Korean Road Trip
Korea had a few days off for Buddha's birthday and Children's day. My place of work gave me the day off in between, plus the weekend! Since I have a car now, it's easier to visit places around Korea. Due to the short holiday, David and I decided to take a road trip down the East coast of the Korean peninsula and back up through the middle of the country. Some people call the first part of the route, the road 7 road trip. It was such a short space of time, so we couldn't see everything. We were practical and stopped at places which weren't too busy.
Our trip looked a little like this:
Gangneung > Uljin > Goesiri >Yeongdeok > Pohang > Gyeongju* > Ulsan > Busan > Eulsukdo Island > Jinju > Goryeong > Andong> Taebaek > Gangneung
*We never actually got out of the car. The place was so busy, there was nowhere to park and I was stuck in traffic for about three hours!
I'll now write an overview of the road trip. There'll be future posts about each place and what I saw at each place. It was a great road trip, I just wish we had longer in each place.
So, I drove about 80% of the whole trip which I'm quite proud of. It's the longest I have driven for and it was quite fun too. I didn't set off from Gangneung until late in the morning on the 3rd May. It was probably about 9.30 am before we left the city. Our first pitstop was Uljin as it was about a two hour drive. The town was small, so David and I had a quick lunch, looked around the town and headed straight for the next place.
We visited the Mangyangjeong Pavilion just outside of Uljin.
It was a nice place and it felt pretty good to breathe in the fresh air and stretch the legs. We were going to see a few other landmarks in Uljin, but decided to make our way south due to the time.
Just before Yeongdeok, there was a traditional village called Goesiri. People still live in this village and it comprises of old traditional houses and a museum at the top of the hill. The place was nice, and you got a feel of what it was like back in the day.
Sadly, we never got to see the Yeongdeok Sunrise park. It was heaving with people, there was no where to park so we just kept going towards the crab street. The above photo shows the statue they have just after the park. I thought it looked awesome when the sun reflected off it. All hail the crab!
Yeongdeok is famous for their crabs. There are stalls upon stalls of crab sellers and restaurants too. Sadly, we didn't eat any. I'm not too sure how sustainable these crabs are. There were masses of them, and they must catch them by trawling. If you're keen on crabs and other seafood, be sure to grab some thing though. They can cut it up as sashimi or prepare it in a way for restaurants to cook it for you. Or, buy it in the restaurant. The charge about 50,000 W for about 10 crabs.
Yeongdeok is also home to the Samsa Marine Park. It's just over the bridge from the crab street. It's a great place for families and the pavilion there has the great bell - Gyeongbuk Daejong. It's a really expensive bell which apparently costs billions of won!
It was already getting late and the sun was starting to set when we headed towards Pohang. Our hotel was located at Yeongildae beach called Valentine Motel. The night view was lovely, with the pavilion brightly lit with views of POSCO, the steel making company. Apparently, it's the first offshore pavilion in Korea. The night ended with craft beer (coke for me) and an early night.
The view from the day was also spectacular. There seemed to be some bad air pollution though. At the time, Korea was getting covered by yellow dust from China. After a good nights sleep, we ventured to Pohang's Jukdo Market.
It was a HUGE market. bigger than I've seen elsewhere. It sold many things from clothes to fish. They have a huge fisheries market where they sell the days catch.
There are rows and rows of stalls! Who do you choose? They all seem to sell things at the same price and have similar deals too.
I also came across this stall. Can you guess what it is? The commercial hunting of this animal was banned in 1986. It's still illegal now to hunt these animals but, fisherman get past it by declaring them as being caught as bycatch or they are hunted for scientific research. Would you eat it?
Check out the size of these octopuses! They were huge! How on earth do they cook these? I felt very sorry for them, stuck in the nets. I'm sure they taste delicious though.
Many vendors threw their fish on the floor. They were freshly caught, and you basically buy the whole fish and take it home with you.
Another great sight in Pohang is the famous hand in the sea. The Homigot hands. There are two hands, the right hand in the sea and the left hand directly opposite on land and is supposed to symbolise coexistence. It's a great place to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, I set my alarm and decided to go straight back to bed.
The next destination was the Guryongpo Culture and History Street. It's basically a street with Japanese buildings which were built when Japan ruled Korea. There are stairs leading up towards a park and temple. The street was a little disappointing as it was small and there were Korean buildings too which made it look so strange.
On our way to Ulsan, we decided to head to Gyeongju. It was a bit off the number 7 route, but we were told how great it was. How wrong were we? It was so busy, there were so many cars that we couldn't get parked or even move! It took three hours to get out of there and it wasted a good part of our day. I was very disappointed! The car parks were tiny and people parked all over the street. For places like this, I'd expect the local government to create more parking and also ban parking on the sides of streets. All cars had trouble getting through, which added to the congestion.
We made it to Ulsan eventually, but we weren't on track with the time and had to skip Ulsan city all together. I took a little walk along the river to stretch my legs then drove to Ganjeolgot which is a light house a bit south of Ulsan. We made it just before Sunset and managed to get some spectacular views of the ocean.
I practiced some slow photography whilst there. It needs improving, but I'm very happy with this shot. It was a nice visit. Eventually, we made it to Busan. Busan was easy to drive, which I was surprised at. It was busy like most cities but not as hectic as I thought it would be. We stayed in a hotel called Click 21 which was pretty decent. The room was big and the bed was comfy. There was also a huge bath! Busan was just like Seoul - busy! Sadly, a lot of food places closed at 9pm, but we found a very nice Japanese Izakaya. They sold many things from tan tan ramen to kushiyaki. It was delicious. I was definitely well fed that night.
The next day, it poured. We decided to head to the next destination instead of looking around Busan. We can also revisit the place when the weather is better. On our way out, we visited the Gamcheon Culture village. There are series of houses built up the mountain. But you can see the view from below or climb up the top to view it from above.
On our way to Jinju, we decided to visit the island just outside of Busan. It was on the way, so why not? It was called Eulsukdo, and it's like a nature reserve for birds. There were scooters to rent which you could ride around the island. I couldn't for the life of me steer left! I kept steering to the right and ended up crashing the scooter and running over David's foot. It was another two hour drive until Jinju.
We didn't stop again until we reached Jinju. It was pouring with rain. We braved it though, and looked at Jinju's castle and fortress. Jinju is so beautiful, even in the rain. The fortress was my favourite place out of the whole trip. It's totally worth visiting. The views from the river are amazing and at night time, the bridges are lit up.
It was a shame about the weather though! We stayed in a motel called Greece Motel. It was small but the guy was so nice! It's a typical Korean hotel, but it was clean, thankfully. We were lucky with the three hotels.
The Saturday consisted of meeting a friend in Jinju then traveling up North, back home.
Our first pitstop was the Daegaya History Park. We didn't stay long, only to refuel and a quick look around. It's a shame because the place is lovely, with history museums and also a history theme park! It's a great place to take kids on a holiday.
Our main stop was Andong. The Hahoe Folk village is just outside of Andong. It's easy to find as there are many sign posts for the place. The village still have people living in it, but in traditional thatched houses. If it wasn't too crowded, you could totally image living there back in the olden days. The things that got me the most were the mobility scooters and the golf carts. The whole place is on flat land, but people could hire them to ride around in. Any way to make money I guess...
if you visit this place, make sure you eat in one of the restaurants at entrance of the village. They sell a great dish called Andong Jjim Dalk. It's steamed chicken in a rich gravy style sauce. Delicious.
On our way out of Andong, we spotted this spectacular sunset. It was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. I've never seen the sun like this before. The pictures honestly don't do it justice.
The drive back was boring. It took over 4 hours to get back from Andong. Our route was through Taebaek mountain. I really don't advise doing this, especially at night. The roads are dark, and some roads were strange. Some idiot decided to park their truck on the road in the pitch black too! David almost drove into it as he veered around a corner. Anyways, we made it back safe and sound to a forest fire in Gangneung.
We drove into Gangneung, and on the left of us was the forest alit with flames and smoke. It was pretty scary to see. The whole town was smoky! Luckily, I think they have got most of the fire now, and are tackling the smaller ones. It's super windy still, so I'm worried the fire will spread further. Hopefully, we will be safe.
The road trip was fantastic and I got to see a lot of Korea. It wouldn't have been possible without a car. I mean, buses are fine, but they take a longer time, and they don't stop everywhere. I don't recommend going to Gyeongju during peak seasons, especially on the road 7 trip. It's a bit out the way, and super busy. It ruined our day as we didn't have time to visit other things planned.
Of course, please drive safely too if you decide to do this trip. We hope to do another road trip in the future, possibly the West Coast. It would need more days and a lot of planning though!
The road trip has made me love Korea a lot more. I'm not too keen on the Korean driver though! But, the rest of Korea is great.