On March 2013, I went to Beijing for a remote sensing conference. Since Sally and I had visited China several times, we didn't feel like going to tour China again so soon. We decided to meet in South Korea on my way back from the conference. I have a few free days in Beijing all by myself and managed to roam around a bit there.
This trip was planned way before the rise in tension in the Korean Peninsula around this time. The crisis started with North Korea conducted a nuclear test in February, followed by increase in a joint military exercise by South Korea and the US. It escalated into North Korea declared the ending of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement and a state of war against South Korea. At the end of March, the hotline between the North and South was severed, ending the last resort communication link between the two countries.
We have our tickets already and decided to go on the trip anyway. We came up with contingency plans which are complicated with Sally traveling from Seattle to Seoul, and I traveled from Beijing to Seoul. In addition, we don’t have cell phones that work in either country. But we made it.
We were in South Korea for two weeks. After a few days in Seoul, we took an express bus to Seoraksan National Park near Sokcho, a coastal town on the northeastern corner of South Korea. Sokcho is only about 30 miles from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the North and South. Afterwards, we went south to Gyeongju, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla (57BC - 935BC) which ruled most of the Korean Peninsula around that time. Originally we were going to go from Sokcho back to Seoul in order to take the high-speed train to Gyeongju (we were told by the internet, what else, that this is the fastest way). However, the hotel manager at the National Park told us a faster way - ride somewhat express bus which uses a highway/freeway along the eastern coast. Indeed it turned out to be faster - the old information has the bus going along the coast route in and out of bays and towns. We took the high-speed train on the way back to Seoul from Gyeongju.
Map of South Korea: red rectangles indicate cities we visited.
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Seoul Part 1
Seoraksan National Park
Seoul Part 2