We spent the last 5 days in Busan, the 2nd largest city in South Korea, located at the very bottom of the Peninsula – closer to Japan than to Seoul. But we arranged to meet Jill’s kids in Sokcho – 50 km (30 miles) from the DMZ. So we need to get from the far south-east to the far north-east. Our travel options including flying via Seoul, Train to Seoul and then bus to Sokcho – or intercity bus the whole way. At $43 per person – the bus was the clear winner.
So we made our way from Kim’s House to Nopo subway station – helped by strangers who found it fascinating that 2 grand-mothers would be traveling alone in Korea. They had little English, we had no Korean – but we shared number of grand kids – he has 4, Jill has 4, I have 2. We even disc used food – Kimchi good, Bulgogi better!
After a bit of confusion over tickets – we had reserved seats and a separate boarding lane – and didn’t know it- we ensconced ourselves in our seats – and the bus pulled out – 1 minute late and the driver was pretty upset about it. At least we think that’s why he was yelling at the dispatcher.
Like our trip here – it seemed like it would be highway all the way – 6 lanes narrowing to 4 lanes after about 2 hours of driving. And then just north of Phang, things got interesting. The bus swerved left and right and left – and on to a 2 lane road that wound up and over hills eventually dropping down to the sea. Instead of highway – we were now winding our way past adorable fishing villages and sandy beaches. The road continued to narrow – eventual to just one lane wide.
The views along the ocean are stunningly beautiful – beige sand beaches and pounding surf, interspersed with high views of the rocky shoreline.
There are numerous campground with tents like I’ve never seen – including a roof top model that required a ladder to get in!
As expected, there are Rice paddies and tiny farm plots on any arable piece of land (including the edges of the roadside), but unexpected were the hobbit hole houses – dozens of them – some extremely fancy with brick exteriors and stone domed roofs, others more simplistic but still functional.
The stunningly beautiful scenery reminds one of the most beautiful parts of the Maine coast – weirdly carved rocks and rolling surf splashing over the rocks as the tide comes in.
We’ve been traveling now for almost 3 hours – no bathroom stop in sight. But we’re not lacking for Crabs! Fishing village after fishing village clearly features the Crab – based on the huge flower crab at the entrance to one village, the crab pincers that formed the uprights of the bus shelters of several others, and the giant (say 40′ high) crabs outside one of the restaurants. There are bulletin boards sporting 3D crabs – one restaurant where the doorway was a pair of huge crab legs and several road side ‘eating’ places with huge boiling pots of crabs. But we are just passing thru, No time to stop and sniff the crab legs.
Somewhat sadly, the Koreans are in the process of building a highway along the coast – we can see evidence of their effort in poured elevated supports in the area we’re driving through, and north of Yeogdeok, the road turns into the newer 4 lane limited access model. This is a shame. While it will make the drive much faster – it will reduce the exploration nature of the trip, and I suspect will hurt the tiny villages that live to serve travellers on the main road north from Busan.
Yeah – 2:33 – and we finally get a rest stop. It’s been 3 and a half hours… You have got to be kidding me. There is a porto-potty rest room with 6 stalls on the lady’s side – and while it is clean – there is no toilet paper. Thank goodness for spare napkins. I grab a delicious Korean ice-cream cone, and it’s back on the bus. The driver reminds everyone to buckle up, and gives us a special hands-on example to be sure we understand and we’re off.
We’re back to 4 lane express highway – which occasionally dips down the ocean Unfortunately, the only interesting things are several fisherman drying their nets on the pavement, and the occasional swerve down to the sea for a glimpse of ocean. The beach we just passed was deserted. At first Jill and I assume it’s because it’s a tad cool even though the sun is shining, but on 2nd look I’m guessing that the barbwire fence along the length of the entire beach explains the lack of sun bathers.
I’m reminded that this is the part of Korea that the Japanese freely invaded for over 2000 years – This last time in 1905. I guess the Korean’s have a right to be a bit hesitant to leave it undefended.
I’m hoping that the beaches nearer towns are open to the public at least.
A geography observation, the mountain range that makes up the spine of Korea on the east runs roughly North South, but there are many East West running out cropping. To build the road, Korea had to build long tunnels – 2000 meter are more – going through these mountains. Kinda neat actually. The coastal plain can run from about 3000 meters wide to zero – so you can imagine the challenges the Engineers must have faced.
In 2018 this part of Korea will be hosting the Winter Olympics – but right now the cherry blossoms lining the road and the greenery cut into a 2018 Olympic logo are the only reminders of that upcoming event. Wonder if they will get to eat some Crabs?
Finally we arrive in Sokcho – get off the bus and following the advice of the RCI resort – try to get a taxi. Problem – the resort didn’t send us anything written in Korean – and of course none of the Taxi drivers understand English. We try at least 7 different cabs with no luck. But thank goodness – again – for the kindness of strangers. An expat and his Korean girl friend spot us trying to get a cab, and come over to offer help. They immediately realize that our problem is that the cabbie can’t read the address – and explain to them where to go. Now they are willing to take us! We thank them, and head off.
The Kennsington RCI resort is stunningly beautiful – and our one bedroom room is a palace compare to the places we’ve been staying. And our view of the ocean is spectacular. But there’s a few problems – even in paradise. The food here is seriously expensive – 4 times what we’ve been paying in Seoul or Busan. There’s no laundry – so its back to hand washing. Instead of free internet everywhere – I have to go down to the lobby to get access – and instead of unlimited towels – we have just 4 hand towels to last the week. Plus the kitchen has no basic supplies – not only no coffee or tea, but no salt, no oil, no pepper, no hot sauce. We’ve been spoiled by the guesthouse and hostels – so sorry Kennsington – nice lobby – but you lose big time on the service!
But we are determined to solve these issues – so while dinner tonight was instant noodles – just add hot water – by tomorrow we hope to have found a decently priced restaurant – or 2 or 3.
Signing off and going to bed – The intrepid traveler and the Soup Lady.