Sunday, 7 February 2010

Ulleungdo…Not Quite


This weekend, Ken and I had planned a visit to the island of Ulleungdo, just off the east coast of Pohang city. Alongside Corey and Ilana (the Andong English teachers), we were going to spend Friday night meandering about on the beach, venturing out the next morning, to the infamous island.


After stuffing ourselves with a full seafood buffet (at our favourite restaurant beside the Pohang Bus Terminal), we headed straight for the coast, looking for a motel where we could waste the night away. Our taxi driver insisted that Pohang’s reasonably-priced, coast-side motels were the best in all of Korea. Having over twenty motels to choose from – lined up along the coast – we took a stab at the one closest to the water, presenting a glorious view of the morning sunrise.

Believe it or not, we couldn’t have picked a better motel. Spacious rooms, equipped with a glass-paneled indoor balcony, we found ourselves, minutes later, gazing out into the vast black darkness of the sea. We couldn’t wait to see Nature’s glowing sunrise the next morning.



Waking up at seven-o’-clock in the morning (too early for the weekend), we all stood on our balconies, admiring Pohang’s magnificent sunrise spilling across its mountains and sea. It was the perfect start to our day…

Making sure to be at the ferry on time, we quickly split from our motel and set off towards the harbour.


We were antsy waiting in the main building to purchase our ferry tickets, but our excitement quickly waned after we saw what our wallets were in for. Regular class was a whopping $140 round trip – for one person. That meant that, for the four of us – Ken, Corey, Ilana, and I – we would be settling for a $560 boat ride to Ulleungdo (before having any actual fun on the island). It wasn’t the 24-hour trip we had imagined.

After a moment of careful deliberation, we kindly returned our tickets for a full refund and walked towards the inner city to settle our starved stomachs.


The highlight for this day turned out to be much more memorable than we had expected. After showing Ilana and Corey around the Jukdo Market and downtown area (shinae), we searched for more Pohang excursions on the internet in a PC bang (our first experience in one).

Without any luck, we taxied to the outskirts of Pohang and looked for a mountain to hike. We arrived at small hill riddled with thousands of bits of garbage. Unsatisfied, we took the driver’s suggestion to head back downtown to the Tapsan Mountain which was walking distance from the downtown district. We endured the driver’s abrupt-break-release-break-release-break-release driving for ten more minutes before arriving at our final destination.

At the base of the mountain, there was a small building, which we assumed was an information center. Going inside to investigate (well…to have a drink of water), we found that the building was actually a memorial museum dedicated to the 1950 Korean War. Pohang was the last stand against North Korean soldiers invading southwards into South Korea, where many brave high school students volunteered to fight alongside their South Korean brothers.

A quaint but historic gem in Pohang, we were amazed to be in the city that was once a battleground for Korean soldiers only sixty years ago. Photos and detailed models decorated the museum’s walls, as well as cases that held real samples of the monstrous guns that were used during the war.

As we were slowly exiting the exhibition, we were greeted by the museum’s curious curator. Clearly, many foreigners hadn’t stumbled upon this place, and he was quite excited that we had made a presence in his museum. He quickly ushered us into his office and began showing us prized photos of him with American and Korean generals. A tall, but weathered man, he still had an exuberant proud light emanating from his speech and stance.

After we signed and dated his guestbook, he gestured us towards the showroom’s main entrance. Along the main wall, there were large portrait photos of the volunteer male high school students who had fought North Korean soldiers atop of their own school’s soil. The curator pointed towards one particular photo and told us that it was his picture. He was one of the volunteers who had fought in Pohang and had even received a Purple Heart after taking a bullet through his pelvis during the fight. We were honoured to have met him. He was a walking and talking memory of the Korean War.


Climbing further up the mountain, we managed to make it to the top, where there was a tall stone marker engraved in Old Korean. The view was sensational, for we could see a 360-degree view of all of Pohang, its waters and the epic steel factory, Posco.

I think that we should just leave our trips unplanned. Who knows what we’ll encounter next weekend…

- Jess

1 comment:

  1. Hi!

    I haved lived in ulleungdo for five years.

    My hometown is Andong.

    It's a pity that you couldn't come to this island for your financial reason.

    But I think Pohang has more tourist attractions than Ulleungdo.

    So you had good Choice.

    Well... Good luck to you in korea... Bye