As I mentioned in my last post, I just had a 5 day weekend. Instead of moping around my apartment, I decided to make the best of it and check out parts of Korea that I otherwise wouldn’t see. This is what I did.
Slightly before 9am, I met my friend Deanna at the Suwon Bus station and we jumped on a bus heading for Gunsan. We got in around noon and immediatly took a cab for the ferry terminal. We got there at 1pm after our 10 000won taxi ride. Sadly we missed the 1pm ferry by minutes. All was not lost though. Another ferry was leaving for Seonyudo at 2:30pm, thank goodness. Though Gunsan looks like a decent city, it’s not the place you want to be stuck at if, especially if the original plan is to go to a beautiful island. Seriously. We boarded the 2:30 ferry and rode it for about an hour, despite the lashing we were receiving from the cool ocean wind, we stuck it out outside, digging the scenery. We got to Seonyudo armed with nothing but our bags and smiles. After some looking around, we found an ondol (heated floor) room at a minbak (guess house) for 40 000won. It wasn’t anything special, but it was clean and had a great view. For those wondering, Seonyudo is a tiny network of 3 islands connected by bridges. It has a few mountains (hills), but it’s mainly flat. The hills are roughed and the sand is white. It’s amazing. We rented bikes from our minbak for 15 ooowon (total). It’s a good thing the island is tiny. My bike was the worst I’ve ever ridden. Ever. I’m sure the exact details of what we did on the island would be boring to read, so I’ll spare you. Just know that climbing and riding on this island will bring down your stress by 100% and convert frustration to happy. And that’s science! For supper, we (I, seeing how Deanna doesn’t like seafood) got a plate of fresh raw fish with assorted raw seafood. It’s not really my thing, but it was pretty good (for 20 000won, it had better be!). The real highlight of the meal was the cucumber kimchi though. Wow, was it ever delicious. At one point, the power at the restaurant went out. So, being the ingenious restaurant owners they were, they got us candles and got a truck to park in from of the door with its head lights on to illuminate us. That’s customer service!
On Saturday, we had to leave our island paradise. We took a ferry at 10am followed by a bus to Jeonju. We got to our second destination at around 12:50. The Jeonju Film Festival is a strange place. If you didn’t go to the “festival areas” you’d have no idea that there was something going on. Because Jeonju is such a small city (in Korean standards), the grandiose feel of the festival is a bit lost. And because we didn’t plan the trip too well, we discovered at the ticket booth that most movies (read, all but 1) were sold out. Because we weren’t leaving the festival without seeing a movie, we bought tickets to see Goodbye Solo just because it had available seats. Turns out it’s a good movie. Having seen a movie, we figured we could leave the fast-pace city life move on to our calmer next destination.
On Sunday morning, we packed up our bags and made our way down to the south west of the peninsula. After a 3 hour bus ride from Jeonju, we arrived at Mokpo. Apparently, Mokpo, like most port cities, has a fair gangster presence. It’s so bad that the city slogan, from what I hear, translates to something like “Mokpo, there are no gangsters here!”. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s pretty funny. Anyway, we go to Mokpo with one objective, get on a boat to the Sinan islands. That was pretty much as far as I had planned. I figured we’d get to the island and take it from there. So we boarded the boat and relaxed for about an hour. I had a chat with a possibly drunk man about many things. I’m being vague about our topic of conversation because he was speaking primarily Korean. It made for a fun trip.
When the boat finally docked at our port at Palgeumdo, we grabbed our things and headed off. By the time we made our way downstairs (we were relaxing on the second deck), the boat had already left the dock! Seriously. It must have been docked for like 30 seconds. That’s being generous. I suspect they just put the boat in reverse as they got close to the dock, people leaping off and throwing the cargo as fast as possible.
So we got off at the next stop at Amtaedo, which was just the next island. Since the four islands are connected by bridges, it wasn’t a big deal. We got off at the second port. The planned portion of the trip was over. We discovered very quickly that this island was much much larger than Seonyudo. I thought we could walk to a minbak or at least see them at a distance. Wrong. Since we didn’t really have anything planned, we go on a bus going somewhere. That’s all I know. There was a bus taking people somewhere and we decided to get on it. Luckily, my Korean friend was with us, so we could communicate with people. An added bonus. We got dropped off in a village somewhere. By complete chance, we bumped into a Korean man who called a friend and, through a few people, we discovered that the owners a minbak were in town that afternoon. WOW! What luck! They drove us to their minbak located 5 minutes from the beach and surrounded by trees and mountains. While our room wasn’t very good (one room smallish with dirty blankets, no bed), it was pretty cozy. Especially since we were 4. Oh well, we weren’t there to sleep, we were there to check out the nature. Take it all in before we headed back to the oppressive concrete jungle that is Seoul. Our island, Jaeundo, has the softest sand I’ve ever felt. At some points, it was almost like walking on snow. Crazy stuff.
On Monday, we explored the beach again and decided to try another minbak. We called a cab and went back to “town”. We ate at the cab driver’s Chinese restaurant. I suspect the cab driver might also be a sherrif and town physician. After lunch, we met with a man who offered to show us the island. Essentially, to be our driver for the afternoon. We saw two beaches and a fair bit of the interior. We’d get to a beach and 20 minutes later, a heavy fog would roll in. It was a beautiful sight. Seeing the fog coming in. Cool. After a few hours of driving and beaches, our driver/tour guide brought us to his pension (a house you can rent) on a wharf. Because we were there during the off season, we got a big pension for an unbelievable price. This place was much nice than our first accomodations. Much cleaner and much bigger. We had supper in town and then we hung out at the pension for the night.
On Tuesday, the last day of the vacation, our driver/host drove us to our departure point. We were all so sad to be leaving this island paradise. Just thinking about it, I get butterflies in my stomach. The same way a teenage boy would feel thinking about a girl he loves. It was so beautiful. Great friends, beautiful scenery. What more could you want?
We got to Mokpo around noon. By luck, there was a train leaving for Seoul at 1, so we hopped on and were on our way back to the real world. 4 hours later, back in my home, all I had was the sand in my shoes, the stills from my camera, the photographes in mind and teh smile on my face. I wouldn’t have done my 5 day vacation any other way.