Seoraksan National Park

south korea

Another long weekend, another adventure.

Sokcho is on the east coast in Gangwondo.

I booked my Airbnb for February 27 & 28 on the Friday before work and finished packing when I got home. I stayed at The Red House in Sokcho which I booked on Airbnb. The location and price were both great: 30 minute walk from the park (you can also take the 7-1 bus) and $62 for two nights. Ahhhhh mazing.

I woke up around 6am on Saturday thinking I was going to get to the station and get the first bus out to Seoul. I ended up leaving my apartment about four hours after waking up. I walked to the bus station that’s about 15 minutes away and bought a ticket to Incheon. It was only ₩5000.

I waited and waited and then checked Naver again. There was a quicker route. I walked to the bus stop that was near my school, waited for the 98 bus and was off to Pyeongtaek Station. It took about 40 minutes.

Next, I walked around trying to find the station. It is kind of hidden and to the left of AK Plaza. Finally, I saw it across from Cafe Pascucci. I bought a ticket for ₩5300 to Seoul and was on my way.

The Express buses are cool cause they have their own lane. It only took a little less than an hour to get to the Seoul Express Bus Terminal.

I didn’t realize that there were assigned seats so I sat in a random seat. A lady came up to me and gave me a look. Whoops. I went to get up and switch but I think she saw my bags and was like no it’ll take too long. LOL.

I learned a few lessons on this trip. One is that you have to buy bus tickets ahead of time because the spots fill up quickly. This website is for the Express Bus Terminal though, which I learned on my way back. Also, to buy a ticket, you do need a Korean bank account. I did not have one at the time. Fun.

Luckily some of the spots kept opening up. I found a bus to Sokcho at 3:40pm. On the ticket it said 2.2 hours but it took almost 4.

When I got to the Sokcho Express Bus Terminal, I tried to give taxi drivers the address to my Airbnb but that didn’t work. I tried to take the bus but Naver was telling me that there wasn’t any information on bus 7, the one that I was supposed to take. I ended up messaging the Airbnb and they gave me the address and finally a Kakao taxi driver accepted my request.

신흥사 (Sinheungsa Temple)
김치 찌개

Right when my taxi driver showed up, bus 7 drove right on by and stopped at the bus stop. Of course.

I think it worked out better that way though because the bus would’ve taken around 45 minutes whereas the drive took about 20. It was only ₩13000 and I was EXHAUSTED.

The host was waiting for me when I got out of the taxi. He took me to my room.

The 김치 was yummy.

After settling in and cleaning up, I tried to walk to one of the restaurants near the bnb.

I say tried because my GPS ended up bringing me the opposite way. I was also on the phone with Indria so I guess multitasking is just not my thing.

I went back to the Airbnb and the hosts came out. The lady ended up driving me to 연탄구이. I got some 김치 찌개 (kimchi jjigae) and soju for only ₩13000. Indria and I had a nice virtual meal.

I went back to my room and had a nice sleep.

설악산국립공원 (Mount Seoraksan) opens at 7am and closes around 6pm.

I woke up around 8:30, went to get some breakfast at the main building for ₩5000 and was off to the park. I was there from 10-6. The admission fee was only ₩3500!!

View from the cable car ride!!

The Airbnb was only about a 30 minute walk to the park. You can also take the 7 or 7-1 bus. On the way into the park there is a 7-eleven so I stopped and got a snack. There is also a hotel, Kensington Hotel, which was much more expensive than the Airbnb was.

They also have a store inside of the park. It sells many things. I think I saw a few restaurants too.

청동좌불상

The cable car was ₩11000 and it brings you up 670m. It takes about 5 minutes to go up to the top and it also operates every 5 minutes. Pretty convenient.

Once I bought my cable car ticket, I had about an hour to kill.

I walked to 신흥사 (Sinheungsa Temple) and to the bronze buddha, 청동좌불상.

To get to 신흥사 (Sinheungsa Temple), you can walk across 3 different bridges.

The scenery throughout the whole park was astonishing. Rock balancing was everywhere. I contributed a few times.

Little store inside the park

From the cable car stop, you can go to 권금성 (Gwongeumseong Fortress). It’s about a ten minute walk. The Fortress was built by Gwon and Kim (Geum) as a shelter for their families during the Mongolian invasion. The views were exquisite! You can see the city as well as the East Sea.

After taking in the views for almost two hours, I went back down.

권금성

There’s a map of the trails right outside of the cable car building and I took a look at that and chose my next destination: 비룡푹포 (Biryong Falls). It’s between 육담폭포 (Yukdam Falls) and 토왕성폭포 (Towangseong Falls). The map says it takes about 1.5 hours and it’s 2.8km (~1.7miles) to get to 비룡푹포, so about 3 hours round trip. There weren’t that many people. I made some friends along the way. Once we reached the top, one of my friends gave me a tangerine. How cute.

Not sure why I posed so awkwardly LOL

Once I got to the frozen 비룡푹포 (Biryong Falls), there was another trail that went to 토왕성폭포 전망대 (Towangseong Falls Observatory). From the observatory, you can see 토왕성폭포 (Towangseong Falls). I wish I could put into words how beautiful the view was. The pictures will have to do.

비룡푹포 (Biryong Falls)

The hike from 비룡푹포 (Biryong Falls) to 토왕성폭포 전망대 (Towangseong Falls Observatory) took another 50 minutes and it was HARD and steep. I am also not a regular hiker so I had to take a few breaks. Of course going back down took only about 15 minutes.

토왕성폭포 전망대 (Towangseong Falls Observatory) ft. sweaty me

When I started walking down the stairs back to 비룡푹포(Biryong Falls) my legs were shaking. That day, I ended up hiking for a total of about 3 hours. Even days later my legs were still trembling.

My day at the park was completely worth it.

After a long and fulfilling day, I went back to 연탄구이 and got 김치찌개 (kimchi jjigae) and some ramen. It was a nice meal for such an eventful day.

The next and last day was my journey back to Pyeongtaek. It ended up pouring so I did not feel like waiting for the bus. I knew it was going to rain but not that much so taking the bus was a no go. The taxi was another ₩14000 and I went to the wrong station.

연탄구이 was the Two Ladies Korea edition

Another lesson that I learned: there are two terminals in Sokcho, along with other cities. Sokcho has an Express Bus Terminal and an Intercity Bus Terminal.

Since the website from above is for the Intercity, I had to take another taxi from Express to Intercity.

The next express bus wasn’t until 1:50pm and it was ₩20300. I was there around 10am. As I was leaving the express station, I was like hmmmm did I make a mistake?

rock balancing everywhere!!

When I got to the intercity terminal, the next bus was at 12:25pm and ₩19700. Yay. I was starving. I booked it and stuffed my bags away in a locker for ₩2000. You could keep your bags in there for up to 24 hours.

Little did I know there was a cafe to the left of the building. 동명카피 (Dongmyeong Cafe) had bagels!!! I got a bagel and yummy hibiscus lemon tea. I love the lemon tea here because they put the lemon peel and it adds so much flavor. They also put a lot of sugar though, which I could do without but I am no barista.

The rain turned into snow. How fun. Snow just kept coming down. We were about an hour into the drive when the bus driver turned around. I had no idea what the dude said so luckily there was a nice lady next to me and we used Papago.

Since the bus ride on the way from Seoul to Sokcho took longer than the ticket said, I asked the lady how long Sokcho to Seoul would take. She said 2 hours and 10 minutes. I think I jinxed myself?

Sokcho to Dongseoul ended up taking 6.5 hours. Luckily as we got closer to Seoul the snow was turning into rain.

Once I got to Dongseoul, I found a ticket machine and looked for the next time from there to Pyeongtaek. It was 7:07pm; I had 3 minutes to spare. Right when I got on the bus, we left.

The beautiful sunset!

40 minutes later I was walking around AK Plaza and waiting for the 80 bus that was heading to my part of town.

I ended up getting back to my apartment around 9:30pm.

After two days of traveling for about 24 hours in total, and one day filled with hiking and walking, I was exhausted.

Was it worth it? Definitely. I also learned a few lessons while traveling so that’s always good too.

Mount Seoraksan was astounding. And that was only the part that I saw. The park is huge and spreads across Sokcho, Inje, Goseong, and Yangyang. They also have shelters throughout the park but I think you have to book ahead.

Since there are so many national parks in South Korea, I’m not sure if I’ll make it back to Mount Seoraksan again. The whole trip was unforgettable.

Unyang, Gimpo

south korea

찌개

<–부대찌개

김치 찌개 –>


Top: 참치마요 김밥
Botton: 새우김밥
Pizza School

I really loved Jules’ town. Her apartment is near everything and it’s so cute.

I swear there’s more to the town than food……

There were hair salons, bars, restaurants, an emart, and Starbucks all within about a ten minute walk. We met at Starbucks a few of the mornings before starting off our day.

There was also this pizza place called Pizza School. We got pizza the first Sunday that I was there and watched some Netflix. Underneath the cheese was some corn. Interesting.

Iced tea and some shrimp pasta from Starbucks.
Lox sandwich from Salady

One of the days when Jules had school, I went to this place called Salady. It’s a chain in Korea. Jules raved about it so I had to try it. It lived up to the hype. I actually ended up going there twice.

Tuesday night after Bukchon Hanok Village, I got some 김밥 (kimbap). 김밥 is similar to sushi but I think it is a little bit sweeter.

Fake meat wrap from Salady

I got 참치마요 김밥 (tuna) and 새우 김밥 (shrimp).

On my Wednesday night there, Jules and I walked to Gimpo Han River Wild Bird Ecology Park. The park was huge. There was a building where you could walk up and there were binoculars so you could see across the river and into Seoul. They also had a map for tourists. Pretty cool.

So much to do!

Jules, Charlie, Kylah and myself went to a restaurant after our stroll through the park and got 부대찌개 (Budae jjigae). YUM.

On that Sunday, Valentine’s Day, we went to Starbucks and before I left, we went to that same restaurant and got 김치 찌개 (Kimchi jjigae).

김치 찌개 (Kimchi jjigae) was exactly the way that I wanted to end my little vacay. It’s delicious and satisfying.

The Start of My Staycation in Gimpo

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We had a long weekend for Lunar New Year (February 11 & 12)

Mozzarella fries. Yummm
Lox sandwich

I also ended up getting some of my winter break during that week sooo I had the Monday-Wednesday off for break and then Thursday & Friday off for the New Year.

On the 5th of February, I packed my suitcase before work. On the way to work, I bought a T-money card at CU. You can also get them and add money on them at 7 or any convenience store. There are different cards that you can get but I got the one that works with everything (subway/bus/train/taxi) because it makes life easier.

T-money card

There’s also an app called BucaCheck (not sure if it’s the same for Androids) where you can just place your card at the top NFC and it scans your card and tells you how much money is on it and the history of usage. Cool.

The card that I got was only ₩2200, plus however much you want to put on it. It wasn’t that hard to get the card. But luckily, the guy that worked at CU spoke English. You can also use a translator such as Papago if you have trouble.

selfiezzzz @ Bonay
On the way to Cafe Road

At 10pm I was speed walking home. I opened Kakao Taxi and was on my way.

My friend Jules that I met in Thailand lives up north in Gimpo. After (almost) three months after being here (Covid sucks!!) I was able to visit her.

The drive was not too bad. It was a little over an hour.

It’s funny cause I accidentally put the wrong address into Kakao Taxi, sooo that was fun.

I ended up walking to McDonald’s that was across the street and they had a shrimp burger and mozzarella sticks. They were both okay.

After I got my food, I had to take another taxi to get to her actual apartment.

About ₩130,000 later, I ended up outside of her apartment.

Yeah, it was a lot of money 🤷🏻‍♀️

So cute 🥰

The next day I got to meet Jules’ two friends who she works with- Kylah & Charlie. We walked our way to a tasty brunch spot called Flapjack Cafe. I got a salmon sandwich with some mozzarella fries. Yum.

After brunch, we went to Bonay Cafe on Cafe Road.

Cafe Road defines itself. The road was an interesting, deserted and winding road. Most of the cafes seemed to be closed.

The nice part about living up near Seoul is that there are subway stops at every corner. Jules’ apartment is less than a five minute walk from the station! For that reason, I was able to go to many different places that week!

Itinerary from my trip (more posts have yet to come):

  • 2/06: Flapjack Pantry, Bonay Cafe & Gurae
  • 2/07: Flapjack & Netflix
  • 2/08: Lotte Mall
  • 2/09: Bukchon Hanok Village
  • 2/10: Korean restaurant
  • 2/11: Gangnam
  • 2/12: Holly’s Cafe
  • 2/13: Hondae
  • 2/14: Starbucks & journey home

I ended up staying in Gimpo for 8 days. We had loads of fun.

I made some TikToks from my trip 😊

Bukchon Hanok Village

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Yummy bread before our meal
We got a whole head of lettuce LOL

The week that I was in Gimpo was filled with great memories.

On the Tuesday that I was there, since Jules had to work Monday-Wednesday, I ventured off on my own on those days. I also had the pleasure of meeting one of Jules’ friends that lives near Seoul.

She planned a cute day and we had loads of fun.

I hopped on the gold line at Unyang station and then went to the purple line. It took about an hour and a half to meet her friend in Jongno.

We walked around for a bit and there were a bunch of restaurants.

The roads where the restaurants were were narrow and adorable!

Mocchi & persimmon tea

We tried going into a few of the restaurants, but they had a break from 3-5pm.

We ended up finding an Italian place and it was delicious!

After eating, we walked around some more.

We ended up finding a store where we rented Hanboks! We picked out Hanboks, got our hair done and also rented a locker all for ₩25,000 (~$25). The owner was also so nice. We were able to walk around the village and take pictures for two hours.

Lovely!!

The lockers had notes written on them from a few months ago. People wrote where they were from. People visited from the US, Thailand and some other places.

We wandered about and walked the streets of the village. It was amazing.

On our journey through the village, we hiked our way up to Cha-teul Cafe and took more pictures.

We sat and drank some tea and ate some mocchi. I’ve only tried frozen mocchi and never liked it but real mocchi was AMAAAZING.

The server was genial. He told us to go and take pictures while the sun was setting.

That’s when our second photo shoot came into play.

We found a great spot that showed the city. We walked up there for a bit.

Then, we found another spot where there were mountains in the background. Amazing.

It was such a nice day out and the sunset was beautiful (pictured below). We took some photos and then went back to drink some tea.

We were right near the store where we rented the hanboks from. It only took about ten minutes to hike back down the hills to return our Hanboks.

The village is so close to Seoul and there are buses everywhere so it is easily accessible.

That day was so much fun!

A Fresh Beginning

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Khao Yai National Park, Central Thailand

Who would’ve thought that I’d be going to another country during a pandemic?

I did.

After spending ten months in Thailand, I knew that living in America just wasn’t for me anymore. I didn’t even want to leave Thailand in the first place, but I had to. When I returned home, everything was different; I was different. I felt trapped- physically, mentally, and emotionally. I realized that there was nothing there for me anymore. There was no adventure, no challenge. The pandemic changed my plans, as it did with many others.

I came home from Thailand in the beginning of March. Eight months later and here I am in quarantine waiting for the day (December 8) when I can be freeee.

The hardest part about coming home from Thailand was that I wanted to leave right away. Buttttt, the pandemic. I went from having the time of my life to being locked inside my house indefinitely, just like the rest of the world.

In June was when I had enough. I started looking into countries that would take me as an ESL teacher in the middle of coronavirus. While researching, I would talk to my friends that I met abroad and they had plans to go to South Korea.

Teaching in South Korea had crossed my mind once or twice before but I initially had plans to go to Ireland when I got back from Thailand.

The two countries that were accepting teachers in early July were South Korea and Thailand.

Pha Trom Jai Cliff
Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

I applied for numerous positions in both countries, awaiting anxiously. I can’t even remember how many recruiters I talked to. My friend found a great recruiter (orrrrr, so we thought) that helped us start the initial process.

Little did we know it would take much more time, stress, and back pain.

I would wake up early in the morning and post my resume on sites such as Dave’s ESL cafe, Gone 2 Korea, Go Overseas, ESL Rok, and several others. I joined a bunch of Facebook groups and would scroll on Google for hours.

I heard back from a good amount, but the process was difficult because I was out of the country. It ended up taking a lot of time and effort to even get schools and recruiters to answer me. My friend and I joked that searching for jobs WAS a full time job.

After months of staring at my computer, I received a job… from the recruiter who I first talked to back in July.

At first, I wanted to be placed near Seoul, just like 85% of others looking to teach in South Korea. Busan and Seoul are the top locations that everyone wants. I’m only about an hour-ish away so I settled. But, if you want a specific location then you will eventually find a job, it just may take some more time, especially during a pandemic.

For me personally, I thought it would be a good idea to be placed in an area that I was unfamiliar with. I wanted to challenge myself. And so far I haven’t regretted it.