14 August, 2006

Ulleungdo, August 1-3, Part 1

After lying on the beach for three days straight, Bryce and I thought that maybe we should do something semi-worthwhile with our vacation. We spent part of our Monday beach time flipping through guide books and arguing amicably about what to do, and in the end, we chose to visit Ulleungdo, an island a little bit south off the east coast.

Tuesday morning we took a bus forty minutes south to Donghae. We left in such a hurry that on arriving, we realized that neither of us had much money and had to make an emergency out-of-our-way trip to an ATM before finding the ferry terminal. Once there, we obtained our tickets without too much hassle, though they kept telling us adamantly that we didn't have the reservations that we actually did have. But we got tickets, so we didn't care.

The ferry was large but not overly luxurious. Bryce wanted more leg room, and I wanted my seat back to tip any other direction than rigidly upright, but the 2 1/2 hour ride passed fairly quickly, and we were soon stepping into the bright, steamy sunshine of Dodong-ri on the rock sticking out of the water that is the island of Ulleungdo.

Dodong-ri Harbor

A few relatively factual notes about Ulleungdo--It is about 12km across at its widest point with rugged, mountainous terrian. It was used mostly as a military outpost until the late 1800's. Its current population of about 10,000 people supports itself with fishing, farming, and summer tourism. Seonginbong (Seongin Peak) is the highest point of the island at 984m.

We walked up toward the town with little clue as to what we were doing. We had decided to travel to Ulleungdo, but the planning had pretty much stopped there. We spotted the tourist information booth and picked up a map of the island and a bus schedule, both in Korean (though Bryce and I both read Korean, it can be tedious slogging through maps and schedules).

After hemming and hawing about what to do, we settled on finding a bus to Jeodong-ri, thinking it would be less touristy than Dodong-ri. The bus schedule was not quite clear to us, as was the location of bus stop, so subsequent to turning in many circles and almost becoming really frustrated with each other (or was that just me?), we went back to the information booth to have another useless conversation about the bus schedule with the woman at the window. A Korean man who spoke a little English jumped in to help us out, and by the end of the conversation, we started to understand these key pieces of information: 'There are no rooms, the island is booked, you should stay here and let us help you find a room.'

Okay....Bryce and I would have been content to not sleep and simply roam the island with our backpacks, but they were very concerned about us, not to mention probably horrified that we had undertaken a trip with no reservations, so we tried to figure out what to do. And then our angel came. A man who spoke perfect English introduced himself as a sort of liason for English speaking tourists on Ulleungdo. Had I been less grumpy, I might have kissed him. He was very helpful to us and got us space on a floor in a minbak, a private home with very basic rooms. He told us we could choose between a small room or a slightly larger room for a little more money. He gave us his 'business card' and sent us off with the minbak owner, telling us to call him if we needed help at any point.


laufenem said...

The suspense is killing me.

Gagh said...

I Went to Ulleungdo in june 2005. Good to read that the Korean-english tourguide-man is still going strong.That man knew my position on that island 24/7..which sometimes was a bit annoying :)
Most of the time though he was really helpfull.