Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Gangwon-do, South Korea: From Mount Sorak to Pyeongchang

Mount Sorak, or Seoraksan, located in the northeastern part of South Korea, marked the start of our adventure-filled day (NAMI ISLAND & JEJU THROUGH MY LENS). This majestic mountain, part of the Taebaek range within Seoraksan National Park, spans the provinces of Gangwon-do, including Sokcho, Inje, and Yangyang. Renowned for its rugged peaks, dense forests, and stunning waterfalls, the park offered us a serene and picturesque setting.

Our group, moving like one happy family, enjoyed fun moments as we walked through the park, passing by towering red pine trees. Our first stop was the Bronze Jwabul Statue, also known as the Tongil Daebul, erected in 1997. Standing 14.6 meters tall, this statue symbolizes the hope for the reunification of North and South Korea and represents the moment of the Buddha's enlightenment. Nearby, we visited Sinheungsa Temple, one of Korea's oldest Zen Buddhist temples, dating back to the 7th century. Joining in the prayers for a few minutes, I felt a profound sense of calm and zen spirituality (KYOTO ZENFUL SIGHTS & VARANASI SACRED GANGES).


Next, we took a cable car ride to enjoy the breathtaking views of Mount Sorak, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve home to diverse flora and fauna. Spending three hours in leisure, I climbed a bit higher and sat on a rock, soaking in the serene surroundings.

After lunch, we headed to Jeongdongjin, a favorite spot among locals and famous for the soap opera Moraeshigae (Hourglass). Here, we admired the world's largest hourglass, an 8.06-meter-tall structure that measures the passage of an entire year. This colossal timepiece, positioned along the picturesque coastline, symbolizes the flow of time. The nearby Time Museum offered an array of historical timekeeping devices, showcasing humanity's evolving relationship with time.

Our final stop was Daegwallyeong Sheep Ranch, where we enjoyed feeding the sheep and a hands-on cheese-making experience. Boiling milk, adding vinegar, and pressing the mixture into cheese decorated with flowers was both fun and rewarding. We nibbled on our self-made cheese, accompanied by free-flowing wine and snacks, wrapping up a truly enjoyable day filled with diverse experiences.

Overnight at InterContinental Alpensia Pyeongchang Resort was pure magic. The room was spacious and spotless, with a generous balcony offering views of Alpensia resort. I spent the evening soaking in the cool breeze, making it hard to leave. The next morning, I woke to breathtaking scenery. Breakfast at the resort was a feast of Western and Korean delights. Opting for porridge with fried anchovies, peanuts, and pickled green chili, washed down with steaming coffee, was a perfect start to the day (OTARU NOSTALGIC & NEW DELHI REVELATION).

Afterwards, we visited a ginseng cottage industry in Yongjin, where we had a hands-on experience making kimchi. While I didn't buy any of the kimchi or ginseng products on offer, I couldn't resist trying them. What truly intrigued me, though, was the chance to try on a "Hanbok," Korea's traditional attire, and pose for pictures - a delightful cultural immersion that left me captivated.

After the fun, when we arrived at Everland, the weather took a turn. I hadn't packed an umbrella, and despite the oversight, my tour guide didn't offer one. I ended up sharing with a fellow traveler as we explored Everland. The park was vibrant and bustling with people. We started with a thrilling safari, where we got up watch the bears and majestic lions, from the closed door bus. After the safari, I ventured off alone to experience indoor activities like the Hammer House of Horror and thrilling rides.

Just as I was getting into the swing of things, disaster struck -rain poured relentlessly. I took refuge in a covered dining area, munching on a quick bite and waiting out the downpour for what felt like hours. It was frustrating missing out on rides and activities due to the weather.

Back in Seoul, we checked into a different hotel, skipping dinner and heading straight to bed after a refreshing shower.

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