Mokpo (with side trips to Dalli Do, Oedal Do, and Jeonju)
I’m finally catching up! This past Friday night, Craig and I caught the KTX down to Mokpo, arriving about midnight. We asked the taxi driver to take us to “the area by the sea with lots of hotels.” That confused him greatly, even though it is marked on the map as such. After a bit of back and forth in which he asked with Dong we wanted to go to (Dude, we are tourists! We don’t know the dongs of Mokpo.), he finally made a command decision, and took us to the area marked on the maps as “the area with lots of hotels” that was by the sea in front of the Peace Square.
This area was much nicer than the seaside area I’d stayed in a couple of years ago. We stayed at The Seine in a room with two full sized beds, two sofas, and a table for two, and a full sea view. Nice-uh. The only thing that wasn’t nice-uh was the nightly music which accompanied the light show in the water off the Peace Square. We were on the 10th floor, but it sounded like we were in a bar for an hour or so each night.
Last time I was in Mokpo, I suffered greatly from caffeine withdrawal: no coffee chains, not even a Coke Zero to be had. This time, we had four coffee chains in three adjacent buildings across the street from us. So, we started Saturday with hot sandwiches and coffee from Holly’s before taking the short stroll to Gatbawi. As with most of the “famous” rocks, it didn’t hold our attention for long. To its credit, it does look more like two guys wearing hats than, say, Jeju’s Yongduam rock resembles a dragon’s head.
We continued from there to the Maritime Museum and Natural History Museum, which encompasses several other museums (currency and ceramics). After considering the time, we decided we were most interested in the Natural History Museum and just went to that one. We’ve seen a lot of replica ships lately, but looking at dinosaurs and preserved animals never gets old.
After getting our fill of Neanderthal skulls, we went to the ferry terminal to get tickets for the next day, only to find out that you cannot buy advance tickets for the ferry we wanted. On the bright side, the woman didn’t even ask, she just took the tickets she had given us, and gave back our money. Craig reckons that would never happen in England. It was less than 20,000 for the two of us, so it wouldn’t have ruined our trip if we hadn’t been able to get a refund, though.
Outside of the ferry terminal is the fish market, so we had a stroll around looking at fish drying on racks and the rays which had been propped up to show off their humanoid smiles. Freaky. Enough looking at fish for sale, and we were ready to eat some. Since 90% of the businesses in the area are fishmongers or fish restaurants, we were in the right place. We were at the wrong time, though. There were busloads of tourists climbing out of buses everywhere we looked.
Not surprisingly, we just had to walk a block over and it was like a ghost town. We ended up in a restaurant with no other customers and got the full force of the family’s attention. The family who owned the place was just sitting down to eat while our food was being prepared, and the cook couldn’t let herself enjoy her meal once we were served. She removed the mussels from the shells in my soup and fileted Craig’s fish. A few minutes later, she checked out how much of the side dishes we were eating. She never offered us a refill, but pointed out her favorites, before announcing that they were all delicious, so we should eat everything. When Craig finished off his fish, she brought one off her own table and put it on his plate.
Once we had eaten everything and made some small talk, we were able to take our leave in time to go to the Mokpo City vs. Cheonan City soccer match. They are lower division teams, and so the game was at a multi-purpose venue. This one had six soccer pitches and not much else. We were at the main one, which had real grass and stands all the way around. Mokpo won 3:1. If you want to read about it, you can here, as soon as he has written about it.
Sunday morning, we got the 8:30 ferry to Dalli Do and then Oedaldo. It’s a round trip ferry which stops at several islands. So, we just got off at the the first stop, then took the next one to the next stop. The ticket collector roped four young Korean girls into making sure we got on the right boat, because we were foreigners. I sometimes love discrimination. There aren’t signs in the loading areas, so I think Koreans would be equally likely to get on the wrong ferry, but we got shown the way. 🙂
As we were getting off in Dalli Do, the ferry worker seemed really worried. A resident of the island assured us there was nothing to do or see there, and the ferry worker made sure we understood the next ferry time. They both seemed shocked that we would want to get off, even though two guys with a load of fancy fishing gear were getting off there, as well.
As it turned out, it was much bigger than we had expected, and we had no trouble walking around for two hours. We probably could have walked around for two more hours, but we had a ferry to catch, and didn’t want to worry the poor guy. The part of the island we saw was covered with fig and chili pepper farms with two churches and an elementary school that looked big enough to have one class for each grade. Several farmers all dressed in their Sunday best drove past in tractors/ riding mowers with their wives in wagons hitched on the back. The stand-out memory of the place is probably going to be the old man who stopped in the street to yell at us until we were out of sight. Well, I assume he stopped yelling when he could no longer see us, but who knows.
We made it back to the dock with ten or fifteen minutes to spare. I kind of wanted to knock on the old lady’s door and tell her we enjoyed her little island, but held myself back.
The trip to Oedaldo was pretty quick. The whole circuit on the ferry is less than two hours, in fact. Despite Oedaldo being the island which “welcomes vacationers year-round” and is a “must see for honeymooners”, we weren’t too taken with the place. Straight off the boat, we headed to the walking trail that started behind the hanok minbak. We walked ten or fifteen minutes before the trail became too overgrown and we lost it, even though it was marked with a rope. We thought we could find it further up, if we looked hard enough, but it was covered with those giant spider webs we had seen in Jungdo. As it was, we were both covered in spider silk by the time we got back to the starting point.
So, fifteen minutes in, and we were already disappointed with the place. It was noon-ish by now, so lunch seemed in order. The only restaurant that seemed to be open for business had two chair-tables, but he wouldn’t serve us at them. He wanted us to sit on the floor. Well, we are old and our knees don’t care for that kind of treatment. In the end, we had granola bars at the “flower garden” for lunch. The flower garden, our third disappointment, rates air quotes, because it was overgrown, the fountains were dry, the sidewalk was all cracked, and it just looked like it had been built and then forgotten. Oh, and there were no flowers, except for some fake roses on one trellis. There was now only one thing left to see on the island: the wooden walking path. By this point, I was assuming the planks would be rotted through and missing in places, but it was the one bright point: the entire walkway was well-maintained and clearly marked. Alas, it wasn’t enough to hold our attention for long. It led back to the dock, and we were ready to go with about thirty minutes to spare.
The four girls who had been tasked with helping us that morning were waiting for the ferry, too, and we wondered what they had done for that extra two hours. I suspect it was their high heels slowing them down.
The highlight of Oedaldo was the wait for the ferry. There was a guy manually draining his boat with what looked like the little siphons you use to drain a small fish tank, his was just super-sized. After he drained the boat, he strapped it to a giant wench-type machine and pulled it up on the dock. About the time he got the boat on land, the ferry came, so I don’t know what he did with it from there, but it was fun to watch.
Craig and I took a nap on the heated ferry floor, waking up in time to dock at Mokpo. We were back at the hotel by 3PM. We had intended to go out and do something that evening, but after lounging around reading for a few hours, we just went and had grilled shrimp and mussels and came straight back home.
Monday, we had a lie in and didn’t get up until 7:30. Lazy, I know. Once again, we had breakfast at Holly’s, then we went walking along the water in the direction away from Gatbawi. It turns out that we were only a short distance from the highway, so we didn’t follow the water for long. We turned and after a few minutes, passed a sign that said “walking path” and followed it. We ended up getting a few nice photos from the top of a hill and had a relaxing walk before getting our things and heading to Jeonju for the soccer game.