Jeongdongjin.

My next stop after Seoul was Jeongdongjin beach, it was a bit late in the year for beaches, however this location is a well known spot for sun rise and sun set watching.

This place had been sold to me as a kind of fairytale, as a pathway to Gangneung, where the sunrise was the main attraction. Sounds intriguing right? Supposedly the early morning sun rising over the ocean would silhouette the train station and surrounding pine trees like something “straight out of a fairy tale”.

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Access to the beach is available from one place only, the rest is blocked by barbed wired, not so inviting.

I arrived at the station at 1am, which meant a four hour wait for sunrise, so I went to sleep on a seat. Not the most comfortable night’s sleep, but hey, it’s a fucking beach sunrise.

Jeongdongjin is a sandy area with an unusual railway station which runs alongside the sandy beach (wow who gives a shit?) But apparently, Jeongdongjin also carries a “symbolic” significance ― it’s the very first place in the whole country to see the sunrise. This place became a favourite spot among locals and has since gained widespread popularity.

It had long been something of a ritual among college first years to visit the easternmost city with friends after starting university. Travelling to Jeongdongjin is seen as a sort of coming-of-age ritual, in which students express their freedom, away from home and the “control” of their parents. They gaze at the rising sun, wishing for a hopeful future.

Sea, rocks and seagulls.
Sea, rocks and seagulls.

Koreans are like the Chinese and Taiwanese when it comes to their weird fascination with visiting popular sites en masse. The huge wave of local tourists started to flow to this area straight after it appeared as a TV series, in this specific case the beach got its popularity from a 90s soap opera. Before then Jeongdongjin and its station were relatively unknown.

Korean photographers woke up early in the morning to take pictures of the sunrise.

Off the back of the TV drama’s popularity, and with increased demand from visitors, the railroad corporation started operating a “sunrise train” from Seoul to the coastal city. The “sunrise train” was the first night train that ran for the sole purpose of taking visitors to see the sunrise at Jeongdongjin. The seats in cars of the trains face the windows directly so that passengers get perfect views of the sea. The train was a success.

Incidentally the train station has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the somewhat strange honour of being the closest train station to the ocean anywhere in the world. And yes, that is a ferry-like hotel on a hill you see there.

Train with wide windows at the train station on the beach.

Wow, well that was a wasted night’s sleep. I had a breakfast of noodles and moved on.

 

Gangneung.

Despite the fact that Gangneung is the largest city on the Gangwon-do coast its city centre isn’t very big and can be traversed on foot in 15 minutes, which I did, travelling from the east to the coast.

During my stays in cities I tend to walk around, this way I avoid getting on the wrong bus along and other similar complications.

Catholic church cross in downtown.
Catholic church cross in the city centre.
View across the city roofs and residential blocks in the distance that are very similar to soviet buildings.
Man putting up Christmas lights.

They say that Gangneung has managed to preserve some elements of Korean culture and to showcase this it holds numerous festivals during the year, but there were none while I was there.

Drying korean persimmon which koreans are very proud of. Basically if you think of korea in autumn you think of orange persimmon trees.
And dry yellow grass.

Essentially Gangneung is a pretty characterless and unremarkable city. Which kind of reminded me of some areas back home. Sorry.

Open air market.
Open air market.

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