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Korea's Hidden Gem: Ulleung-do Island
September 9, 2006
Ulleung-do is an idyllic island about halfway between Korea and Japan. It has a very unique history and some incredible rock formations. I spent 5 days out there, riding my bike and hiking. A nice paved road almost circles the entire island but ends in the northeast corner. The island isn't that big and a bike tour might take 6 or 7 hours in one direction. But be warned, 2 sections of the road climb in a spiral fashion over low mountains for several kilometres.
A few fishing villages along the way offer simple accommodations. More up scale rooms can be found in the port town of Dodong. Camping is also an option and may be your only option in August and also around Chusok in October during peak tourist season. During winter a lot of the accommodations and restaurants close but you can always find a place to stay.
Hiking is a big attraction for many people who come here. You can hike to a crystal clear waterfall or to the ancient Namso-ri Tombs nestled in the mountains. Don't worry about working up a sweat because the island has plenty of cold fresh water springs. The coastline also offers some great scenic hikes from one village to the next. Other activities include swimming and snorkeling but the water is a bit cold and the beaches are rocky.
And of course there is always the squid market. Ulleung-do is famous for squid. At night the squid boats light up like brilliant little stars on the water; attracting unsuspecting squid to their untimely demise. In the early hours of morning, the market is bustling with "Ajumas" (Mrs'.) slicing, dicing and stretching the fresh squid. Some will be sold fresh to local restaurants and some will be dried and packaged for mainland consumption.
One thing I liked about this trip was the lack of planning. I didn't even know where I was going to stay. I just jumped on the boat and went without knowing and discovered a great easy flowing adventure in the process. Sometimes it's nice to go some place you've never been, not knowing what will happen and just letting it happen. It just so happens the local residents love to help visitors and not only for tourist dollars but genuinely as a courtesy. One such "Good Will Ambassador" is Mr. Lim. Be sure to ask for him at the tourist booth just 100 meters up the road from the landing, everybody knows him. He also speaks very good English.
For more information, check out the Ulleung-do home page at: www.ulleung.go.kr/Ullung_English/sub2_03.html
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