August 24th 2008 - Samcheok

August 24th 2008

Trip to Samcheok

Peo eating apple!

Tuesday and Wednesday Paula and I went to Samcheok in the north of the country with my two colleagues, Mr. Oh and Serhiy. The shipyard persist in making life difficult for us (hehe .. ) and now many of the blocks for our vessels will be built in their new factory in the north, 4.5 hours drive from Ulsan. So we went up there to have a first look at the facilities.

First of all, it is a bloody long way to drive. It's "only" 270 km but the freeway is not yet finished, so we have to ease our way past several small villages. The further north we got, the more remote it got. And the prettier it got. The coast is a popular summer destination but away from high season there are plenty of empty beaches around. The mountains come right down to the sea which makes for some spectacular headlands and beautiful coves. I have to admit that it was very picturesque.

Once there we met with the yard management after which we were shown around the factory. The factory is only half finished and workmanship was only so-so, but there were also hints of hope !! After a couple hours of work (!) we were ready to find a hotel and crash. Luckily there was a nice tourist hotel nearby (it is not always easy to find hotels with beds here - many Koreans sleep on the floor), so we checked in, had a shower and a Gin & Tonic, and only then were we ready for dinner with the yard !

Serhiy and Mr. Oh enjoying the view.

We went to a nearby raw-fish restaurant and had a very nice dinner. Lots of different raw seafood - many of the dishes were totally unknown to us but as long as they are good, who cares. Sometimes it's best not to know what we are eating ! It was so good that I almost forgot that I was sitting on the floor ! I know I have said it before, but ... I hate eating on the floor !

Paula, Serhiy and Mr. Oh outside the restaurant. The food is on show outside most of these fish restaurant.

one of the many dishes - here it is sashimi; raw fish on seaweed nodles.

After dinner we walked what was supposed to be 5 minutes (actually 30min) along the coast road to a pretty fancy underground cafe. Well, it wasn't all underground - it was built into the cliffs and had the most wonderful view of the shore and the sea. And some pretty good icecream. And Pine needle juice!

Even at night the coast road is spectacular.

The "underground" cafe.

Mr. Oh falling asleep and Serhiy enjoying his icecream.

The Wishing Gate with the moon behind it.

We had lots of wishes, so we went through the gate a few times .. just in case it works!

Next morning we made a little detour to see the most popular attraction of the Gangwon province - the Hwanseon Cave. The area is supposedly full of limestone caves but only Hwanseon is open to the public. And I really can't see why you would need any more ! There is a2.5 km steel pathway leading the tourists around the different chambers of the cave; all with very strange names like Summit of Hope and Devils Claw. The cave is really spectacular and because of it's huge size, all the neon lights, steel pathways and bridges don't overwhelm the natural feel of the cave. But ... what starts as a nice cool air gets pretty cold after over one hour in the cave, so for once we were actually happy to get out in the sun.

The ocean swim we had planned for the morning was cancelled as soon as we saw how the weather had changed overnight.

Gangwon Museum - a very beautiful building in the middle of a fantastic mountain scenery.

Paula and a Korean Moai (it's Paula on the right!)

Serhiy on the steep walk up to the cave.

An old water mill for milling grain.

Paula and Serhiy taking a rest. It's a very steep walk up to the caves, so a bit of shade felt good.

Inside the cave

There were lots of weird formations inside the cave.

Not a great caver, Paula was happy to be out in the open again!

Safely back in Ulsan again, we got into our daily rhythm with squash in the late afternoon. Saturday I went out cycling. I was on the lookout for some new trails but as those things go, I mostly learned which trails not to take. I found some really spectacular areas but unfortunately I couldn't get off the damn mountain again ! I ended up traversing the whole mountain in unchartered territory (I'm glad it wasn't through the mine fields!) while it was getting darker and darker. After over one hour of orientiering I finally made it back to civilization !

Today we had booked ourselves on a tour to COSTCO in Deagu, but the trip was canceled as we were only 5 people signed up for it. So we decided to make our own tracks. I had never been before and we had nothing else on the program. COSTCO is an American wholesaler where we can buy normal (!?) food !! It's an almost two-hour drive from our house, so it's not something we do every day.

Inside COSTCO.