Beware of Brontosaurus!

A brontosaurus!
As seen out the bus window, somewhere between Gwangju and Wando. How awesome is that?? Are there more giant dinosaur murals on mountains in Korea?? Hopefully I can stay awake on some more bus rides to find out!

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The Changhaejin Back in Time Tour

In Korea, I try to be open-minded. Really, I do. But on this one point, I can not be swayed: having public holidays on a Thursday and the following Tuesday, without giving the Friday and Monday off, is just wrong. Yet this is what happened in early May with Childrens’ Day (May 5) and Buddha’s Birthday (May 10). Some people managed to get the Friday and/or Monday off, but I unfortunately was not one of them. And I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, because two holiday days are nice, but come onnnnnnn!

I, however, was not going to let this whole not-having-vacation-days-when-all-of-my-friends-do business deter me from making a rather long cross-country trek to Wando, an island in the southwest of Korea.

Wando
This picture was actually taken on Sinji, which is a smaller island connected to Wando by a bridge, but we didn’t figure that out until after this picture was taken.

Wando was a bit of a hike from Ulsan – a three hour bus ride to Gwangju, and then another 2 hour bus ride south, after which we found ourselves in a tiny dumpy bus station, full of old people eating ice creams.. We stared at the tourist map for a while, which unfortunately didn’t seem to mark the bus stop and so was entirely useless. Luckily, we were able to attract the attention of a nearby policeman and communicate through miming that we were looking for a place to sleep by the water. He then got us a taxi driver, who seemed insistent on letting us know that it would be a 12,000 won cab ride. Fine. All five of us piled into the taxi and went way out of town, over a bridge, and down to a beachy area full of pensions. It was the off season, so he had to go around a bit to find us a place that was open. We ended up at quiet pension just across the street from the beach, where an older ajumma showed us to our room and told us many things in Korean that we didn’t understand (something about eating? eating rice? and bringing us more pillows? right?).


Not quite beach season

After unwinding for a moment in our pension room (which consisted of an open floor, TV stand, and basic kitchen) we headed to the beach. The weather was nice, but as it was still early May most everything was deserted. There’s something about empty beaches I kind of like though – they’re much more interesting when they’re all deserted and run down than when they’re just all full of people.

Wando has some strange fog:

The strange mists of Wando, part 1

The strange mists of Wando, part 2
It’s a fog bubble!

The strange mists of Wando, part 3

Walking down the beach, we came across a sign for a different area of another island that we clearly weren’t on. Of interest though was a distinction in the campgrounds: one plain old “tent ground” and one “love tent ground.” Oooooooooh.

We also came across another waygooken, carrying some wood to down to a campfire at a rather well established camp on the beach. We asked her what was up in Wando, to which she replied with a northern European accent that she didn’t spend much time in town but there was some sort of festival for a sailor or something that weekend. It’s always interesting to find non-English teaching foreigners around. Especially ones that seem to be living on beaches.

After a bit of wandering, we needed to get back to Wando to pick up a friend at the bus terminal. Having to communicate this to our pension owner so we could get a taxi proved a bit tricky. While some of my friends can actually speak a good deal of Korean, the Jeolla province has a completely different dialect than we’re used to in the Gyeongsan province, which meant we understood even less than usual. The woman wanted to know what we were going to be doing, and then seemed to make us a schedule, pointing to a big clock hanging on the wall. Thus satisfied, she called us a taxi and told the driver to take us somewhere ‘fun.’ We ended up here:

The fair looked a bit run down

Right next to a mini fair happening on a tiny street. It was a bit rundown, but seemed to have attracted the whole town anyways.

This was the Chango Pog festival, honoring a sailor of some sort, who maybe became a sea God? And the guardian of Wando. Anyways, according to the festival brochure:

“After 1200 years in the Ocean, ChangoPoGo’s Time Capsule emerged in Cheonghaejin!”

So I guess that’s what we were celebrating. The town had a few rows of tents full of cultural activities like Korean cartoon making, pony riding, kiddie archery, and my personal favorite: triangle kimbap making. They also had all the usual Korean festival food tents serving pork BBQ (from an entire half of a pig on the spit), whale meat, double-fried hot dogs, dried squid, bondegi (silk worm larvae) – the usual. This was all mixed in with a market selling anything else you could need – kitchen appliances, a magic veggie chopping device, tons and tons of seaweed, funny hats…pretty much everything. It was all a bit chaotic.

Upon our arrival, a few friends wanted to grab some fried hot dogs. While they were waiting, we were swarmed by a group of middle school girls, who warmly welcomed us to Wando.

More weird mists
Paddle boats row into some more weird fog.

Making triangle kimbap
Caitlyn makes some triangle kimbap.

As the sun set, a musician took to the stage to play some acoustic folksy stuff. It was fine and rather unexciting, until she decided to do a cover of “My Heart Will Go On.” I’m not sure which was more surprising – that she had actually chosen to perform the song, or that the crowd seemed to be totally into it.

Wando

The festivities ended with a big fireworks show over the water, after which we had some super over-priced festival food before heading back to our island to turn in for the night.


Wando's Waterfalls
These weird waterfalls were full of mini animal statues, and also timed to start and stop at the most inopportune for picture-taking moments. Wando is a bit strange.

A tiny island of evergreens

The next day the plan was to take a ferry to another island, Cheongsan-do, famous for being pretty and for being in some popular K-dramas. The group was a bit slow moving in the morning however, and missed the ferries that would be early enough for me to get back in time to catch the bus home. So I spent the afternoon doing some solo wandering around the island.

overlooking Wando

It was a bit foggy, but I decided it’d still be nice to do a bit of hiking. Unfortunately it was too foggy to go all the way to the top of Wando in their tower, as it was completely consumed by fog:

The Wando Tower

With no plan and a few hours to fill, I figured I’d see if I could follow the signs point to the intriguing-sounding “drama set”. Taking a taxi was out of the question, as it’d be expensive, and I didn’t see much in the way of buses. So I started walking. I walked clear through town, past rows and rows of little old houses and a newer looking high school. Eventually the buildings thinned out and I was on a two-lane road, surrounded by hills and farmland.

Things were still a bit misty…

More mistiness in Wando

…and after about an hour and a half of walking, things were so misty I could barely make out anything beyond the road. Except that it was mostly deserted and farmland. Unable to stop thinking about Deliverance due to a conversation earlier that morning, I decided it was about time to give up and head back.

Lost amidst the mists in the Wando countryside

On my way back, I came across two adorable, fluffy puppies. Which made the trip very much worth it!
Puppy!

Puppy #2!

After a little bit of walking back, I figured I’d try to hail down a taxi. Stopping any random car didn’t seem like the safest bet, as I couldn’t see who was inside and was kind of in the middle of nowhere. But before I could stop a cab, a young couple pulled over in a mini-van and offered me a ride to the bus terminal. Tthe people in the Jeolla province seem to be incredibly nice and friendly. While we couldn’t communicate a whole lot, I was able to tell them what I was doing, and they seemed incredulous that I was walking to the “drama set.” Which I think they told me was another 2 hours away!

The moral of the story is: Don’t try to walk across Wando. Or at least if you do, bring a map!


And just a leftover picture:

The dolphins in Wando enjoy listening to the radio on headsets
As seen in Wando: apparently the dolphins there listen to radio headsets?