Monday, September 19, 2016

Pokemon Go in Sokcho

We had our first break last week for Chuseok (추석) last week and unlike last year, I opted to leave the island. One of my friends and I talked about going toward the east coast of mainland Korea since last April. We were originally thinking of camping, but with a lack of vehicle, it is kind of hard getting to any of the camping locations. So instead we decided we would head to the small coastal city of Sokcho (속초) for a couple days.
The bus was pretty comfy in comparison to the buses I've been on in N.A.
We drove through beautiful scenery as we crossed the country.
The town is not only on the sea, but also next to a chain of mountains. Even the bus trip to the city was stunning as we wove between and under. There are a couple lakes in and beside the town, too, making some stunning views.
I walked around this lake my first morning. I love seeing the mountains in the distance. 
Same lake as above, the next day. Such a stark difference.
We really didn't know what we were supposed to be doing. ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ
Being by the water, we saw so many seafood restaurants. As my friend had a seafood allergy, we didn't try any--and honestly we struggled a bit finding non-seafood restaurants. Plus, with the Chuseok holiday, a lot of restaurants and shops were closed at different times, making it even harder. ㅎㅎ But we did find things in the end.
We found these boats in a side lot. I thought they looked cool, despite being out of the water.
Heading toward the Expo-area. (Different lake from earlier pictures).
Heading down to the beach! Want to ride in a boat? 
Beach Selfie!
We stayed at the beach a couple hours until it got dark and got to see fireworks. People were setting them off up and down the beach. There were also lanterns for sale and you could write something on the thin material before releasing them into the sky. It was so pretty! (Although I wondered where the lanterns would end up landing later...).
Make a wish!
My friend, Gym Battling
Pokemon Go...

Sokcho is also the only place in South Korea that you can play the popular Pokemon Go, which has released in many countries around the world over the course of the summer. But not in Korea. Despite the fact that Korea is one of the leading gaming countries, Pokemon Go is currently in compatible because the game functions using Google Maps. A very basic form of Google Maps does exist in Korea--enough to give you a rough transit route--but not enough for the game. South Korea is still technically at war with the North, so no one knows if the government will agree to give Google what it needs to make fully working maps. Also, Naver and Daum are two Korean companies that currently monopolize the map software for the peninsula. If Google were to be added, they could also take a hit financially...

Me as a Gym Leader
How the game looks in Sokcho.
So how does Sokcho work? I don't know. It's a glitch, but one that has boosted tourism to the already popular tourist town. (For a while, you could also play in Ulsan, but I heard recently that it doesn't work as well anymore). Unlike when I opened the game in Canada, there are no streets marked. It's like your floating in a sea with random stops and gyms floating in the distance.

In some ways, it was really funny. While walking around, my friend and I saw so many people playing. Groups of friends and foreigners, yes, but also families and couples. We even saw a girl in Hanbok (한복, traditional Korean clothing) playing with her boyfriend. Near the beach, there were four Pokestops in close proximity. If you stood in the right spot, you could access three of them at the same time. People brought chairs and blankets and then camped out, setting up lures to attract more pokemon.
People crowding around the Pokestops near the beach.
Because Sokcho is the only place in Korea where you can play the game, I can see why people want to spend their vacations playing, making the most of the opportunity. But, I couldn't help feel a little sad and hollow at the thought of coming to such a beautiful town and spending all your time glued to a screen. There is so much more to see and do. My friend isn't much of a hiker, but just outside of Sokcho you can go to Seoraksan (설악산), which is one of the more popular mountains in the country. There is also a waterpark nearby (alas, no swimsuit this time), and a number of museums, too.

I'm glad I went, and I hope that I can go again to do more of the things just outside of the city. Three days was not long enough. ㅎㅎ.

And now... back to school, I suppose.

Love and Hugs

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