos — Kungfu Fighting
I saw this open space between two temple buildings with the foggy mountain background. In my mind, I could picture an absolute scene from an olden time Kungfu movie, so I suggested we make that picture XD
My mum took the picture, and we didn’t have much time, so she didn’t get the temples around us, but I thought these turned out pretty well ㅋ I claim total artistic rights on these! haha!
Thank you to Gary for agreeing to being in this post ^^
Part two will be in Seoul!