The October long weekend was the perfect opportunity to hire a car and explore Gangwon province. Our first stop was Hwanseongul Cave about 30 minutes outside of Samcheok. The drive took us down windy, remote roads with barely another car on the road, that quickly changed as soon as we pulled into the car park. It was jam packed, there were coach buses galore and a battle for each parking space. At this point, we knew it could go two ways; the cave would be so cool that the masses of people would fade into the background or it would be claustrophobic hell and we would hate it.
Luckily for us, there were two caves to visit, one was much closer to the car park and had a train taking visitors in and most of our fellow tourists headed straight there. Together with the hardiest of visitors dragged ourselves up 800m of paved road to the monorail station (totally more hardcore than taking the train, it goes without saying!) We were under the impression that choosing to take the monorail instead of walking to the cave entrance was the more relaxed way of doing things. Once again we were wrong, it was like going to war. Ticket in hand we walked to the monorail track only to find ourselves being shoved, barged into and fighting to get into the boarding area. The elbow action taking place was more intense than in the ladies restroom earlier that day, and that was painful. The ride up itself was great, it felt like a rollercoaster in slow motion, creeping through steep, rocky mountains. We had made it, we were finally at the entrance from the cave and raring to go.
Initial impressions reassured us that it was indeed a massive cave. We found ourselves enveloped in rock and 500m in, we couldn’t have felt further away from daylight.
This thing was not your average cave, it was not pokey or cramped. It was spacious with no end in sight. If it wasn’t for the bursts of other people exploring the cave, I could easily have scared myself into believing we wouldn’t ever find our way out. The neon lights, of course added to the natural environment while simultaneously making us feel like an extra in the Pirates of Caribbean, lurking under water somewhere in a pirate’s lair. This never ending cave is an underground wonderland, with walkways over pools and steps into caverns, unleash your inner child and get lost in it’s depths. Oh, and walk down to the car to avoid fist fighting for a space on the monorail.
For fellow pirates in disguise, here is the information you need.