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    Friday, June 10, 2016
    1 Day Jeonju Hanok Village trip from Seoul

    We took the 8.10AM express bus from Central City Terminal, which is right beside Express Bus Terminal. This is because the bus to Jeonju runs along the Honam line which operates from Central City. It was a newer and nicer terminal than EBT. Although buses run every 10 minutes, most of the buses are the luxury bus which are ₩6000 more expensive and there is roughly 1-2 normal express bus per hour. The duration for both types of bus is the same - 3 hours. There is a rest stop at the halfway point which is big and clean with many food stalls.

    We reached the Jeonju Express Bus Terminal at 11AM, and bought our tickets back to Seoul for 6pm. Then, took a cab to Jeonju Hanok village. The cab fare was only ₩4800, which was the same price if 4 of us took the bus! The cab stopped us after the Jeondong Cathedral, which was on the main road of the Jeonju Hanok Village.

    Many people rented hanbok as you could wear it and walk around, taking photos with the surroundings. There were many group of friends, and those with all guys would have 1 or 2 guys wearing the female hanbok LOL it was a funny sight. Some of the Korean girls opted for the old school uniform, which was quite cool too!. There were many food shops and cafes around, but the more popular food sold were mandu, chicken skewers, octopus skewers, grapefruit beer and makgeolli. So, hanbok and food is the main point of the Jeonju Hanok Village.

    First, we tried the famous that is along the main road of the Hanok Village. We bought one of each type and shared it among the 4 of us! The staff will help you to warm it up in the microwave. This was probably because we were foreigners, as the Koreans had to do it themselves lol. The octopus skewer was good as it had a thick, stringy cheese layer 😍 We also tried the meatball skewer, but it wasnt very good as I could taste some of the fats. I tried the bottled pumpkin sikhye and it was not bad! I like it more than normal sikhye.

    The bibimbap bingsu was major letdown, as it tasted worse than its beautiful looks. Another pat bingsu we ate at the cafe above a shop selling Jeonju Chocopie was really delicious! It was so simple looking, but it was so good! The chocopie was yummy too! Its huge~! I saw shops selling it for a range of prices, ₩1600 - ₩1800 for the original dark chocolate one. The weather was rather hot, so we spent almost 2 hours sitting in the cafe as there wasnt anything else to do. Then we went to Sobok for matcha balls which was surprisingly good, as it still had the injeolmi taste.

    There was also Gyeonggijeon shrine, which we did not enter. Opposite the shrine was Jeondong Cathedral. The cathedral grounds are open to public, but we were not allowed to enter the cathedral itself. We took some photos and then left.

    We bought mandu from the famous mandu shop again as take away, and ate it on the bus back to Seoul.

    Monday, June 06, 2016
    Andong, Ulsan, Pohang

    My friends went to Jeju, and since I was going to go with my family, I did not go. Together with 4 other friends, we planned a 3D2N trip from Seoul to Andong, Ulsan and Pohang. 

    We bought the 3-days Korail Pass (Youth) as we calculated the price for each train ride we would take, and it was cheaper for us to get the pass. A friend who was only joining us on the 2nd day bought the 2-days Happy Rail Pass, as it was still cheaper than the individual train tickets. Apparently, an international student card is required for the Happy Rail Pass as it is meant for foreigners living in Korea for more than 6 months, but when purchasing the pass, the staff did not ask for it. The Korail Pass is more worth than the Happy Rail Pass, as the 3 day KP is almost the same price as the HRP.

    Initially, we planned to go to Daegu, but after some research we realised that there wasnt much tourist attractions. Hence, we opted for Andong instead. We also wanted to go to Ullengdo & Dokdo, but the journey was too complicated so we decided to forgo it.

    Outside every train station, there is a tourist information centre. Please visit them as they have many informative brochures and maps!

    We took the Mugunghwa train to Andong as there is no KTX service for this line. We did not manage to get seats, so we sat on the floor at the "cafe" area. There is a coin noraebang in that cabin too!

    At Andong, we went to the tourist information booth to ask for directions to Hahoe Culture Village. The staff gave us a map of the Andong Station, where the bus stop was clearly indicated together with the bus timings. We saw that there were many food options nearby, hence we had korean bbq meat ribs for lunch.

    We visited only one tourist attraction, which is the 하회마을 Hahoe Folk Village. There are several folk and culture villages in Andong, but we chose this as there was a small hill we could hike up to see a nice view. We took the public bus to the village, bought tickets at the ticket booth, left our luggage at the free locker storage beside the ticket booth. The actual village is 1km away from the ticket booth, and there is a shuttle bus provided to and from the ticket booth.

    We walked through many old houses and huts! Many huts had a straw roof, which I have not seen before. Then, we walked to the small jetty and took a small ferry across the river. The ride costs ₩3000 for a return trip. On the small island, we followed the signs to Buyongdae. We got lost as the signs stopped, but we managed to ask for directions. It was a 10 - 15 minutes short hike up the cliff, but the top towards the peak was much steeper. We made it, and took in the beautiful view overlooking the folk village. Then, we took the ferry back and hurriedly left as we had to catch our train to the next destination.

    We took a train to Ulsan at around 5pm. When we arrived, it was night time. There were many motels right outside the Ulsan station, so we went to 3 motels to ask around. Most of them are dodgy and even the entrance is very discreet. The counter is just a small hole in the wall to give their guests privacy. In the end we settled for Alibaba Boutique Hotel as it was the least dodgy of all (having rooms meant for families is a sign!) and seemed new and clean. The rooms were huge and spacious, and so were the toilets! There was a hot tub / bath tub in all the toilets. We were extremely pleased and satisfied with the hotel and I highly recommend it. We even managed to get a discount as we booked 2 rooms for 2 nights. However, most people here do not speak English so it is good to know a bit of Korean. We walked further into the city to look for dinner, as there is no restaurants near the station. It took us a 10 minutes walk before we found restaurants that were open. It was a good and warm meal of 낙지국밥 gukbap as it was drizzling and cold outside.

    The next day, we boarded the first bus of the Ulsan City Tour Bus from Ulsan Station. There are 2 routes, and both are loop services. There is 2 stations where you can transfer to the other loop. You have to pay the bus driver directly, either in cash or credit card. Transport cards are not allowed. The first route we took was the Daewangam Loop. We went to the Jangsaengpo Whale Museum first. There are actually 2 museums there - the whale museum and the life experience museum. We chose the LEM as there was a live aquarium with fishes and dolphins and smaller animals like rabbits, birds and turtles; whereas apparently in the WM there is a carcass of a whale. The LEM isn't a big scale aquarium, but at a price of ₩4000 (discounted if you are on the Ulsan City Tour), you can't complain much. The highlight was the dolphin show as they had 3 dolphins.

    Then we went to Daewangam Park, which is a MUST GO! It's a 20 minutes walk in the park to the cliffside facing the sea. The wind was extremely strong and I felt like my ears were going to fall off lol. There were many rock formations, and a long bridge that connected the mainland to an offshore island. There were many people and it was sooo cold. The view was fantastic though!

    We alighted at Taehwagang station, and transferred to the Taehwagang course. We went to the Ulsan Museum which was rather huge! They had an exhibition on Dokdo. There was also Korean history, and there was petroglyphs!

    Then we hopped onto the bus again, to Taehwagang Grand Park. There was a huge field with beautiful yellow flowers, so we took lots of photos there! Although the place is famous for the bamboo field haha. The bamboo fields were pretty, but it was difficult to get a pretty photo. Also, one part of the bamboo field was cordoned off, probably because the bamboo shoots were still rather young.

    Then, we hopped onto the bus again, back to Lotte Plaza. Junwen suddenly realised that his wallet was missing and so Samuel and him set off to look for the wallet. We were all extremely worried, as it would be rather troublesome and costly. Hazel, Ethel & I went shopping at the department store, then decided to go look for food first so that the boys could join when they are back. Thankfully we received a message from them saying that Junwen found his wallet, we all felt so relieved for him. He had left it at the Ulsan Museum and called to ask about it, and the staff kept it for him! We had dinner at the crowded street near the dept store~

     At night, we made funny videos using the musically app hehehe it was so much fun!!! :-) It was a pity I didnt get to soak in the huge bath tub though hahaha it looked so inviting.

    We reached, and headed to the market for lunch. We were so hungry! We had hoddeok, but it was just ok to me LOL. We went to the seafood area, and ordered seafood. It was so cheap! It was like a fixed price of 10k per pax. Ethel doesnt eat seafood so she ate lots of hoddeok >< The auntie gave us sooo many fish it was insane HAHAHA she just kept putting more into our net?? Then she asked us to go to the restaurant upstairs where they would serve us our food. Anyway, it turned out to all be sashimi style, which got quite sickening after a while >< Thankfully there was free 매운탕 (spicy fish soup), which helped clear our palates.

    Samuel and Ethel left first as they wanted to go back to Seoul to do their school work. Hence, Junwen, Hazel and I continued on the Pohang trip, to find Homigot. Thru my maps, it seemed really easy as all we had to do was to take a bus and transfer. We took the public bus and alighted at the stop where we had to transfer. However, the bus that we were supposed to transfer to didn't even exist! Unfortunately, the place was like a residential area and a total dead town, as it was a public holiday and no shops were open! We asked an old lady, but she told is to walk in front to where the shops were and ask others. Most of the shops were closed and there was hardly anyone on the streets. We saw a police station and thought we were saved, but it was empty!! Then we saw a district office, and the lights were on so we thought there were people inside. It was closed too. We were about to walk away when we saw 3 men coming out! We hurriedly went over and asked them for directions. They told us we had to take a bus to Guryongpo, then change to another bus to Homigot. We even used the toilets in the district office lol.

    We boarded the correct bus, and asked if it went to Guryongpo. A lady on the bus told us that she was going there, and to alight when she did. We alighted, then went to what we thought was the bus terminal to ask about the bus to Homigot. We were told that the next bus was an hour later, so we decided to take a taxi. Turns out the people we asked were all taxi drivers LOL but we didn't want to waste more time so we took a cab. He told us the fare was going to be 12k, but I thought it was just an estimate so I asked him to turn on the meter. On the meter it was 14k, but he still charged us 12k. He told us the story of why the area was called Homigot, something about the tail of the tiger. Also, the 2 hands was to signify peace between two villages that used to fight.

    We finally reached and took a lot of photos with the famous steel hands, one on land and one on sea. We walked to the beach area too, and it was beautiful looking into the endless horizon. The arduous journey was rather worth it! Then, we took the bus to Guryongpo, then changed to another bus straight back to the train station. We had standing for the KTX train back, but managed to sit down for a few occasions when the seats were not occupied.

     I was extremely grateful for Junwen's pro korean skills as without him, we would have definitely been even more lost in Guryongpo. I had even thought of turning back and just going back to Seoul when we were lost at the residential area, but Hazel and him were very encouraging and said it was alright to continue looking for the place.

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