Sea and Sky in Ulleungdo
On our first morning in Ulleungdo, Tara and I decided to check out some of the beautiful natural scenery and ride the island’s cable car. This ride, which climbs up a high mountain and over a gorgeous valley, leads to to the Dokdo Observation Platform. They say on a clear day you can see all the way to contested territory. When we woke up the clouds were parting, the fog had begun to burn off, and the sun was making an appearance. Perfect conditions. We had a rough idea of where the cable car left and because it didn’t look far we figured it would be an easy walk.
The walk was fine at first. A slow stroll up one of the three main streets, past souvenir shops selling the island’s traditional pumpkin candy and sleepy little restaurants. We got to the end of the road and veered off to the right. The road gradually became steeper, but a signpost indicated that we were only about 500 meters from the cable car. We would be fine. About 100 meters up the road there was an entrance to the park. Immediately upon entering I knew I was not going to enjoy this.
The road was at an angle that I previously thought would’ve been nearly impossible to ascend without a rope or a pick axe. Benches, which I’m sure were supposed to provide a place to rest along the way, were at such a precarious angle that I was certain I would slip off immediately after sitting. With the sun beating down onto our backs, we stepped slowly as the sweat dripped off our faces, backs, and necks at an alarming rate.
Finally, we reached the top and shelled over 7,000 won (about $7US) each for our return tickets. The five minute ride crossed a deep valley and provided us with our first aerial views of Ulleungdo. Lush forests covering mountains surrounded by a jewel toned sea.
Because of some lingering fog it was impossible to see Dokdo, but the views of the island were more than enough to entirely impress us. We spent the next hour or so relaxing on the patio, with cold beers, and enjoying the peacefulness of Ulleungdo.
The next day we took in Ulleungdo’s scenery by sea. There is a boat tour that departs twice a day, at 9 am and 3 pm, from the Sadang-ri ferry terminal and circumnavigates the island. We put our things on a seat inside and spent the rest of the ride out on the deck where we had a prime spot to photograph the island as it went by.
Taking a boat ride in Korea is always a rather interesting, for lack of a better word, experience. No matter how long or short the trip, Koreans bring bags and bags of shrimp chips and then proceed to spend the boat ride feeding seagulls. The boat is then surrounded by flocks of (dirty) birds darting in and out of my photos and threatening to shit everywhere. After paying 25,000 won for a ticket I was slightly perturbed.
Luckily, as time went on the other passengers became less and less interested in the birds and the seagulls slowly retreated. Without any distractions we were able to enjoy the rock formations of Ulleungdo. My favorites were a large peak stretching into the misty clouds, looking like something out of Jurassic Park and, not surprisingly, a rock in the shape of an elephant.
Ulleungdo’s natural beauty is what makes the island an excellent place to visit. Far from the mainland and chaos of Korean cities, Ulleungdo is an unspoiled paradise worthy of a visit.