Pokemon puts Sokcho on the South Korean tourist map, just as new Ramada opens

You may never have heard of Sokcho. I must admit that I hadn’t, until I noticed by chance that a new Ramada – apparently the South Korean seaside city’s first international hotel brand – opened there in July.

A couple of hours by bus from Seoul, Sokcho’s main draws were, until recently, its proximity to the Seoraksan National Park, its hot springs, fish market and restaurants – and its use as a filming location for the popular Korean television drama Autumn in My Heart. But in a case of perfect timing for Ramada, its opening coincided with the discovery that Sokcho was the only place in game-crazy South Korea that Pokemon Go could be played, as it lies just outside the grid that covers a nationwide government ban on the use of Google Maps data in the country. Consequently, hordes of Koreans downloaded Pokemon Go from overseas app stores and Google Play, and descended on the city en masse, filling every bus and quadrupling hotel occupancy.

“All I did was walk around for tens of kilometres to play a game,” one eager player was reported as confessing. “But I’m more satisfied with this than any other trip. I would still be in Sokcho had it not been for an urgent issue.”

If you, or your kids, want to get a piece of the Pokemon action, Sokcho – just south of the border with North Korea – is best reached by bus from Seoul. (The nearest airport is almost an hour away, so flying is not really worth the hassle or expense.) If you’re lucky, you might even be able to book a room at the Ramada Gangwon Sokcho, but the pickings are pretty slim on the hotel’s website ( See for travel information.

Illustrated journeys Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery Adventure presents a remarkably vivid selection of illustrations – from doodling to fine art – borrowed from the journals and notebooks of 70 adventurous travellers.

From the 18th century to modern times, they cover the globe, from the Antarctic to the Arctic, from the Amazon to the Nile. Recent and more familiar contributions come from the likes of Jan Morris, Colin Thubron and Bruce Chatwin.

Names that have fallen into obscurity over time include Alexandrine Tinné, who, in 1869, might have become the first European woman to have crossed the Sahara had she not been murdered in the attempt. Another, Godfrey Vigne, is described as “a wealthy lawyer who went exploring, often in disguise, to indulge his passion for art”. He spent most of the 1830s in and around the Himalayas, foreshadowing the digital camera by hastily producing portraits “for alarmed villagers or angry chieftains, who would swing from ‘fury to a chuckle’ on seeing their faces rendered in watercolour.” Published in Britain by Thames Hudson, Explorers’ Sketchbooks is available for pre-order at

Thailand hopping An affordable new short break in Thailand is on offer at the Amari Vogue Krabi that includes a half-day private long-tail boat tour of the nearby island of Koh Hong, with a breakfast picnic.

Priced from about HK$6,000 including tax and service charge for three nights accommodation, the Krabi Island Hop package also includes a private cooking class for two, round-trip airport transfers, and a 20 per cent discount in restaurants, bars and at the spa. Click the Hotel Packages link at for details.

Hong Kong Airlines flies daily non-stop from Hong Kong to Krabi, but the 2am departure and 4.30am arrival, and 5.30am return flight from Krabi, are very inconvenient. Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia have more civilised schedules, though all fly via Bangkok.

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