We had hoped to hike Seoraksan’s ‘Ulsanbawi Rock’ (read previous post here) on the second day of our 2-day trip to Sokcho. The tiredness of the previous day and the change in temperatures took a toll on us and we couldn’t wake up before six. The weather also changed drastically and clouds engulfed the mountains. There was a strong possibility of rain and we didn’t think we’d have enough time to hike the mountain and catch our bus back to Seoul. So we changed our plan and decided to explore Sokcho City instead. The bus ride from Seoraksan to the bus terminal was pretty quick on a Sunday morning.
We didn’t want to wander too far away from the bus terminal and got off at the harbour. With no mountains to block them and only an endless horizon in the distance, the clouds took over the blue sky and hid the sun. Fortunately, we had our rain jackets to protect us from the cold and rain. We walked through narrow lanes lined with stalls dedicated to fresh catch from the sea (not in pic). We saw sea creatures squirm in their tiny tanks while they waited for their sorry fate. En route, when the rain poured down, we stepped into a convenience store to pick up a warm drink and seek shelter from the rain. Finally, we reached our first stop.
Yeonggeumjeong Sunrise Pavilion
The rain had decreased in intensity by the time we reached Yeonggeumjeong Sunrise Pavilion. There were very few people at this time. I guess the rain had kept most visitors away from the coast. I’ve always loved the sea and it felt like coming home. We had about 3 hours to take in the sights and sounds of this coastal city.
1. Try not to let the wind carry you along
It was pretty windy as we climbed the steps that lead us to the pavilion. The wind took a whole new form here. My rain jacket didn’t help me at all and I thought the wind would take me with it. The slippery floor of the bridge didn’t do much for our balance. After a few unsteady steps, we finally made it to the pavilion.
2. Watch gulls enjoy a choppy glide
While we were having a tough time manoeuvring our bodies to the wind, the gulls seemed to have a good time being airborne. They screeched, circled around the pavilion, and added their own character to the roaring waves. I must have even seen them smile.
3. Listen to the waves lash across the rocks
The sea can be soothing even in its most terrifying form. Waves kept lashing across the rocks with an occasional salty shower. While we struggled to stand still or be swept by the wind; the sea continued to entertain us with its rocky ballad.
4. Play hide-and-seek with the sun
The rain eventually stopped, but the clouds refused to fade away. The sun made its presence felt whenever it found an empty patch of sky. When the sun came out, the colour of the water changed from navy blue to teal.
5. Climb the highest pavilion in sight
There was another pavilion on top of a small hill. We climbed up to reach the vantage point. Over here, the wind was howling and it got really difficult to stand still. There were few Korean families who tried to take pictures here. They smiled as we struggled with our balance.
6. Imagine lifeforms in sleeping rocks
We still had over 2 hours to kill. The lighthouse isn’t very far from the Sunrise Pavilion and we followed the coastal trail. The water hadn’t reached the edge of the coast and it exposed rocks within the seabed. We followed others and walked over the rocky trail. At some angles, the rocks transformed into shapes of sleeping amphibians or prehistoric creatures.
7. Channelise your inner photographer
With the wind more manageable on this side, many travellers explored risky photography angles. Basil found a rock that gave him a vantage view of the sea.
8. Strike a Pose
It is a bit tricky when you try to pose on a rocky surface. That didn’t stop many, including me, from trying out precarious settings. I managed to get over my fear, find the right direction of the wind, and balance on a gigantic rock. The sea didn’t look very inviting below — for a non-swimmer like me and I wouldn’t recommend this pose to anyone.
9. Try some fishy stuff
It’s hard to ignore the strong smell of fish when you’re next to the sea. And even before we could see the shore — we could smell it in the air. We couldn’t try any local delicacy because we had to get back to the terminal.
10. Get a bird’s eye view from Sokcho Lighthouse Observatory
Sockcho Lighthouse Observatory is perched on another hill. There’s a long winding staircase that leads to a bridge — connecting another set of stairs. This time, I was terrified by the wind and height. It might not seem like much on normal day.
The base of the lighthouse is pretty high up and we took a break here. Inside, there are two levels to enjoy the view of the city below. It was strange because there was no sign of any mountain in this view and had we not visited Seoraksan on the previous day; we’d believe this city to be nothing more than a rocky shoreline.