We arrived in Gangneung in the late afternoon having caught a coach from Sokcho. We found luggage lockers at Gangneung's intercity bus terminal at the back of a stinking dried fish shop so we were able to dump our heavy bags for the princely sum of 4000 won (about £2.50). Finding places to dump our backpacks was to be a recurring theme throughout our journey and we were always really excited when we found suitable lockers. It's no fun sightseeing in the heat and humidity of a Korean summer with a big pack on your back. We caught a taxi into town and took a bus to Jeondongjin, a small seaside resort about 20km south of Gangneung.
All of the Gangwon Province coast seemed to be very heavily defended, presumably because it borders North Korea. The stretch of coast between Gangneung and Jeongdongjin was no exception, hence the barbed wire.
We had planned to go to the Unification Park which is on the road between Gangneung and Jeongdongjin but we realised that we would get there 10 minutes before it closed at 5pm so we decided to stay on the bus to Jeongdongjin. Jeongdongjin is a beautiful little seaside town with a nice relaxed atmosphere and some pretty surreal sights including a giant cruise ship up on a hill that has been made into a luxury hotel. There is a gorgeous little train station right on the beach too which was used in some scenes of the popular Korean soap opera 'Hourglass' (TV soap operas are as popular here as they are in the UK from what I understand). We had a really nice afternoon/ evening in Jeongdongjin, walking along the beach and stopping for a beer and some noodles (of course).
Little girl on an ATV (quad bike) on Jeongdongjin beach. It seems virtually anyone can drive these things here! (In fairness, her slightly older looking sisters jumped on and did the driving).
A Korean couple taking a stroll on Jeongdongjin beach.
We caught our bus back to Gangneung and arrived just in time to retrieve our backpacks from the left luggage before it closed at 9pm. We spoke to the really friendly people at Gangneung's tourist information who found us a cheap motel for the night (40,000 won). The tourist information here was really helpful and there was one guy who spoke excellent English. If you're ever in Gangneung I recommend paying them a visit. We liked it so much in Jeongdongjin that we wanted to come back the next day with our backpacks and stay for a day or two to enjoy the beach and the friendly vibes. This wasn't to be, unfortunately, as the weather turned on us and when we woke up the next day it was pouring with rain. Disaster! Although we were pretty disappointed, we decided to give up on the beach and go to the Unification Park for a look round the unusual tourist attractions there. We caught the train to Jeongdongjin and it was quite a pretty route that ran along by the barb wire topped cliffs of the east coast. We foolishly missed the luggage lockers at Jeongdongjin train station so we ended up carrying all our bags with us around the Unification Park in the pouring rain. The buses between Jeongdongjin, Gangneung and Unification Park are quite infrequent (maybe hourly at best) so we caught a taxi to the Park. The Unification Park contained a small North Korean submarine and a big American warship, both of which you can wander around. We looked around the warship then took it in turns to go round the sub as there was no way a person could fit through the sub with a backpack on. It was tiny and really cramped. Tourists had to wear hard hats when walking inside the sub as everyone bags their head at least once on the way through.
Welcome to rainy, miserable Gangneung! This was our second visit to Gangneung and once again it was miserable weather.
This is the American warship in Unification Park. It was built in the USA in 1945 and donated to South Korea in 1972. It was huge and had a bit of a weird smell to it and there were signs on the deck warning of the risk of a 'Snppery surface'.
This is the tiny North Korean submarine. It was only 35 m long but had a crew of 11 men and 15 soldiers so it must have been horribly cramped. This submarine got stuck on some rocks near Jeongdongjin on 17 Sept 1996. The commander of the sub killed the 11 crewmembers and landed with the soldiers and attempted to get back to the North. They didn't succeed but it took 49 days to catch them and 17 South Korean civilians and soldiers were killed in the process.
Information sign in Unification Park.
This is the wooden boat that was used by the 11 North Koreans to escape to the South as described in the sign (above).
Having seen the sights of Unification Park we made our way back to Jeongdongjin and caught a train to Donghae which was another really pretty route, all mountains and deserted coastlines. Donghae looked like a pretty uninspiring place though we spent less than half an hour there before we caught a coach on to Samcheok, the next stop on our Korean odyssey.