My Sokcho Adventures + Traveling Outside of Seoul

31.3.20

I have a friend who collects Funko Pops, and one who is really into dolls. We are all in our 30s age range now, but I encourage and enable my chingus whenever I find out they are into this and that.

Meanwhile, I'd like to say that I'm trying to "collect" South Korea cities.

I realized that traveling outside of Seoul makes me really excited and fulfilled. I look into my #Koreanagon Instagram hashtag with genuine happiness--like my friend looking at his shelf of Funko. So every time I go to Korea, I try my best to include a trip outside of Seoul in my itinerary.  What is your favorite South Korea city?



I've learned a few things over the years of traveling outside of Seoul. First, guesthouse is the way to go when you're traveling on a budget, but most guesthouses I've stayed in will either:

1) Entail long walks from the bus / train station,
2) Has limited space,
3) Does not have an elevator.

This is why I decided that for this trip, I am not going to bring my huge luggage from Seoul all the way to my inter-city explorations. I left my things in my Garosugil guesthouse for the convenience, and just packed a small hand-carry with me--even though this means paying for the extra nights when I won't be staying in my room in Seoul.

Where I Stayed in Sokcho

I booked for 2 nights in Sokcho & Guesthouse, which I discovered in Agoda. I always sort the listing with "lowest price first", and pick the hostel with 9.0 rating and above. I only paid Php 700+ per night for a bed in Sokcho & Guesthouse's female dormitory.


I love my experience in this guesthouse, it looks clean and pristine! I wonder if they're new. It's also not super full but also not empty, so breakfast and going around wasn't a hassle.

I also commend the guesthouse owners, they are very friendly ahjussi and ajumma. They will recommend activities for you even when you're not asking them (which is a good thing for an introvert like me hehe). Also, the ajumma even offered her discount card of the hot spring I intended to go to. I wish I could stay here longer coz I really felt good and at home in this guesthouse.


Free basic breakfast!


Here's how my 4 bedroom female-only dormitory looks like. I only had roommates on my first night, mga Koreans na nag party till 3am hehehe. The next night solo ko na yung room. It is very spacious, and again, very clean!


Like all other guesthouses I've stayed in in Korea, every bed has its own electrical outlet. I usually choose the bed nearest the window for extra space.

It was winter time so I appreciate this bed heater:


We have our own toilet and shower room:



Sokcho & Guesthouse is a bit of a walk from the nearest bus stop from Seoul, you can take a taxi if you chance upon one.

The good thing is that it is located in the city center with lots of shops and restos, and access to public transportation.



How To Go To Sokcho (From Seoul)

There are many ways you can take to get to cities outside of Seoul, including plane (Jejuair), bus, and train. For Sokcho, you can even rent a car if you have international license. During planning stage, I look for the best way to travel through Google Maps, Rome 2 Rio, and even through blogs and vlogs. I've tried all of them but my favorite is taking the bus.

Riding a bus is usually the cheaper option. You can either go to Dongseoul Bus Terminal or the Express Bus Terminal.

I took the bus from Dongseoul Bus Terminal coz it will stop in Sokcho Intercity Bus Terminal, which is nearer my guesthouse according to the owner. 

To get to the terminal, I took the subway to Gangbyeon Station. Dongseoul Bus Terminal is just across.


You can buy your one-way ticket on-the-spot at a ticket counter or vendo machine on the bus terminal. They will usually give you a ticket for the upcoming trip which is around 10 to 30 minutes from the time of your purchase. But you can also choose another time slot if you want to chill and eat first, and you're not in a hurry.

Best to secure your ticket once you reach the terminal before doing other things. Spot your platform, then go ahead and buy your snacks.



I have around 15 minutes before my bus leaves so I bought snacks first in a convenience store near the bus platform.


What I like most about taking the bus is the minimal process, no need for check-ins, show of passport, and you don't have to think of your luggage once you're inside. They also have one stopover in the middle of the journey so you can stretch, take a toilet break, or buy snacks and drinks.. Something you won't have when you take the train.

To me, a long bus ride is a nice way to relax on your seat, watch the scenery while listening to music, and a time when I can browse the internet which is something I can't do on an airplane.




About Sokcho

For this 20-day trip, I decided to go to Sokcho. I had a difficult time choosing where to go for this trip coz I've been to most of the main cities tourists go to outside of Seoul. I think I picked Sokcho just because it is located a bit north of South Korea, so there's a chance of encountering snow during my trip (which did not happen btw).

It is not my first time in Sokcho, I went here before with my family for a Mt. Seoraksan tour. Sokcho is well known for Mt. Seoraksan sight seeing, but I decided to eliminate it from my itinerary so I can go to other sites I haven't been to. Honestly, I really had no idea what to expect from this trip!





How To Go Around Sokcho 

Main mode of transportation in Sokcho is by bus, they don't have a train line here. But I noticed that buses are also infrequent, so there were a lot of instances I had to go by foot before realizing that walks here are no joke. Sobrang layo ng Point A to Point B, I think I lost a lot of weight here!

If only they offer tours around the city other than Mt. Seoraksan, I would have joined one instead. I checked both Klook and Trazy and wala pa masyadong Sokcho tours. I also saw cabs, but also as infrequent as their buses. Prepare for a flexible itinerary, and don't pack too much things in a day.


Things To Do

How do you know the must-sees in a new city? Here are some ways, feel free to add more tips on the comment box below!

Research. I usually Google for "Top things to do in (insert city)" prior my trip, and plot them in my itinerary according to locations closest to each other.

Prioritize. I also have personal preferences while traveling. Some will prioritize food trip, others will prioritize hikes, meanwhile I really love anything experiential. When I found out that Sokcho has a North Korean village and a hot spring, I made sure that I'll be able to at least go to these 2 places.

Ask. I also love getting recommendations from the guesthouse owner, or fellow guests. I you have no chance to meet one during your trip, you can also take a map from the bus terminal or information center, and check out their recommended routes.

My 3D2N Sokcho Itinerary

Day 1:

2pm: Arrival at Sokcho Intercity Bus Terminal. 
Travel time from Seoul is around 2.5-3 hours

3pm: Check in Sokcho & Guesthouse
Long walk from the bus station, but walkable. Located in Rodeo Street



4pm: Ride the Gaetbae Ferry + Stroll around Abai Village

This is just walking distance from the guesthouse. Paid around KRW 500 to cross a river with the Gaetbae Ferry, a hand-pulled ferry. This will take around 15 minutes only, or even less.

Meanwhile, Abai Village is where North Korean refugees live. They have restaurants serving their specialty Abai Sundae.






There's a nice mountain and city view from Abai Village. This left me breathless!



You can hangout in one of the restaurants or cafes located in front of the beach, which I regret I did not do:



Abai Village is also a shooting location of Kdrama Autumn in my Heart, have you seen this Kdrama?



My heart is happy whenever I'm near the beach!



6pm: Sokcho Expo Tower

Sokcho Expo Tower is a peculiar structure with an observatory. Viewing deck is enclosed, and wala masyadong guests. This can be a good thing though coz I was able to sit and just relax with the spectacular view of Sokcho and the changing colors of the sky--from daytime to night. Had a nice and quiet walk around the park before heading for the bus.

Observatory is open till 9:40pm, entrance is at KRW 2500.








Time to rest and have coffee after the long walk:

View of the Jodo Island from the observatory:

7pm: Sokcho Tourist & Fishery Market

Just across the guesthouse is the Sokcho Tourist & Fishery Market. I knew I wouldn't find something to eat here, but I still went in since I was there nadin. It started to rain ice while I was in the market, so I stayed a bit longer.

Formerly called the Jungang Market, they are well-known for their sweet and sour fried chicken and fresh seafoods.




As usual, I ended up in a convenience store close to the guesthouse. Had mild spicy cheese tteokboki and corn.





Day 2:

Breakfast at the guesthouse, was also able to talk to the owners for a bit. :)



9am: Morning stroll in Sokcho Beach

Just a bus ride away, my first stop for my one full day in Sokcho was of course by the beach. Walang tao, as expected, coz it was very early and also very cold. Got a glimpse of some of the photo zones and the Jodo Island. Sobrang nacurious ako sa island, but the guesthouse owner told me there won't be ferry services that day coz of the weather.

Decided to just walk along the whole stretch, no time pressures, till I reached the end which is the Lotte Resort Sokcho. Ang simple ng activity but I really enjoyed the quiet time.








11am: Brunch in Lotte Resort Sokcho - Filming Location of Encounter

Went here because of the Kdrama Encounter starring Park Bogum and Song Hye Kyo. This is the hotel where Park Bogum's character was sent to work! I was supposed to book for at least a night here coz rate is not as steep as I imagined it to be (Around Php 6000-7000 per night).

Lotte Resort Sokcho has a waterpark and several restaurants, but the best part is the viewing deck! Decided to let go of the overnight idea so I can save the money, and just eat here for brunch.









Screenshot from the Kdrama:


One of these scenes was shot here, yung hinahanap ni Bogum yung toy ng guest nila na bata na iyak ng iyak, hehe.

Stayed here for around 30 minutes just to stare at the beach, browse social media, and just relax.

1pm: Daepo Oeongchi Walkway

Still inside the hotel compound, there's a walkway heading to the Daepo Oeongchi! This walkway will lead you straight to Sokcho Beach again.






Screenshots from Kdrama Encounter:


3pm: Relax in Cheoksan Spa World

Took a bus to Cheoksan Spa World, a Korean jjimjilbang or hot spring near Mt. Seoraksan park. Entrance is KRW 7000, but got a discount card from our guesthouse owner so sobrang sulit!

To enter the bathhouse, you will need to strip out of your clothes and go in completely naked. As always, women and men sections are separate. Take a shower before trying the pools with different temperature. They even have a semi outdoor area where water is nice and hot, a nice contrast with the winter air. Skin felt really nice after!

Note: They will provide you with a small towel, but there are no free toiletries and even usage of the hairdryer comes with a separate fee. They have a vendo machine in the locker area where I got a sachet of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion. They also sell food and drinks at the locker area.

If you don't want to get fully naked in public, you can also try the free Cheoksan foot bath.



6pm: Last Stop: Sokcho Lighthouse Observatory / Younggeumjeong Pavilion

Wasn't supposed to go here at night, but had difficulty with public transportation coming from Cheoksan. Had to walk and walk till I reach an area where there are more buses! When I reached the lighthouse, it was already dark. I just walked around before deciding that I should just go back to my guesthouse area.

They say that these viewing decks are best for sunrise or sunset watching.






Thoughts on Sokcho

Sokcho reminds me a bit of Busan. It's a city near the beach area, and tourist spots are a bit far from each other. My next guesthouse owner in Jumujin said that they are different though, coz Sokcho is more popular for its mountains. I have to agree with him, so just imagine a city with a beautiful beach, picturesque mountains, and of course the towering buildings completing the background.

But like Busan, if you're pressed with time it is also possible to just go on a day-trip to Sokcho by going there as early as possible. You can go to Mt. Seoraksan, Cheoksan Spa World, and Lotte Resort Sokcho in just a day. Ang unique din for me ng Abai Village after realizing that Sokcho is also near the DMZ (border). Paano kayo nagpunta doon ang mga refugees? So many things will come to mind since I recently just watched CLOY hehe.

What I like about Sokcho is hindi pa siya ganun ka touristy. Super dali maappreciate ng Korea outside ultra modernization and western influences. Now that I am writing this in my room in Manila, stuck because of the lockdown, daydreaming of my long and pressure-free stroll along Sokcho Beach lends a certain calm.



Watch more here:

Part 1:


Part 2:


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⁣ Kdrama location, public bathhouse, and more. Here’s my itinerary on my one full day in Sokcho:⁣ ⁣ 1: 𝐒𝐨𝐤𝐜𝐡𝐨 𝐁𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 ⁣ 2: 𝐋𝐨𝐭𝐭𝐞 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐒𝐨𝐤𝐜𝐡𝐨 - Filming location of Park Bogum and Song Hye Kyo’s 𝐄𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫⁣ 3: 𝐃𝐚𝐞𝐩𝐨 𝐎𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐜𝐡𝐢 𝗪𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐰𝐚𝐲 - Stroll by the beach, also in Encounter⁣ 4: 𝐂𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐤𝐬𝐚𝐧 𝐒𝐩𝐚 𝗪𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝 - relaxing hot spring / jjimjilbang ⁣ 5: 𝐒𝐨𝐤𝐜𝐡𝐨 𝐋𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐎𝐛𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 / 𝐘𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐠𝐞𝐮𝐦𝐣𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐏𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐨𝐧⁣ ⁣ #sokcho⁣ #koreabyme⁣ #koreanagon⁣ #anagonvacation⁣ #kdramatour⁣ #encounterkdrama⁣
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