Monday, December 21, 2009

Mysterious island Ulleungdo

Ulleungdo is one of Korea's islands, it is not very far from Japan and the famous Dokdo island. Dokdo is forty-five minutes away from Ulleungdo. Why mention Dokdo? Dokdo is a Korean territory which the Japanese claim is theirs. A hundred and thirty of us set out on our unforgettable trip to Ulleungdo. We left for Pohang after midnight. The bus ride to Pohang was an interesting one, at least it was for me; I was sitting next to someone who was very quiet. My friends and I tried to sit next to each other but we could not because people were already seated when we got on the bus. I had no option but to sit next to a total stranger. Although he looked like he was sleeping when we got on the bus, I still do not think that the person who sat next to me on our way to Pohang was asleep. He was just pretending to be asleep. I must say, I was glad he was not interested in having small talk with me. I just wanted to rest or read and not do much talking, we were a perfect match. I had a pleasant journey sitting next to him. I did not even get his name, nor did he get mine. I think we arrived in Pohang around five in the morning because I was sleeping when we arrived. I woke up to an empty bus, none of my friends were on the bus. They were outside - they apparently went out to go watch the sunrise. Unfortunately for them there was no sun in Pohang, they woke up to just take a walk and take pictures around the “beach”. I also decided to go outside to get some fresh air and brush my teeth. Outside, a lot of my travelling companions were scattered around. Most faces I looked at looked like they wanted to go to the harbour already – they could not wait to get to the mysterious island of Ulleungdo. At Pohang harbour we took a three and a half hours ferry ride to Ulleungdo island. The ferry ride was really nice and still. It felt like the ferry was not moving at all. I loved the ride and I was looking forward to returning to the mainland. Little did I know that the trip back would be the most unpleasant ferry ride I'd ever experience in my life. I will leave that one for later. So when we arrived at Ulleungdo that morning, we were taken to our “hotel”. Ulleungdo is a mysterious island and the only hotel on the island lived up to the mystery. My friends and I signed into room one hundred-and-seven. Everything about the room was mysterious, we walked in and looked for the beds or bed but the bed was not there. Inside I was hoping that the hotel staff would bring us beds at night. I also imagined the beds springing out of the floor at the right time. My hopes were shattered when I opened our closet; our beds were starring at us. At least they maintained the island's mystery. We had Korean style beds, not what I was looking forward to after spending a night and half a day travelling. I was so tired, I immediately took my bed and laid it on the floor and rested. My bed had a mysterious smell. I did not realise that until I woke up from my short nap. My friends were too excited to even nap. Luckily my system can shut down even when I am surrounded by a lot of noise. I shared a room with my three crazy friends. There was only one bathroom so we had to take turns showering before lunch. The water was freezing cold but the shower was much needed after travelling for a very long time. For some reason, one of my friends believed that screaming would heat the water up. We had to listen to her scream until she walked out of the shower. A broad smile on her face told it all, she enjoyed her scream-heated shower. Needless to say, I hang out with interesting people. I was the last one to shower and I must say I enjoyed the cold shower; it was refreshing. We had lunch at half past one, after lunch we were taken around on a tour of the island. The island tour was the most interesting activity for me. Our bus driver and tour guide were by far the most entertaining guides I have ever met. The tour guide was one of us, an Adventure Korea employee who had a great sense of humour. The driver was also an interesting character who told us a lot of stories about the island. One of the stories was that he went into the sea and put a rock on top of one of the rocks that were in the sea. I believed him. The tour guide Kyungsu had a girlfriend who decided to turn into a rock and live in the sea. Something like that - his story was interesting but not clear. There was a story behind most of the rock formations on the island. Most of the rocks were named after animals such as the elephant. One of the rock formations in the sea was called the “Drinking Elephant”. I can be very slow sometimes, I think I was the last person in my group to grasp the idea of a drinking elephant. I struggled a great deal trying to figure it out. One of the interesting stories was also the one of a mountain that has a window-like hole. The story behind that mountain is that the whole world was once flooded and God used a hook to fish Ulleungdo island out of the water. As we were driving around the island we came across a place that looked like a female's private parts. The bus driver stopped before we drove under the formation. Through our naughty guide, Kyungsu, the driver told us that he was going to drive forward and backwards for a couple of times at the entrance of the formation. He instructed us to shout “I'm coming!” just before he went through the formation. The driver did his thing and at the end of it we all screamed “I'm coming!”. At that point the driver sprinkled water on the windscreen. I must say, I was a bit traumatised. Not because of what had just happened, but because I was shocked at how liberal Koreans could be. I think its a Korean island thing to be sexual because there is a sex park at Jeju island – a big chunk of land dedicated to sex. We drove to what I thought was the volcanic crater where we stopped and drank some Korean alcohol (Makoli) and coffee. Some of my group members took pictures but I was feeling too cold to be taking pictures, so I stayed on the bus and drank coffee instead. After an hour of drinking, we drove back to our hotel. Some of my companions were already sozzled and kind of making nuisances of themselves. It was indeed time to head home. When we arrived at the hotel we were very happy to find the water boiling hot. We took turns showering. I must say I was a bit disappointed because I was going to miss listening to one of my friends taking a scream-heated shower. We went down to the restaurant for lunch. Lunch was very mashisayo(delicious in Korean). I think I ate three fish all by myself. The soup that was served with the meal was also very very yummy and there was enough seaweed on the table. At lunch I met and exchanged a few words with a few other people. After lunch we were free to do whatever we wanted to do. My friends and I went up to our mysterious room and watched TV. Here I should be saying, they watched TV because I think I fell asleep as soon as they switched the TV on. TV and I are not good friends. After dinner we did the same, went up, watched TV and slept. To my dismay, I found a few spots of old blood on my mysterious bedding. I took it back to the closet and shared another one with one of my friends. I slept peacefully on my mysterious bed covered with a mysterious duvet cover. The next morning I woke up to a cock crowing in the passage. I was on a mysterious island after all. The only thing distinct about this cock's crowing is that it was spelling out WAKE UP. I must say I was not happy to be awoken to such screaming. However, I was later very grateful to the guy who woke us up. If he hadn't woken us up we would have missed breakfast and also missed out on a memorable four hours hike up a mountain. I could not afford to miss out on my first ever island mountain hiking experience. At breakfast people were talking about things they got up to while we were sleeping at night. The most interesting and unforgettable story was about a guy who got so wasted he even peed on his own bag. His roommates woke up to find him standing and peeing on his bag. When he was stopped, he apologised in Korean. Soju brings the worst or should I say the best out in people. Some get courage to speak a language they do not know. Soju also clouds people's judgement. Bags turn into toilets when people are sojued. We had a great breakfast laughing and all. After breakfast we assembled in front of the hotel, ready to hike. As we were standing waiting for some of our group members to join us, the weather changed from being ok to raining. It rained buckets! We were told to go wait in our rooms. What a bummer! Fortunately it stopped raining and we went up the mountain. The beginning of the hike was so steep, some people turned back before they could even finish a hundred meters. My friends and I trucked on. This was after all our first and only chance to hike up a mountain on a mysterious island. The view on our way up and from the top of the mountain was well worth the hike. We did not spend a lot of time at the summit because it was really cold. We went back to town where we tried to find a sauna. We found two saunas but they were both closed because it was Chusok(Korean thanksgiving). The thought of taking a cold shower crippled me. I could not get myself to move. Luckily there was some squid hanging out to dry close to where I was standing, I moved. The squid smell moved me. We went back to the hotel and to our surprise, the water was boiling hot! We showered and went down to the restaurant for dinner. Dinner was again great. After dinner we walked to a place where people could jump off a bridge into the sea. My swimming is not so good. So I steered away from the bridge jumping. I was instead the camera woman. After the jumping we trekked back to the hotel where I continued reading a book that I had brought with me on the trip. While I was reading, my friends went out to mingle with the other tourists. I was not up to mingling and my throat was acting up. I managed to finish the book while my friends were away. My friends came back to the room in high spirits, I had no option but to wake up. They went to a norebang (karaoke) and they came back with good stories. Like I always say, Soju brings the worst and the best in people. My friends told me stories about people who were seriously sojued. Our little mysterious room was reeking of cigarette smoke! Mind you, my friends do not smoke, but they were stinking of smoke – seemed to me they were covered in smoke. They had a cigarette-sauna smoke experience. I was glad I did not go to the norebang but thanks to my friends, I laughed my way back to sleep again. Sunday morning Young woke us up again, I was glad he just told us to wake up. He was lucky because I was planning to wake up and slap him if he screamed W.A.K.E.U.P again. He was also lucky because my whole body was in pain and I was struggling to get up. I managed to get up and take a shower. We went downstairs to have breakfast at the restaurant. After breakfast we took a cable cart to go have a bird's eye view of the entire island. It was very pleasing to look at. I enjoyed looking at creation. It was breathtaking, I did not spend a lot of my time taking pictures, I spent it just appreciating nature and being grateful to be part of it. I could not really get enough of what I was seeing. I eventually decided to go sit down and peacefully digest the beauty of nature. I was unfortunately disturbed by one of our group members. He introduced himself as X. The mention of his name made me want to crack up and laugh but I controlled myself. X was the guy who was known by all of us as the guy who peed on his own bag. I had a difficult time trying to hold my laughter while I was talking to X. X and I had a deep conversation, it lasted only for a while before we sidetracked. I still feel like I need to meet X and finish off our conversation because it left me with so many questions and so much to say. What we spoke about was not the usual small talk that sometimes irritates me. Although he peed on his own bag, I must say, X is a mature person with a great sense of humour. We went to a pizza restaurant just before we left the island. When we were done eating we walked to the harbour. We boarded our ferry back to the mainland. The boat ride back to Pohang was the most treacherous boat ride I have ever had. Almost everyone on board was seasick. People were vomiting left, right and centre. Some were lying on the floor of the boat and some had their mouths buried in plastic bags. When we arrived at the harbour in Pohang everyone was in a rush to get off the boat. Once I was outside and away from the boat, I thought of going back to spit on it. I had never felt so sick in my whole life. I was also very grateful to have made it safe to the harbour. I was even scared to get on the bus back to Seoul. On the bus back, we enjoyed movies and the traffic was clear, so we arrived in Seoul on time to catch buses to our different destinations. The short time on a mysterious island was very very interesting, to say the least!

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