Weekend in Ulsan

Another weekend, another train journey. It’s a hard life, but someone’s got to do it. The Korean soccer second division playoffs were this weekend, Goyang at Ulsan, so we headed down Saturday night (only about two hours on the KTX).

The new KTX station in Ulsan is about a thousand miles out of town, give or take a few yards. When we got off the train, it was raining and we couldn’t see any signs of civilization around the station, so we hopped in a cab and headed toward the express bus terminal. Craig had stayed in that area before and knew there were lots of yogwans. A good thirty minutes later, we arrived. It was still raining, so I told the driver to just drive around the bus terminal and stop when he got to a yogwan.

In my experience, drivers will usually balk at this, even though they are getting paid to drive. He did not. This was possibly because you could see yogwans signs from the bus terminal taxi rank where he wanted to drop us off, but I like to think he was just willing to go the extra mile, or fifty meters, as the case happened to be.

When the woman asked for 80,000 for two night, I didn’t hope for much, but not only was it clean, we had a big screen TV and a computer. There were even glasses and mugs in a sanitizer. And four towels, not two. Granted, they were the 12″x24″ Korean ones, but it’s the thought that counts.

Craig had just gotten back from Oman that afternoon and must have been a bit jetlagged, because he is usually up at the crack of dawn getting twitchy to be out doing something. Saturday morning, that something was to be a bus out to Gajisan Provincial Park for a hike up Gajisan. He ended up sleeping until 10:00, so we took a cab and started hiking at about 12:00.

It was quite foggy and we were pretending that we didn’t feel occassional drops of rain as we started off, and in the end, it didn’t ever really rain, although the fog remained fairly heavy. The ground was slippery from the previous night’s rain and the fallen leaves, though, so we made pretty slow progress. Eventually, we got to a fork and realized that the reason we had only seen two or three people in several hours was that, as usual, we had taken the road really less taken. It wasn’t even marked on the trail map. LOL

Seongnisa at Gajisan Provincial Park. Do you ever wonder if monks get jealous of other monks?

It was much more Blair Witch-y in real life.

After that, we opted for the “real” paths which alternated between gravel and cement, paved for some reason. We made it up to the helicopter pads which were supposed to be about 30 minutes from Rice Rock (쌀바위), our modified goal due to the late start. We realized that would be pushing it if we wanted to be sure to be down before dark. So, we went to the top of Sang Oon San (상운산).  For the second time in just a few short weeks, we were denied a view. The fog was so thick up there, we couldn’t see more than a few meters.

The view from the top. So worth it.

Does this mountain make me look tall?

We took our obligatory peak photo and got out of there, not even staying long enough for a late lunch. When we got back to the crossroads, we decided we didn’t want to follow the same path down. All of the Koreans were going the same way down, so we followed them. Unfortunately, it turned out they were walking to their cars about a kilometer downhill. That left us walking down the highway hopefully back to where we started, so we could get the bus back.

After walking on the highway for over an hour, we saw a sign informing us that our starting point was still over 4km away. Not much further along, we saw a duck bulgogi restaurant and decided we should have an early dinner (it was after 5:00), and then call a taxi. It was a good decision. The duck was delicious, and the owner had a dog that begged while we ate, so we fed him bits of duck, too. I think we were served an entire duck, so we weren’t exactly depriving ourselves. We left enough for a whole serving uncooked on the tray.

Nom nom nom. Duck bulgogi and way too many side dishes.

How could you refuse a face like this?

Not too far from the restaurant, we passed the train station on our way back to town. We really should have just stayed near the mountain. Live and learn… We were back in the hotel and watching Kang Ho Dong and co on 2 Days 1 Night by 8:00.

Sunday morning we were back to our usual schedule of me wanting to lie around just a little while longer and Craig wanting to leap out of bed and get the day started. We compromised by lingering over coffee at Starbucks while waiting for the shops to open.

Saturday was absolutely beautiful hiking weather. We didn’t take our jackets and Craig wore shorts. On Sunday, it had become mid-winter. Neither of us had packed enough warm clothes to sit in the evening air, so we needed some supplies. We had to wait until 10:30, but then a quick trip to Uniqlo later, we were decked out in an extra layer of clothes, plus hats, scarves, and gloves.

Suitably dressed, we headed to the dock area to the whale museum. It was lunchtime by the time we arrived, so we started at a whale restaurant with their jeong shik spread. It was really good. The owner was preparing for a wedding, and gave us an extra bowl of the hot meat he was butchering. Our meal included cold slices of cooked and raw whale as well as whale soup. It was all good. We ate until we were ready to pop and there was still a ton of food on the table.

Take a little of the greens in the background and wrap it in the whale. YUM!

Mmmm... whale's good with pear, too.

big ol' pot of whale on the bone

Lucky for the wedding party, a whale was accidentally caught in time for the reception.

the menu. There's a lot of whale, considering it must be caught "accidentally".

The whale museum was a short diversion, as it turned out. It seemed like they didn’t really know what they wanted to do with the place. There was a small room with a collection of skulls and another with whaling boat equipment, an aquarium, a “4D” movie about a whale distracting a giant squid from demolishing a mini-submarine, and rabbits in a petting zoo on the roof. I think we were there about an hour.

Then it was time for the game. It was also still getting colder. That didn’t seem to put anyone off though. The crowds were much larger than either of us had expected. We’ve been to K-League matches with fewer people. We were still able to get seats near the 50m line, though. It was a pretty good game, and I made it almost to the end of half time before crying uncle. It was just too cold. There was  a McDonald’s a few minutes away, so I headed over there and read until the game finished.

So, I guess that’s the end of my outdoor sports viewing for the year. Jeonju has the K-League final coming up, but I don’t see myself sitting outside for that one. I’ll probably just catch the bus home when Craig sets out for the game. We’ll see…