Sokcho is an excellent base to explore the region of Gangwon, for the few simple yet essential factors. Sokcho has a good connection to its regional attractions and other regions by bus, food and taxi is generally cheap and affordable, and it hosts Seoraksan, the most beautiful mountain in Korea, particularly in the autumn season. I do find the locals at Sokcho very friendly and helpful. Even the more senior ajummas (senior lady) or ajusshi (senior gentleman) will extend their help to you with our luggages, or with language even though, they are not proficient in English. But it is the thought that counts, and the smile that goes with the interactions. I spent 4 days at Sokcho, and at the end of it, I wanted to be back again, even if it is just to chill out and be with the locals.
1. Getting There
Sokcho is not served by train, so we recommend you arrive by express bus. There are 2 bus stations at Sokcho, the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal and Sokcho Intercity Bus terminal. Depending on where you depart from, you will arrive at different terminal. You can get more information from the page on "Healing Gangwon"
2. Area Information
Map of Key locations in Sokcho (town area)
There is an information counter at the intercity bus terminal (and express bus terminal). I did not keep a copy of the tourist map, so I worked on a copy I found on the web. The scribbles and box were not mine, I added the dots and printed words here.
Here is a brief of how I pen out my itinerary for 1 day:
Start: Intercity Bus Terminal ( My accommodation is opposite the Intercity Bus Terminal)
Jungang Market (중앙시장), also called Sokcho Tourist and Fishery Market (속초 관광수).
Steer the Abai Village Ferry (아바이마을 갯배) to Abai Village (아바이 마을)
Lighthouse Observatory (속초등대전망대)
Yeonggeumjeong(영금정) Sunrise Pavilon
Lighthouse (@ Yeonggeumjeong)
If you factor in time to eat and explore Jungang Market in detail and have a leisurely seafood dinner at the fishery market near the lighthouse, it should take up a day's time, otherwise, it should still take about 6 hours in total.
3. Moving around
The best way to move around Sokcho is to walk or take a taxi. If you are in downtown areas, that is near bus terminals and markets, you should probably walk. Traffic lights in Sokcho are minimally 3 way, and the roads are singled-lanes. So while the distance is not far, taking cars or buses in downtown areas may not be worth the time or money.
Taxi rides in general costs 3000W per 5 minutes and it works great if you are getting to less crowded areas, where local bus services may restrict your itinerary. Even if you are travelling from downtown, most of the drivers would know a short cut or two to avoid the traffic. Do note that most of the locals do not speak English, so be well prepared with names and addresses in Hangul, and print a screenshot of the map or a picture of the destination, if you can get your hands on it.
For the destinations below, I have included a "taxi helper" segment, so do use it if you are considering moving around in taxis.
A. Jungang Market (중앙시장), also called Sokcho Tourist and Fishery Market (속초 관광수)
The market is a 20 minutes walk from the Sockho Intercity Bus Terminal.
Even though I arrived at the Market during the non-peak hours, the market still has a good crowd.
If you travelling from the Intercity Bus station, the taxi ride takes less than 5 minutes. 3000w is the base price for taxis I think, so the charges probably would not get cheaper than that.
Sokcho Tourist & Fishery Market (Jungang Market)
속초 관광수산시장 (중앙시장))
16, Jungang-ro 147beon-gil, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do
강원도 속초시 중앙로147번길 16 (중앙동)
There are 3 highlights@ the market.
1. Sokcho's Snow Crab
Sokcho is the place to go for seafood that is cheap and good. Their snow crab is just- HUGE!- well at least, I have not seen such large ones in such quantities. You will also see the regular conches, mussels, sea cucumber being sold "live". The picture below showed a live octopus. Yeap- it is just one octopus in the biggest container.
At the next lanes, there are stalls selling preserved seafood and fish roes in large quantities. The fish roes sure looks like they are fresh, but the logical side of me speculates that there should not be that many fresh roes in such large quantities- it probably is preserved. Nevertheless, for those who love fish roes, this must be heaven!
2. Dak Gangjeong (닭강정)
Another highlight of the market is the many stall selling sweet crispy chicken bites or dak gangjeong (닭강정). A highly raved shop is the Mansuk dak gangjeong, which has a consistent queue at its shop.
The dak gangjeong was piping hot and packed nicely in a thick box. It is crispy and fresh, so it is definitely worth the price. However, I do not consider it cheap either. If we buy the spicy ones, it can go up to 19000W per box. Each box feeds 2-4 depending on whether you are eating it for a meal or as sides. I bought a box, and for the next few meals of the day, I am eating dak gangjeong and no other mains. If you are thinking of buying a small cup- portion for tasting- there are other shops selling them in smaller portions.
3 Abai Sundae/Sokcho Sundae/ Squid Sundae
For those who were intimated by the regular-blackish sundae in Korea, Abai Sundae from Sokcho will definitely delight you. You should be a squid lover though, because an Abai sundae consist of generous mix of squid and minced chicken, all stuffed within a whole squid, steamed and pan-fried with a coating of egg batter. The result ?-- a delightful texture of squid and chicken, harmonized by the egg batter!
Some may detect that the sweetness from the egg batter have interfered slightly with the "taste of sea (-food)". To put this sense into perspective, when you bite into the sundae, you actually have to ask yourself: is this the sweetness of an egg dish, or a seafood dish?
I found out later that the accompanying soy dip with chilly seemed to take care of this confusion. I thought that dipping pan-fried squid in soy condiments would be a odd mix, but somehow, the chilly takes care of it. Or perhaps there is something about Korean soy sauce which prevents the taste of the egg batter from taking the limelight.
B. Abai Village Ferry (아바이마을 갯배)
The Abai Village Ferry, I felt, is a greater attraction than the Abai Village itself. You don't need to use the ferry to get to the village, because it is totally accessible by land transport. However, you probably would not get the experience of the ferry ride elsewhere.The ferry dock is located at one end of the Jungang Market. We were lucky that we happen to walk in the right direction at Jungang market, so when we reached one end of the street, the dock is right in front of us.
The Abai Village Ferry is really j a boat, which is 100% manually operated and dependent on a string which connects one side of land to the other.
Each boat comes 2-3 funny looking hook, which you hook it to the rope, lean to lock the rope and start walking away from the direction you wish to go. Physics teachers should use this as an example to show the laws of Newton --"every action creates an equal and opposite reaction" and somehow that seemed to be how you get the boat to move.
The boatman himself can't overcome the inertia of the boat, so regardless of your preference, they will hand a few of the passengers the funny hooks, meaning, that you need to work for the ride. I tried it and the inertia is no joke. So yes, if you do board this ferry, do help out the boatman. Some of them looked elderly, so let's spread some kindness!
C. Abai Village (아바이 마을)
I cant quite put my fingers on how I should feel about Abai Village. Looking at the pictures above, you might think that you are in coastal areas in Europe, except that this is a picture I took from Abai Village. It was totally what I did not expect. Perhaps I can explain better by sharing a brief description of Abai Village from VisitKorea website:
"The village of Cheongho-dong is now the hometown to many people of North Korean ancestry and is commonly referred to as ‘Abai village.’ The word ‘Abai’ comes from the Hamgyeong-do dialect meaning ‘an aged person.’ Many elderly people fled to Cheongho-dong from North Korea during the Korean War; the large number of older residents resulted in the town’s current nickname.
The streets of Cheongho-dong are lined with small Korean houses reminding many of Seoul in the 1970s. The simple nature of the town and quietness of the sea make for a unique atmosphere in Cheongho-dong. This area became extremely popular after the Korean drama "Autumn in My Heart" was filmed here."
I would not say there is nothing to see at Abai Village. I found a lift to an elevated bridge at one corner of the Village and these are what I saw, from the bridge:
Small village right? But since they called the Abai village boat a ferry, I should have adjusted my expectations.
Fortunately, there are other sights in the area which made me stayed around longer:
The place has its charm, but I do not get much traces of the heritage, or the glory that comes from being a Kdrama filming venue. So what I can conclude about the visit is that the synopsis (and the ferry) brings me to the Village, found that the synopsis creates a mismatch of expectations, but appreciated the other sights it offers.
Half an hour at the village is sufficient for a visit, unless you wish to stay to get some squid sundae or drinks. I personally feel that there are more choices of sundae at Jungang market, and I have a box of dak gangjeong waiting for me.
D. Sokcho Lighthouse Observatory (속초등대전망대)
Sokcho overlooks the East Sea, and as such you can find many clusters of lighthouses built along its breakwaters. The Sokcho lighthouse observatory records the history and locations of these lighthouses. Nestled on a mount near the coast, it offers a 360 view of Sokcho city, the East Sea, its beautiful breakwaters, as well as the beautiful Sunrise Pavilon just a stone's throw away.
The flight of stairs to the observatory is no joke though. I cannot remember how many steps there are. The observatory is right in front of me, but yet I took quite a while to get to it. But as I walked up the flight of stairs, I do get to enjoy the scenery which opens up before me-- motivating!
The lighthouse is opened from 7am to 430pm daily and during summer seasons, it opens an hour earlier and closes an hour later.
Sokcho Lighthouse Observatory
8-28, Yeonggeumjeong-ro 5-gil, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do
강원도 속초시 영금정로5길 8-28 (영랑동)
E. Yeonggeumjeong (영금정) Sunrise Pavilion
The Sunrise pavilion is built at the coast of the East Sea, and is touted as Korea's best location to view the sunrise - provided that the weather permits, that is. Weather wasn't on my side during my visit, so unfortunately, I do not have pictures which can do justice to the beauty @ Yeonggeumjeong Sunrise Pavilion. If you Googled, you can see some really awesome pictures.
The pavilon is about 50 meters from the Lighthouse observatory. There were some rocky parts at the coast, which frankly gathered some trash at one corner. But if we just take in the view, it can be quite picturesque. There were 2 couples taking a nice walk, and a model trying her best to look beautiful in front of the photographer.
Here's the view of the pavilion and the lighthouse observatory.
The east sea is very chilly, so be well prepared with good wind-breakers and hoodies. You can also get a good view of the breakwater walkway which leads to a classic red lighthouse
F. Lighthouse @ Yeonggeumjeong
The walk from Sunrise Pavilion to the lighthouse is a treat. You can get an 180 coastal view of Sokcho downtown area, as well as another 180 view of other lighthouses.
4. Meal Options
There is a large fishery at the entrance of the lighthouse walkway. You can choose your seafood and they will cook it for you on the spot. I wish then that I had travelled with a big group and ordered a whole spread of snow crabs and other seafood. It just didn't make sense to order for myself, only to waste food.
Next time... I will be back!
5. Suggested Locations for Accommodations
Stay near the bus station (Intercity or express), unless you are looking for accommodations with sea view.
Staying near bus stations ensures that you get access to basic amenities such as convenience stores, food options, taxi services. Between the intercity and express bus station, I would recommend staying near the intercity bus station, as the attractions are nearby.
My recommendation for Summer is Haru guesthouse, which is directly opposite the intercity bus station. However, the rooms are from levels 3 to 5, and there are no lift. So if you always need someone to carry your luggage up the stairs, it will not happen. The staff are glad to help, but they are middle age ladies in their 30s and 50s, I think. Rates are good, breakfast is really good for the price and the place is really clean. But like all guesthouse, I would not recommend it for winter.
Between Agoda and Bookings.com, some hotels are cheaper at Agoda and some at Bookings.com. I used the services with their Apps and it works well- No more hard copy print to check into the hotel. The Apps does everything once you have booked the accommodation with them.If I have to make a comparison, bookings.com is slightly easier if you have to book different room types. Agoda's app has a better interface and a taxi helper. Both offer great services because of their responsiveness.
6. Contact me!
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