Korea Roadtrip 2015: Getting to Ulleungdo by Ferry

The next step on my Korea Roadtrip 2015 was Ulleungdo–a tiny island 80 kms east of the Korean coastline. It’s much smaller and less well-known than the famous Jeju Island. And a small island appealed to my KR2015 motto of “Sit in pretty places and write pretentiously.” However, as you might expect, getting to Ulleungdo successfully turned out to be an adventure in and of itself.

That morning I woke up at 7:00 and headed to the Pohang Ferry Terminal at 8:00. Where is this terminal? Hidden away in some random parking lot on the FAR RIGHT of Bukbu Beach.
IMG_1051    IMG_1054
Note–I was there 3 hours before I was supposed to be there. I was supposed to be on the 11:00 ferry, but I was insanely early.
“But why?” Because, despite the 10 minutes I’d spent on the phone making my ferry reservation, years of travel instincts told me that I should expect trouble.
So I found a friendly Korean clerk, showed her my ID and waited politely as she looked for my reservation. And couldn’t find it. And couldn’t find it. What a surprise!
Since it was still 2 hours until the boat left (Because boat was leaving at 10, not 11–this is why I’m paranoid!) the clerk offered to sell me an open seat. She also gave me a note with my return ferry information, my name, multiple phone numbers–it basically said, If Found Return This Dumb Foreigner To Pohang. I proceeded to head back to Bukbu beach and enjoy the emptiness while I devoured more convenience store kimbap.

The ferry ride was uneventful. Despite the dire predictions from several friends, no I didn’t puke from seasickness! In fact, the boat ride was calmer than most Korean buses. I WAS the only foreigner on board–and the only person not a) wearing fluorescent hiking gear, b) eating corn on the cob, or c) hauling boxes of peaches…Korean travel is weird.

The ferry took a little over 3 hours and I arrived in Dodong harbor–which is the major harbor on the island. I landed at  about 1:30 and got hit with the type of humidity that comes from being surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. I dodged the tourist promoters and set off to find my accommodations–meaning the place I could ditch my backpack. However, I had one more adventure.
Because I’m Jeannette (read: cheap) I was staying in a Guesthouse. Guesthouse is Korean for “hostel style dorms and sketchy concept of amenities, plus you sleep on the floor because beds are for wusses.” I’d figured out that my guesthouse was NOT in Dodong village, but the next village over, Jeondong. Since Ulleungdo is made of hills and more hills, I decided that walking was a terrible idea and proceeded to find a bus. (SPOILER: You can walk from Dodong to Jeondong along the ocean and it’s glorious. But it’s a 1+ hour hike. Do not do with luggage)
I then performed the international travelers’ time-honored Bus Dance:

The International Travelers’ Bus Dance
Step 1: Ask bus driver “Do you go to Place?” in your very best LocalLanguage
Step 2: Get blank look
Step 3: Repeat “Place?” 2-5 times until glimmer of understanding appears on driver’s face.
Step 4: Driver shakes head and shoos the foreigner off his bus.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4 with additional buses until positive answer received.
Step 6: Enter bus amid laughter from locals who didn’t expect a tourist on their clanky, janky bus.

I finally made it to my guesthouse and ditched my sweaty backpack. Then, it was time to explore Ulleungdo! Bring on the waterfalls! Bring on the squid! (To Be Continued…)

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One thought on “Korea Roadtrip 2015: Getting to Ulleungdo by Ferry

  1. Up until reading this I’d completely forgotten about the struggles of buses in foreign countries but thanks to this you gave me wonderful flashbacks to my own adventures in Mexico. The dance is real. Thanks Jeanette for the always entertaining stories.

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