Adventure Korea Trip
September 21 to September 25, 2007
Beautiful Ulleungdo and Dokdo….
As with any Adventure Korea trip, details were well laid out and on Friday, September 21, 2007, 120 people, most being foreigners, boarded three buses and began this five-day adventure.
The bus left from Seoul at approximately 12:15 AM and headed for Chuam Beach, Gangwon-Province. As night turned into day we travelled in rain; and the beautiful sunrise that we were to see at 5:00 AM was nothing but a sheet of grey. The brave, or those who needed a break from the long bus ride ran to the washrooms and some ran towards the beach. From the darkness and rain we headed for Muk-ho Harbor to catch our 2.5-hour, 450-passenger ferry ride to Ulleungdo Island.
The ferry ride was one that many people will not forget! What was supposed to be 2.5 hours turned into 3.5 hours. The sea was very rough and many passengers were seasick. This was an experience that was torture to the majority but surreal to others. Seasickness is something that one cannot appreciate until its happening and there is no end to the nightmare until that boat stops. As one person was quoted as saying as she lay on the floor, “Please tell me this is over, please!” To make matters worse, as we approached Ulleungdo the captain came over the speaker to announce that due to bad weather, they would have to slow the boat and we would be arriving into harbor later then expected. Some words of advice: buy and take motion sickness medication before the trip! There are different kinds that can be purchased at any pharmacy, but beware; taking the medication as you board the ferry is not sufficient. Follow the pharmacist’s advice and take as prescribed. Please note; however, that not everyone is prone to seasickness. If you have never been out on the open sea before and are not used to ferry or boat rides, I would advise taking medication for precaution. And the trip continues….
Ulleungdo was in view as we slowly approached Dodong Harbor. For those who could stand to see the arrival to this mysterious Island, the information we had researched and had been given could not adequately describe the adventure we were about to encounter!
As we were late arriving to the Hotel, we quickly picked our roommates and all gathered for a late lunch of traditional Korean food. Our day ended with a beautiful walk around the coastline to the lighthouse and/or a trip up a cable car to the mountain overlooking the harbor. The trail along the coastline was relaxing but also invigorating due to its sheer beauty. The trail was carved into the black volcanic rocks and overlooked green and blue waters crashing against the rugged coastline. The view from the lighthouse was stunning! It was our first taste of the beauty the island was to offer. It was on this trail that some brave swimmers jumped into the green, warm waters surrounding the Island, and the day ended with dinner at the Hotel and many exhausted travelers hitting the sack early.
Sunday began with an optional trip to the fish market located in Jeodong Harbor and breakfast together at the hotel. After breakfast we all boarded different buses to take a sightseeing tour around the island. What began as a cloudy day turned into a brilliant, sunny dream. Along this two-lane road there were many steep hills to climb, tunnels to go through, and rock formations to see. Early in the afternoon, we arrived on the Nari Basin (a volcanic crater and the only flat area on the island) for lunch and began the hike to Seonginbong peak (984m). The restaurant provided delicious wild greens bibimbap, but no wine. What happened to the wine? It was probably a good thing there was no alcohol involved as the hike provided a challenge even to the most seasoned and cunning hiker. The hike began as a nice trek through the forest, but quickly picked up in altitude and led to (making a modern estimate) over a thousand stairs! It was well worth the challenge as the views from the peak were breathtaking. As we began our descent, the fog rolled in over the mountaintops and covered the beauty in mystery. For those who chose not to hike, a bus took them back to the hotel where they had free time to do as they pleased. Another day came to an end with dinner provided at the hotel, free time and drinks on the roof.
Monday began with an overcast day and the second early optional trip to the fish market. For those who did not make it, there was still a chance to see the famous squid cleaning activities later. At approximately 9:00 AM, all who wanted to go to Bongrae Waterfall, East Sea Observatory, and the Natural Rain Forest, headed by bus to Jeodong Harbor. When we arrived, the harbor was still very busy with squid cleaning activities. For those who had never seen such fishing activities, it was an interesting sight. Mostly elderly women squatted to clean, sort, and string squid on bamboo sticks. The men pack the loaded sticks on the trucks, ready to be taken somewhere to dry. Squid and pumpkin are the two main food attractions and exports on the island.
The walk to the Bongrae Waterfall was completely uphill but was rewarding once the waterfall was in sight. After the waterfall, those who were taking the ferry trip to Dokdo went for a quick walk around the harbor walkway, trying to get in as much scenery as possible before heading back to the hotel. For those who were not going on the Dokdo trip, an optional hike was planned to the East Sea Observatory and Natural Rain Forest. I did not go on this hike but what I heard from others was that it was very beautiful; peaceful but challenging.
The trip to Dokdo was another memory to cherish for a very long time. As we left Dodong Harbor for the 2.5-hour ferry ride, Ulleungdo’s beauty faded with the distance and soon, only open sea filled the scenery. The sky was cloudy with a hint of rain, but as we approached Dokdo the sun came out and shone on the 4,600,000 year old black volcanic rocks. Most passengers crammed on the top of the ferry to take pictures and get a clearer look at this other, mysterious island. With good weather conditions all of the passengers had the opportunity to walk on the Island and take pictures around the harbor wharf. The black rocks and interesting rock formations made this place a peaceful, beautiful island that only one family inhabits along with the Coast Guard. As we headed back to Ulleungdo, the ferry circled the island and gave us a rare glimpse of all shapes, colours and mysteries Dokdo had to offer. The ferry ride back took us into darkness and another wonder to be mentioned. As the ferry approached Ulleungdo, thousands of fishing boat lights came into view and eventually surrounded the horizon like fireflies in a jar. It was one of the most unforgettable sights I have ever seen! The day ended with our choice of local cuisine and drinks on the roof!
Tuesday was our last day on the island and for some, the dreaded ferry ride back to the mainland. This last morning was one to relax and take in all the things one wanted to capture before precious time ran out. Some walked one last time around the coastline walkway, some took the cable car up the mountain for spectacular views of Dodong Harbor and village, and some took the time to visit local shops and to stroll around the village and still others for swimming and snorkelling. At 3:30 PM we boarded the ferry for Mokho Harbor and began our journal back to Seoul. To the delight of many, the ride was smooth and much more relaxed than the one over.
The drive back to Seoul was very slow and the highways were packed with traffic. We did not arrive to the Express Bus Terminal until approximately 2:00 AM.
Adventure Korea’s second memorable trip to beautiful Ulleungdo and Dokdo had come to an end. We left with an experience never to be forgotten. Would I recommend this trip? Yes, without any doubt! Every foreigner as well as Korean should make this trip a must. The island people are kind, friendly and live a simple rural life that others envy. Many thanks and cheers to Seokjin and his wonderful Adventure Korea staff, for making this trip all that it was!
Adventure Korea Member