Ulleungdo: Korea’s hidden gem (Part 1: Island cruise)

If you ask a Korean or foreigner living in Korea where the best place is in Korea, there’s a high probability that he/she will say Jeju. Others will probably say Busan. I’ve always heard how beautiful Jeju is and how fresh the air is on that island. Whenever I am asked the same question, I would always answer Ulleungdo. Of course, it came with a disclaimer that “I’ve never been to Jeju”. However, after visiting Jeju in December 2016, I can finally say with full conviction that indeed, Ulleungdo is the best place that I’ve visited in Korea so far.

Ulleungdo is an island located 120km east of Korean peninsula. In order to get there, you have to ride a ferry from Gangneung, Pohang or Mukho. Karla and I went there in June (exactly on my birthday!). We rode the ferry from Gangneung port. The trip lasted for about 3 hours. If you easily get sea-sick, I recommend drinking some medicine because you might get really dizzy due to the strong waves.

Seaspovill - The ferry we rode from Gangneung to Ulleungdo. Roundtrip ticket costs about 110,000 won (4,700 pesos).
Seaspovill – The ferry we rode from Gangneung to Ulleungdo. Roundtrip ticket costs about 110,000 won (4,700 pesos).

When we arrived, it took just about 15 minutes for the hundreds of passengers to disappear at the port area. All of them had tour groups or rented cars waiting for them. We were actually “prepared” for this too. We were planning to sleep at a campsite (which was actually promoted on the website). We even brought a tent with us. Sounds like a good plan, right?

For quite a while, Karla and I were so helpless. We couldn’t figure out where the bus stop is. We couldn’t ask in Korean.

Can we ever figure out a way to tour this island?
Can we ever figure out a way to tour this island?

We were so helpless until finally, we decided to ask for help.

Guess where we went to?

Marine police station!!
Marine police station!!

The officers were surprised to see us, of course. First, it is rare for foreigners to visit the island. Second, they have never encountered tourists who went there without booking for tours, car, etc. Because my Korean is very limited, it was difficult to communicate at first. Good thing there was an English-speaking conscripted officer, Choonghyun (he eventually became a good friend of ours!!), to help us! To make the long story short, our plan for the afternoon and the tour for the next day were finally settled. Yay!

After lunch, we were fetched by a small bus and brought to another port area where the afternoon island tour starts. Note that at that time, we didn’t have any accommodation yet. The available ones were asking for a price of 50,000 won which we were not willing to pay. Lol. While waiting for the island tour, we spent the time walking and just enjoying the fresh air.20160601_142703

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It’s time for another ferry ride!

Two-hour cruise around the island costs 25,000 won (1,050 pesos)
Two-hour cruise (goes around the island twice) costs 25,000 won (1,050 pesos) per person

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The ahjummas and ahjussis were feeding the birds with crackers. No wonder the birds kept us company the whole time!

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After the cruise, we went back to the downtown area to look for accommodation once again. This time, it was easier to haggle because it was almost night time.

Karla looks happy with our room choice. Lol
Karla looked satisfied with our room choice. Haha

On my next blog post, I will be sharing about our whole day tour for our second day in Ulleungdo. Stay tuned!

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