I am totally skipping the things we’ve done in the past weeks and writing about this because. WOW! I loooooved this trip! Okay, I love just about everywhere we go in Korea, but this was beautiful! Who knew Korea had crystal clear blue waters! Even my Korea co-worker was stunned when I showed her the pics!
And it all started off because I wanted to see a Korean sunrise. When you wake up at noon on a daily basis, sunrises aren’t something you normally see. So after a day of pandas, Africa Freedom day celebrations, and looking at gardens of rooftops in Seoul, we jumped on the midnight train to Jangdongjin in Gangwon-do province to arrive just in time for the 5am sunrise.
Dancing away with fellow Zambians
Tending to gardens on rooftops in Myeong-dong. It’s actually pretty cool. They are promoting sky scraper gardens to help prevent fires and reduce stress. Cafe on a rooftop garden after a bad board meeting? Count me in!
I digress. Back to the trip. What kind of sunset is worth skipping a night of sleep for 6 hours on the slow Korail Mughunghwa train? Well this one:
Seeing the sunrise is a Korean tradition that I am so glad to have witnessed. Traditionally, seeing the east coast sunrise is done on New Year’s Day when families travel to see the first sunset, eat rice cake soup, and with that receive good luck for the new year. This wasn’t New Year, but there were still a good 100 or so people who jumped off the train and walked the literally 20 steps to the beach. Jandongjin station is the closest station in the world to a beach. Pretty cool.
We were not the only crazies who made the trip. The train was actually full and even more people were at the station when we arrived.
Panda alert! I saw this sweater in Seoul and HAD to have it!
We walked out 20 steps and sat on the closest bench to enjoy the beautiful sunrise. Lots of selfie-sticks made an appearance as we all took impressive view in, smiling at each other like we had just witness something great together. I love the community feeling in Korea. Even with strangers, you can sometimes feel like you are with aunties and grannies.
Looking like a hobo no the beach. Suitcases and all. Just for a sunset! hahahaha
Before this I’d only ever been to the west coast beaches and while nice, the sand on the west coast tends to be muddier (hence Boryeong Mud Festival), and the waters not clear blue. The beach in Gangneung blew my mind. Where was I, Hawaii!!?
One tends to feel “smoochie” on the beach
Like most places in Korea, there is always so much more to do once you get there. Basically, there is beach, history, trails, and delicious fresh seafood. After a busy month of May, relaxation was the only thing on our to-do list. We chose to stay in Gangneung on Gyeongpo beach because there seemed to be enough to do there- Beach, a large lake, bikes, a nature park, a historical site ( related to the woman on the Won50, 000 note), water sports and restaurants (99% seafood).
Jangdongjin, about 30 minutes away, has similar minus the lake. It also has the famous cruise ship hotel and the Hourglass Park which is famous at New Year. It takes a full year to empty sand, so on N.Y.E, it’s quite special to observe the last grains drop through. R.O.K. soldiers walk the beaches patrolling for N.K fishing ships. It’s a bit odd, but just go about your way and disturb them.
One of the first things we did the first day in our sleepy state was to go on the Korail Sea-Train which is a modified (large windows and window-facing seats) viewing train that goes from Jangdongjin down to Samchoek. The trip is about 1.5 hours and the views are beautiful. For some portions of the trip, you are a bit far from the beach, but overall it was definitely worth doing. It’s a bit of a party train in that there is an MC/DJ on the train commenting on what you can see outside and playing songs in-between. You can text message to request songs too, which is fun. There is also a “car-cam” in each car. We danced and sang with new friends as the camera displayed our dancing selves on the TV screen. The Sea-train sells out fast too. We got lucky. Ideally, you should book ahead, but unfortunately the site is not the regular Korail site, but a Korean only website, so ask a friend or buy tickets in person at a KTX station.
It was a bit hard to capture what you can see from the train, but the pic below gives an idea.
One famous attraction you’ll see if you Google Gangneung is the cruise ship on land. It’s a full-sized cruise ship in Jangdongjin built on land to be a hotel. I can‘t lie, it’s pretty cool. It was way overpriced over the holiday weekend we visited, but it is usually reasonable ($90 +). So we settled on paying the $5 to tour the grounds.
So the bus from Gangneung, where our hotel was, takes you directly there, but we decided we could get off at the bottom of the mountain because it looked close. Yeah right! Cruise ships are huuuuuge! And even from a distance can look close. So….
We walked, in the heat, up the windy sidewalk-less road to hopefully reach out destination without melting away or stripping all our clothes off and getting deported for nudity. The bus driver, after making a u-turn at the hotel, came back down the mountain and waved at us, presumably thinking “dumb tourists”.
We made it.
OMG! We found it. I was starting to think it was just a mirage
Happier times. All cooled off enjoying the grounds 🙂
I thought it would be corny, but i can’t lie, it is impressive. I ‘d almost fork out the $250 to stay. Maybe next time.
There are way too many photo ops in Korea. But you don’t see us complaining! Just enjoying creating memories!
Out of the hundreds of photos I take, he finally asks for one of himself of something he likes. Okay honey! 🙂
There are 2 glass bottomed overlooks which are not for the faint of heart. One seemed sturdier than the other, but the wooden precarious looking one was more spectacular by far. You walk down the wooden staircases until you get to the glass overlook. I must say, the wood hammered into the sand didn’t look too secure, but there was no way I wasn’t trying. All I can say is thank God Korea has no earth quakes! I am pretty sure we’ve all be gonners.
Don’t be fooled by the smile. I was scared sh**less.
Things in Korea are meant for smaller Koreans, so I was worried for him! Last time we zip lined he just about brought the thing down! hahaha
Some areas on the ship are closed off to non-guests, but the top decks, tiny museum, cafes, gift shops, and rotating lounge bar at the very top is worth seeing. In the rotating lounge, $9 for a Corona is a bit much but hey, when you are on vacation a little splurge is worthwhile for the experience! There was even a duo playing piano and singing old English folk songs. Other than the sunrise the day before, sitting up there was definitely the “Aaah” moment of our getaway, when all the stress just melted away.
We only noticed the lounge was rotating after a few minutes when the musicians were no longer in front of us.
Views from the bar lounge.
Pretty nice view of Jangdongjin and Hourglass park
After that, a stroll through the gardens…..
This is the sign you make with someone to make a promise. My kids taught me that! When they make me promise that we can play a game on Fridays! haha
There is a koi pond down there too
The grounds of the hotel are well kept and really pretty.
I am carless, so Korean bus schedules have been my friend since day 1. Gangnueng and Jangdongjin are about 30 minutes drive apart and I’d say are the main attractions in the area. Samcheok is a fishing village, and I didn’t see too much in Donhae. If you have a car, there are several beaches and camping spots all along the coast that looked perfect for a restful weekend with family and friends. As we are carless, and were only there for 2 days, we settled on Gangneung and Jangdongjin. Note that the bus (city bus, not from the intercity terminal) between these two places runs every 2 hours so plan accordingly. Or you could be left sipping beers at a CU to pass the time. Never a dull moment for us , I swear God looks down and chuckles at the situations we get ourselves into!
All we needed was ramen. Boy have we assimilated!
It doesn’t get any more Korean than this!
Even though it was perfectly sunny and hot, no one was in the water! Even at the Cruise hotel, the pool was completely empty! All weekend, I saw one Australian guy jump into the crystal waters. I told this to my co-worker and she said simply, “We’ll, it’s not summer yet”. If I can wear a t-shirt and no jacket, it’s summer. Summer season officially begins in mid/end of July here so if you go before then, you’ll beat the crowds and have these crystal blue waters and all the sand you can imagine all to yourself. And yes, they do sell fireworks on the beach for added nighttime fun!
Next time , we will stay in Jangdongjin, probably at the ship hotel, but Gangneung was pretty beautiful too. Our hotel room had a balcony and beach view. No complaints.
If you get pizza here say No onions! They chopped at least 2 large onions for our CHEESE pizza. Boooo! And we were starving too.
Look at that water!That is not Photo-Shopped. Real deal!
Gangneung is known as the Pine City. Pines grow everywhere and even right next to the beach. It’s really petty. Gangwondo province is a little bit like California in that there are snowy skiing mountains in the winter, and a few miles away there is a white beach. The 2018 Olympics will be just some 50 miles away from here in Pyeongchang.
Gangneung Lake at sunset was beautiful too. We rented the bike at an hour before sunset. The lake is quite huge and the patrons emphasized that we needed to be back before sunset. Man, we cruised! When we rolled back around, they laughed and exclaimed in shock how we made it saying “WOW! Best bikers” because most people don’t go around the Lake at all! But me and my baby, we got this! Heck, we even had time for some selfies!!
SMOOCH SMOOCH EVERYWHERE WE GO!