Flashback to the good ol’ days when Pokemon Go was still relevant, one particular seaside town in South Korea became hailed as the ‘Holy Land’ of the mobile app due to a glitch that made it possible to play the game there.
Being the only place in South Korea at that time where aspiring Pokemon masters could catch them all, Sokcho exploded in popularity. Now that the hype is over, the town has definitely lost some human traffic but that does not mean that Sokcho doesn’t deserve a spot on your travel bucket list.
Seoraksan National Park
If you are a fan of Korean culture, dramas, variety shows or even K-Pop, you should know by now that many Koreans are hiking junkies. While Seoul has its fair share of famous hiking trails, a trip to Seoraksan in Sokcho is almost an annual ritual amongst locals to see the changing autumn leaves.
There are multiple trails in Seoraksan that you can take on with varying difficulty levels, including one that requires you to camp overnight. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend the overnight trail unless you are a hardcore hiking enthusiast or have quite some time to spare in Sokcho.
Instead, a short hike to Sinheungsa followed by a slightly rugged trail en route to Ulsanbawi promises an amazing experience, a healthy amount of lactic acid build-up, and of course bragging rights from conquering (sort of) one of South Korea’s highest mountains.
Being the kiasu Singaporeans we know we are, no visit to Seoraksan is complete without reaching the peak. Thankfully, there’s a cable car that brings you all the way up, saving you the blood, sweat and tears of hiking. Tickets sell out pretty quickly though, so be sure to get them way ahead of time.
Price: ₩3,500 for adults (approx. $4.20)
Seoraksan National Park: Seoraksan-ro, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do (강원도 속초시 설악산로 설악산국립공원 외설악매표소)
While Seoraksan is undeniably the best known attraction in Sokcho, there are many hidden gems in this seaside town that tourists often miss out on. Commonly referred to as Abai Village, the word ‘Abai’ comes from the Hamgyeong-do dialect meaning ‘an aged person’.
The reason for this dates all the way back to the Korean War when many elderly people fled to Cheongho-dong from North Korea; the large number of older residents resulted in the town’s current nickname.
Apart from its rich history, the simple, rustic charms of Abai Village and the quietness of the sea gives it a uniquely calming atmosphere far from the hustle and bustle of city life. The streets in the village are also lined with small Korean houses reminding many of Seoul in the 1970s.
Price: Free admission
Abai Village: 122, Cheongho-ro, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do (강원도 속초시 청호로 122 (청호동))
Jungang Market’s Mansuk Fried Chicken
At first glance, Sokcho’s Jungang Market looks just like any traditional market you will see in South Korea. However, behind this seemingly plain facade lies one of the country’s most famous fried chicken branches — Mansuk Fried Chicken!
There’s no doubt fried chicken is an all-time favourite comfort food for South Koreans so you can expect long lines all day. I am pretty sure we have seen longer queues in Singapore though; No line is too long for Singaporeans when it comes to good food amirite?
Mansuk’s signature Dak Gangjeong may sound like a mouthful but is basically pieces of juicy fried chicken coated in a sweet and sour sauce topped off with crushed peanuts. It is available in both spicy and non-spicy flavours as well to cater to foreign taste buds.
Prices: Fried (₩15000 approx. $17.80), Regular (₩17000 approx. $20.20), Spicy (₩18000 approx. $21.40)
Mansuk Fried Chicken (Sokcho): 471-4 Jungang-dong, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Located just two and a half hours away from Seoul, Sokcho is the perfect destination for a short two-day trip or weekend getaway out of the busy metropolitan city life. Buses run regularly from both Seoul Express Bus Terminal and Dong Seoul Bus Terminal too so getting there is definitely no hassle!