Posted on April 3, 2010


Original post dated 24 February 2009

For the first time, I saw the sun rise and set over Korea. Being on a bus heading for Sokcho at 6:30 am made it inevitable, as did the heading back at around 6 pm. On the North East coast of South Korea, right by the border with the North, I found Sokcho to be a beautiful little gem, a mixture between old fishing village and new, shop-filled city.
But before I speak about Sokcho, let me speak about the journey, because, getting there was half the fun. Drifting in and out of sleep, the mountain-filled landscape rolled in front of my eyes for around three hours and a half. What I do remember clearly, is opening my eyes at one point, and seeing that we had come along a stretch of land covered in snow. The mountains were all white, and the trees were white, sprinkled, like a cake, with sugary icing. I wish that could have been our stop, but the bus drove on, and the snow soon thinned out back into green.
When in Sokcho, Sokcho beach was the first destination. Another line on my wish list was aching to be fulfilled, my fingers wanted to hold the pen once again and cross that most desired wish out. The air was not particularly cold, but it was windy, and the wild waves were crashing randomly but constantly along the shore. I took the glove off my right hand, and made a run for the waterline. One wave hit, and the water splashed towards me. Before the incoming wave had time to pull away, I bent down and touched the pacific.



What happened during the rest of that day had a kind of magical quality to me. At first we walked along streets which had more dogs than people in them. To one side, the pacific kept splashing against the coast, but to the other side, the silent mountains, enveloped in ethereal mist which tinted them in a sombre yet soothing blue, took my breath away. I tried to capture the beauty of the sight in a shot which I have uploaded here, but it comes nowhere close to really showing what it looked like. Throughout various points of the day, my glance would, of its own accord, shift to the mountains and linger there in awe.


Finding that this part of the village was too silent for our liking, we took a taxi to the harbour area. Amongst the wonders of this part of the village, was a traditional pavillion perched on top of a small hill facing the sea, and another one at the end of a bridge right by the shore line. The breakwater jutting out into the harbour was also a promenade we leisurely walked along.



Along the harbour were many little fish shops which displayed the local fresh catch. And when I say fresh, I mean fresh. Equipped with a number of glass tanks with water filters constantly pumping water in and out, the fish were kept alive and on display for their future buyers. Looking towards one of the shops, I saw an old Korean man smiling and waving at me from behind the glass window. I smiled and waved back. He made a gesture with his hand to move closer. I did. He tried to open the window, but could not, so he signalled me to move to the front of the shop. When I got there, he came out with two cups filled with some kind of liquid which I did not recognise. My friend Sue translated what he was saying. He said that I was beautiful and that the drink in the cup was made from an extract from some tree, and would make me more beautiful if I drank it. We thanked the kind man, and continued walking. I drank the liquid. It was cold and sweet.


We braved the wind and walked up what seemed like an endless flight of steps to the lighthouse, which, standing right at the end of a cliff, provided breath-taking, 360 degrees views of our surroundings. Again, I could not take my eyes off of the mountains, the first row closest to us covered in trees, the rows behind it, enveloped in a layer of snow.
I touched the pacific. I drank a strange drink from a cup which frankly did not look so clean. I gasped for breath at the top of the first lighthouse ever to be built in Korea. I looked at the mountains and wished I could go there. I ate sweet potato rice cakes which were covered in some strange gelatinous substance which tasted good but made my stomach churn. And I seemed to be some kind of amusement for the locals.



While crossing from one side of the harbour to another on a little barge which was operated by pulling at a rope with long hooks alternatively by the passengers, I caught the attention of an old man. He smiled at me and started talking, nothing of which I understood, of course. Helping me out once again, Sue told me the man was telling me he was 75 years old. I struggled to reply in Korean what my age was, as I had, a while ago, learnt the numbers. After crossing over, he told us that I reminded him of his daughter, who was now living in Seoul. We also soon noticed, from the heavy smell of alcohol which hung around the man, that he was quite drunk. He told us that he was originally from the north, from which he had escaped at the age of 18 with his friend. He also told us that the previous night a friend of his had died at sea. Eventually we lost the man, as he stopped to give directions to a van of people and we walked on with a quick pace to have lunch.
The mountains, those beautiful mountains. Leaving was heart-breaking because I could not bear the thought of not seeing them again. Like the beauty of the majestic Han river, the image of those mountains will haunt me for the rest of my life.

– Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @

Posted in: Sokcho