Liberation Day Weekend
Friday, August 15th was Liberation Day in Korea… liberation from Japanese rule. To celebrate, Alex took me to the BLT Steakhouse at the JW Marriott in Dongdaemun. He had been raving about the steak there (“best steak I’ve ever had”) so we decided to enjoy a nice (very fancy) dinner to celebrate our one-year anniversary in Korea (by eating 100% certified USDA beef!). Alex had the strip and ordered the 10 oz fillet for me (we weren’t thinking… but 10 oz was too much for me!). We started off with some really tasty (and huge) popovers (just as good as the ones at Jordan Pond House in Maine, but missing the blueberry jam). When our steaks arrived, I immediately started salivating. And the first bite of fillet was AMAZING. Melt-in-my-mouth amazing. I hadn’t had steak (or any good beef) since Christmas in the U.S. We shared some creamy spinach and garlic green beans, as well as a nice bottle of wine. And even though we were stuffed, we shared a peanut butter and chocolate mousse (a little too decadent for us!). We really enjoyed our dinner, even though the price was about twice what we would have paid in the U.S. (at an equivalent steakhouse). But, it was a nice splurge!
The next day, we decided to take a day trip (along with what felt like the rest of Korea!) to Sokcho (속초), located on the eastern coast of Korea, in Gangwon province. We arrived at the East Seoul Bus Terminal and bought tickets (only one way available) for the next available bus. The bus advertises a quick 1.5 hour trip to Sokcho, but that must be under absolutely ideal conditions… We unfortunately spent close to four hours on the bus, with the first hour stuck in traffic in Seoul, and the last hour stuck in traffic getting into Sokcho city limits. As soon as we got off the bus, we immediately got in line to buy the return tickets (for seven hours later).
We then took the local city bus through the city to Seoraksan National Park (where we got stuck in traffic going into the park). Seoraksan is the third tallest mountain in South Korea, at 1,708 meters (~5,604 feet). We knew we didn’t have time to hike the mountain (we’ll have to spend the night in Sokcho next time); we were on a “scouting” trip. We originally wanted to take the cable car up to the top, but while it was partly sunny at the base, it was very foggy near the peak.
After a lunch of bibimbap and seafood pajeon (pancake), we did a short hike up to the waterfall. Along the way, we walked across a suspension bridge. The highlight of the hike (for me) was seeing a chipmunk stuff a large piece of chocolate candy into its mouth! We stopped by a temple as well as a very large bronze Buddha before heading to the beach. We had heard so many good things about the beach, but it was extremely crowded, on both the sand as well as in the water. The beach wasn’t very long, and I thought the sand was too coarse. We sat and people-watched for a bit before heading back to the bus station.
On the way home, we hit a ton of traffic. The bus driver decided to then take us on a very small, country road where we saw nothing but dozens of “love motels” that were decorated with flashing Christmas lights. It was really sketchy. Who goes all the way out in the middle of nowhere to a love motel? (When there are so many in Seoul, haha!)
I think we’ll definitely go back to hike Seoraksan, but we probably won’t be heading to the beach again. And we will definitely NEVER travel (within Korea) during a holiday weekend again!