Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Sunday, August 28, 2016 16:31:44|
Asia 2016: 13 - Yeosu to Sokcho, South Korea
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
We climbed onto a small road train that drove out a causeway to Odongo Island but saw little of interest The only building appears to be a ferry terminal and the fountain that does a water & light show at night was shut off. Marilynn opted to walk back but SJ and I rode. SJ took her to a shop to buy a phone memory card and a selfie stick. Thoroughly modern grandma keeping up with the grand kids!
The drive to Busan was to be 3 1/2 hours, but was much longer due to construct backups for miles. We turned off at a small city for a good BBQ lunch with over 20 side dishes, a new record.
Buson is the second largest city in Korea with over 3.5 million inhabitants It does not look that big, as there are a number of forested hills that the city flows around. It is the largest port in the country, with miles of container facilities along deep inlets.
Right after we arrived we drove to the beautiful Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, a location designed to blend in with seaside cliffs. It was originally built in 1376, but was burned during the war with Japan in 1592. It was reconstructed in the 1930s. In addition to the temple buildings there are six big stone stupas.
We checked into Hotel Foret, hoping for a decent place for our two night stay, but it is a large step down. Cleaning leaves a lot to be desired, the air-conditioner drain runs through a tube onto the bathroom floor, and there are no shower curtains. Internet worked well and the location is great, about 5 minutes from a wide, long golden sand beach, where we went wading in the warm water. Dinner was drinks and ribs at TGI Fridays, overlooking the beach.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
We awoke to a totally flooded bathroom. Marilynn had a shower, which sprayed more water on the floor. Bathmats and towels were soaked. To get dry it was necessary leave the bathroom for dry ground. When SJ arrived he asked for another room - they agreed. Marilynn had washed cloths, so these were arranged in the van to dry as we had to move out. SJ found a laundry service close to the hotel for my clothes.
A long drive over two massive bridges spanning entrances to the harbour got us to the Taejongdae Cliffs, where there are a couple of small pagodas, an observatory and a lighthouse on the cliff. A small tourist road train left only one high hill to climb on foot. The observatory was closed, and there were a lot of steps to the lighthouse so I waited at the bus stop. The brochure I had on the area mentioned boat tours from a bay just behind the hill forming the cliffs, so we drove there.
The 40 minute boat trip was $10 each. When we boarded some people gave us their seat at the stern of the ship, in the shade. Everyone was very friendly. As we headed out of the bay we had a following of seagulls. I was standing at the stern rail and a fellow came along offering his snacks for me to throw to the gulls. The view from the boat was perfect, we were able to see everything SJ and Marilynn had trekked to see, plus a lot more. The boat continued across the next bay, where there was a golden sand beach, before turning back along the cliffs to the dock.
Other things on the itinerary were the Oryukdo Sky Walk, Dongbeak Island and what Google says is largest shopping mall in the world, Shinsegyi Department Store. All involved longer walks that I could comfortably make, and the idea of walking around the world's largest shopping centre horrified me.
Back at the hotel we had a new room, but SJ came to see the problem. We were informed, though SJ, that the air-conditioning drip tube to flood the bathroom and lack of shower curtains are standard throughout the hotel. SJ finally convinced an employee to bring a plastic container to put under the drip tube, which we took turns emptying it each time we needed the bathroom during the night. There are lots of good hotels in this area, I would recommend a choosing something other than the Hotel Foret.
We walked back to TGI Fridays for drinks and hamburgers after checking outrageous prices in a couple of restaurants along the way. SJ picked us up at 8 PM to take us so see the Gwangandaegypo Bridge which crosses a large bay, and is lit up at night. Our viewpoint was a golden sand beach in front of the bridge and surrounded by neon lit buildings.
Friday, August 26, 2016
We happily left the hotel for the two hour drive to Ulsan. A walk through Uigi park opened onto stormy ocean and a lighthouse built in 1906, which is no longer in use. The weather has changed from extreme heat yesterday to cool temperatures and strong winds today. A good trail led to a barren rocky point with bridges over crevasses in the rock. The wind whipped ocean was pounding waves against the rocks, and we had to hang on to the rope rails to prevent being blown over. It is a beautiful spot made perfect by the stormy sea.
It was another hour and a half to Gyeonju where we visited the historic Buddhist Bulguksa Temple complex, a World Heritage Site. It was built in 751, but burned by Japanese invaders in 1593 and not completely restored until 1969-73.
Lunch was at a local restaurant in the town. The entire town has low buildings built in the traditional style, with the traditional ceramic roofs. It appears that any new construction must conform to the style, making a very attractive city of 280,000 people.
After lunch we visited the Gyeonju National Museum, dedicated to the history of the city which was capital of the Silla Dynasty from 57BC until 935. The Sillas conquered the two other kingdoms that occupied the Korean Peninsula, unifying all Korea by 676. The kings were buried in burial mounds nearby, but only one has been opened. It was cold and pouring rain, so we drove around the burial mounds before ending at the very nice Benikea Swiss Rosen Hotel. This is the same chain that provided the room with the dazzling view in Yeosu. Tonight's room has a view of a large pagoda and an amusement park with amazing roller coasters. Dinner was a forgettable meal from the hotel's limited menu.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
The first long drive today was two and a half hours to Hahoe Village in Andong. Vehicles are restricted in the village, so we walked to a bus that took us near the village. At the entrance we rented a four passenger golf cart that made an extensive tour of the large, living village possible. The village is surrounded on three sides by a river that loops around it. Roof styles here designated the status of the occupant - grass roofs tied with rope for farmers and ceramic tile roofs for scholars and officials.
The village was founded in the 15th century and attracted Confucian scholars and poets. The same clan who founded the village still live here, farming and sharing in income generated by visitors to this World Heritage Site. Many were dressed in traditional white clothes with black hats, and some had visitors to their home to participate in the old method of grinding grain or cleaning clothes.
Lunch was surprisingly good at a rest stop along the highway, however no beer. The drive was largely through high hills and frequently we could see no sign of human habitation. In tunnels there are flashing red & blue lights, police sirens and whistles designed to slow people down. On regular highways there are simulated police wands waving up and down, plus more red and blue lights that look like parked police cars at night.
Four more hours of driving got us to the delightful town of Sokcho, where the excellent Ramada Hotel is situated on landfill adjoining the breakwater that protects the perfect circular harbour. The harbour has walkways around it, then is circled by brightly lit businesses, mostly restaurants, some with tables on the edge of the harbour. They all back onto a three block long live seafood market with a walkway through it It is lined by more restaurants fronting on the next street, all with quick access to the fish market.
We had a fun meal on plastic stools near the edge of the water. At first we asked only for beer, and the young waiter laughed and laughed, but brought them. Koreans seldom go to a restaurant only for beer. He also brought a complementary plate of four marinated shrimp. People at other tables were friendly, the beer went down well, and we tried new things like sea urchin and an unidentified type of fish. When each order was placed, the waiter would cut through the tiny interior portion of the restaurant and out the back into the market, where he would buy the size and type of seafood requested live, return to the restaurant and cook it. As it got dark people bought fireworks from vendors along the walkway and shot them off over the harbour, while others were fishing. It is a magical, fun town with a film studio setting.
Back at the room we sat on our 10th floor balcony having a nightcap of Sojo, a 40% proof liquor made in the village we visited this morning. It is commercially sold throughout Korea, but with less alcohol content, and is the country's principal liquor. Below us waves crashed on the outer side of the breakwater and brightly lit buildings reflected in the calm water inside the port. A true fantasy-land. The Ramada at Sokcho, for location and facilities, takes the award for best hotel of the trip.