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Pomtie Tales Follow the adventures of a Pommie and a Soutie, travelling the world.

Ulleungdo, Dokdo and Jukdo

SOUTH KOREA | Thursday, 7 August 2014 | Views [789] | Comments [2]

Chuseok is the Korean version of the American Thanksgiving. During this time, in August / September, Koreans get together with their families and have feasts, celebrate the new moon, and pray for good harvests in the following year. The best part about this is that we get a nice long holiday. It is usually a few days, next to a weekend, so you end up having 5 days off sometimes. That's what happened for us, so we headed up to Seoul, to catch a bus to the East coast of Korea. If you ask Robin, his favourite trip in Korea was Namhae Island - more because of the fact that we connected there ~ ever the romantic. For me, though, it is Ulleungdo. It was awesome. It was fun and beautiful, strenuous and relaxing. It was a perfect balance for a holiday.


We boarded the boat that would take us to Ulleungdo. It was a big catamaran ferry. We set off on the almost 4-hour ride to Ulleungdo. The ride was uneventful. We played cards, chatted, and had a nap (we were tired after our almost all-nght bus journey). Soon, we were disembarking. Our trip leader huddled us together and told us we would go for lunch. We found a little Korean restaurant and filled our bellies. Before we had even swallowed our last mouthfuls, we were told to hurry back to the harbour for our trip to Dokdo Island.

For those of you who have never heard of Dokdo Island, it is a real sore-point between Korea and Japan. Both countries believe that Dokdo belongs to them. Korean military occupy the island, but that doesn't stop Japan from teaching in their school textbooks that Dokdo is part of Japan. All around Korea you can find people wearing shirts (and even babygrows) with "DOKDO IS KOREAN" written on them. It is CRAZY!

Dokdo is about 2 hours away from Ulleungdo, and we hurried onto the same boat that had brought us to Ulleungdo. The ocean on the other side of Ulleungdo, however, was not nearly as smooth-sailing as on the way to Ulleungdo. At one point, I was looking out of the window, trying to watch the horizon and prevent sea-sickness, and all I could see was sea-sky-sea-sky-sea-sky. Everyone on board was looking green around the gills, and we were SO excited when we saw Dokdo, as we knew we were supposed to get off the boat! Then, something horrible happened. The captain announced that the sea was too rough for us to dock, and we should all make our way onto the deck and take pictures from there. Dokdo was literally a rock. It has a cable car up to the top, and what looks like one house. I couldn't believe that this was such a huge source of contention... There are obviously a lot of resources in the ocean surrounding the rock. I spoke to the trip leader about the fact that we weren't going on-shore, and she told me that the sea in this area is so rough, that usually there are only about 6 days a year that the ferry can moor!!! SIX! So, after about 10 minutes on deck, circling Dokdo, we headed back to Ulleungdo. 2 hours of HELL. The return trip was even worse, and people all around us were making use of the vom-bags they passed out at the beginning. Robin went to wee at one point, and ended up throwing up at the same time, while also trying to hold himself upright. I had to get out of my seat, and lay down on the floor in the corridor. FINALLY, we got back, feeling TERRIBLE, and headed to our pension (Korean housing where you sleep on the floor) for a shower and a nap.


The nights on Ulleungdo were awesome. The perfect temperature, if a little crisp, and perfectly still. Most of the nights were spent in the open air, either down by the water, or on our pension porch overlooking the sea. One night we had a braai (BBQ) down on the dock, and everyone knows that no Korean outdoor time is complete without fireworks. Another night we headed into town and tried out an awesome makgeolli bar (Makgeolli is a type of rice wine, which is super weird, and the taste is hard to describe. It makes me think of a mix between beer and milk). I really don't like makgeolli, but Ulleungdo is known for pumpkins, and this bar sold pumpkin makgeolli. It was DELICIOUS! Definitely something to try if you go to Ulleungdo.


During the days, we were outside all the time. We did a few awesome hikes, which all ended on peaks looking out over various sides of the island, and the ocean. One of these hikes was preceded by a monorail. We rode up to the top of the peak, and then walked along the relatively flat mountain, to a lookout point with a glass bottom. It was on the side of a cliff over the coast. The water in Ulleungdo is crystal clear, and the water at the bottom just looked like blue, jagged rocks. I am petrified of heights, and spent most of my time on the ground, rather than the platform. Robin somehow convinced me to do the 'Titanic pose" on the edge. I thought I was about to have a heart attack. 


One of the other memorable trips was to Jukdo, another island, but nearby this time. We took a normal ferry, and when we got on, it was already packed. We were standing like squashed sardines, when suddenly, the heavens opened. I think that Koreans may actually be allergic to rain, because the stampede that ensued to get inside the safety of the ferry was ridiculous! And there we were, with the entire deck to ourselves. We took up the best spots on the deck, just as the rain stopped, the sun cam out, and the Koreans came outside again! On the way to Jukdo, a group of seagulls surrounded us. A guy came around with packets of chips, and the seagulls came down and ate the chips out of our hands (Although we were cheapskate and didn't buy chips. We just picked up other people's dropped chips from the floor haha!). After about 10 minutes, we arrived, and were pointed towards a staircase. Little did we know, it was a never-ending staircase. We climbed and climbed. I usually complain, but when Robin started saying "Wow, how many more stairs are there", I knew it was crazy! It was totally worth it though! the views from the top were awesome. There was a little bamboo forest, and a park with a couple of statues. It was really really nice! After a couple of hours we headed back to the main island.


Probably the nicest part of Ulleungdo, though, is the coastal walk. The entire island is surrounded by pathways. You walk along, and are surrounded by crashing waves, rock formations, and scary veiws (slatted walkways over tumultuous water - I nearly pooped myself). It was relaxing, refreshing, and a lot of fun!


Ulleungdo is DEFINITELY a must-see in Korea. It is really beautiful, and the famous dried-squid has to be tried (It looks and smells gross, but is actually pretty good!) Jukdo is definitely worth the trip. However, I would definitely advise that you give Dokdo a skip!

Tags: coastal walk, dokdo, hiking, jukdo, makgeolli, scenery, squid, ulleungdo




Pretty sure the captain exaggerated on the whole 6 day thing. Ive been there twice; once with friends and once with my wife and we docked both times. I do know that they dont mske the trip during the colder months though. Maybe his English was a bit off and he meant to say 6 months?

  Martin Jun 9, 2015 2:38 PM


It wasn't the captain who told us, it was the English-Korean trip leader. She definitely said 6 days, but that's just what she said. We were there during Chuseok, so the end of summer, but it was still warm. I'm glad you had a better experience than us :)

  megandrob Jun 9, 2015 4:47 PM

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