After a day enjoying Gyeongpo Beach and all of the shellfish we could eat, we decided to head just behind the pine trees lining the sand and enjoy the lakeside for a day. Bike rental shops and tents can be found easily, so we picked up a couple for W5,000 an hour each and went on our way. I should admit, we had ours for more than an hour and they didn’t charge us any extra, perhaps another great thing about visiting during low season.
Gyeongpo Lake means “clear as a mirror” and was formed when the mouth of the bay was closed by sand and rocks brought in by the sea currents. This area is known to be a romantic destination for couples and the saying here goes “with the moon shining in the sky, it is reflected in the ocean, on the lake, in your glass and in the eyes of your lover.” The lake is lined with cherry blossoms in the spring which is rather romantic, but if you’re like us and go during the summer not to worry, you can still see cherry blossom trees. We had to pull over in surprise on the path when we realized that some of the trees were fake and outfitted to look like cherry blossom trees in bloom. Does that really keep the romanticism alive? Also around the lake are some quite humorous statutes. For those people that want a more serious tone, there are also historical relics along the way to stop off at and enjoy as well.
The first stop for us was the Chamsori Gramophone Museum and Edison Science Museum. This museum was first started in 1982 by private collector Sung-mok Son and is the largest gramophone museum in the world, without much competition I imagine. He has collected 4,500 phonographs, 150,000 phonograph records, 1,000 books and 5,000 other items from 20 nations around the world. His first gramophone was a Columbian G241 made in the 1920’s given to him by his parents in Wonsan, North Korea. When the family fled south, this gramophone was the only thing he took with him and now has a special place in the museum. His collection is rather spectacular and if you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to spot him enjoying his collection as we did. The Lonely Planet states that tours are only given in Korean, however, there are people on staff that speak English and are more than happy to accommodate foreigners. The first hall contains 30 music boxes and a circus organ, which were in use before the gramophone was invented. Some of them still work and if you ask politely you may get to listen. There are also 350 beautifully painted gramophones of all sizes to view and this is just the introduction. The second hall contains cabinet style gramophones made in the 1920s and 1930s and the third hall contains radios and TVs produced between 1920 and 1980.
Connected to the Gramophone Museum is the Edison Science Museum, which focuses on Edison’s “three major inventions – the gramophone, the light bulb, and the projector.” The numerous light bulbs on display are a wonder and some still work today a century later making them even more spectacular. The whole place takes an hour to peruse and the staff is extremely helpful. It’s certainly a kitschy place to spend some time inside.
After the museum it was lunch time so, we headed to Chodang Sundubu Village to savor a local delicacy. This area is known for a very special kind of tofu that is made with salt water from the East Sea rather than salt mixed with water as in the rest of the country. The name of the food originates from a famous family in the 16th century named Chodang-Heoyeop. Heoyeop was the father of writer and poet Heo-gyun and poet Heonan-seolheon. There are numerous restaurants along the country road to choose from, but we opted for Chodang Halmoni Sundubu just around the bend on the right side. Anything made by a halmoni, grandmother, must be delicious, right?
Chodang Halmoni Sundubu has more than twenty years of experience and follows the traditional recipe for their delicious meals. They start making the tofu at 4 o’clock in the morning for early morning customers and continue until 9 at night. Their menu is short and sweet with only three options: Chodang tofu, Chodang tofu set and hard tofu. We ordered the set and enjoyed. The server was extremely helpful and when asked happily explained how were to eat the tofu properly (in Korean, don’t expect too much English here). It was a delicious end to our time in Gangneung.
We wrapped up our trip by hailing a bus while we were walking along a small road trying to find a bus stop. The bus driver happily opened his door, even though we weren’t at a specified stop, and dropped us at the station. Gangneung was beautiful and the people were quite friendly and hospitable. We couldn’t have had a better time there.