Ah Jeongdongjin, how you have stolen my heart. Even with the rain and the clouds, your charm is undeniable. As mentioned in my last post, my friend Jin Hee and I decided to go to the east coast in order the see the sunrise. We undertook a quick 24 hr trip, 8 hours of which included the train ride there and back. Unfortunately, due to the weather not cooperating, we saw neither a sunrise or sunset; just clouds and rain. Despite that, however, the town was a quaint beachside community with plenty to see and do.
When we arrived in Jeongdongjin, it was almost dawn, it was mostly dark and the clouds were a smokey gray and heavy with rain. In spite of the rain, we stopped and took a few pictures at the station. There were plenty of photo op areas for cute picture taking. I think I mentioned in my last post that this is a popular couples destination. Just on the other side of the tracks, there was a little area that had a bench and hearts laid out on the ground. Facing the ocean there was a lovely pine tree and different sculptures surrounding it. Jin Hee and I took our fair share of pictures and then made our way to the beach along with the rest of the crowd.
Before I talk about how lovely the beach and town were, I feel like I should take a minute to talk about the selfie and picture taking culture here in SK. Koreans, young and old, take TONS of pictures, many of which are of themselves posing in all manner of cutsie ways. You will see them make what most of us consider a peace sign (V to them) with their fingers and hold it by their face. They will hold their face at certain angles, they will puff out their cheeks, they will point at their cheeks, they will point at the sky, they will jump in the air, they will make a heart by placing their fingers at the top of their head, etc, etc. They will find the most creative and complementary poses to make for a picture. I found myself at a loss when I would take pictures of myself or when Jin Hee would take a picture of me. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, what kind of face to make, which way I should face and so on. I think with enough time here, I will learn and accept the Korean ways of selfie taking. So look forward to it in future posts. In this post, my rookiness shows and you will see me in all of my awkwardness. Now back to Jeongdongjin.
One of the things that struck me immediately about Jeongdongjin is that here you didn’t see the big apartment megaplexes, or what I call “mini cities”, that is commonly seen in South Korea. Instead, we saw a sprinkling of the smaller style villa apartments (5 floors at the most), many of which had been turned into small hostels and pensions.
As we walked towards the beach, we went through a kiosk area that sold street food and different types of games of chance you would find at the fair. There were also a few areas that had tanks holding fresh seafood. We didn’t stop to try anything and instead continued onto the sand. The beach had large rocks that people had climbed on top of in order to get a better view or to take a picture. To the right of us there was a cliff, and on top of the cliff was a huge cruise ship that overlooked the ocean. This is the Sun Cruise Hotel and sunrise park. It is quite a sight to see really. The ship is massive. There is a smaller ship in front that sits on a lower cliff which also serves as part of the hotel, at night it is covered in lights.
We stayed on the beach for about an hour. Obviously, there was no sun so there was no sunrise. Or at least, it was very obscured by the clouds. By this time we were starving and ready to find some breakfast. There are several famous restaurants in the area which have been featured on TV. My travel companion did quite a bit of homework planning for this trip and found us one to eat at. This particular one is famous for its tofu soups. There is one that is made spicy, you can tell by its red color, and there is one that is not spicy. They both have either a kelp broth or clam broth. Not exactly sure which but both had a sea flavor (delicious sea flavor, not nasty sea flavor). What I love about eating in Korea is all of the side dishes that are included with every meal and you can get an infinite amount of refills on the side dishes as well. I do not remember the name of this restaurant but I did remember to take pictures of the food.
It was delicious, warm and savory. A perfect breakfast to start our day on this rainy morning.
Our next adventure was the sea train. This was something that I had wanted to do but it was sold out when we went to make reservations. Luck was with us today though; because of the nasty weather people had canceled their reservations and we were able to get last minute tickets. The train is cute and maybe a little campy. On the outside, the train has an old fashioned red caboose the rest of the train was painted with dolphins. On the inside, it has a multitude of sea creatures painted on the walls thus providing fun backdrops for photo taking. The train has different sections; a first class section where the seats are wider, the family section which has booths, the regular people section which has regular seats, and an overflow section with couches and lounge area. There is also a food area that had coffee and snacks. All of the seats faced the windows, except the area with the booths. The windows were larger than normal train windows and provided lovely views of the ocean. Now, my honest opinion of the train…it was meh. The train does go along the coast but over fifty percent of the ride is not along the water. What was nice was that you got to see the smaller towns, but you also got to see a fair amount concrete walls and the sides of hills. I probably would not take it again, to be honest. But it was an experience nonetheless.
We stopped at a town called Samcheok, to our dismay, there wasn’t anything to do within walking distance from the station. There are things to do here but most of it required a 45 minute or more drive. One of the more interesting things the area is known for is the penis park (yes, you read that correctly). It is not something my traveling partner was interested in seeing and instead may be something for me to come back and see at a later date. I find it fascinating that a conservative culture like Korea would have a whole park commemorating the male phallus. I’m sure there is a story to it and something I will research at a later date. We decided not to hang around the area too long but instead took a taxi to the beach and walked along the coast to the next town, which wasn’t very far. We walked through a park called the lion park. No real lions, just lots of wood carvings. Next, we went to a small beach area that had some coffee shops and lovely walking area that followed some cliffs. There was also an old historical house where a scholar had lived during the Joseon Dynasty. The rocks were stunning. They jutted out from the ocean and along the coast, rugged and majestic. We walked a few flights of stairs to get a better view. I think this is one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen. The ocean was clear and clean, even when we were looking at it from a distance. It was the most beautiful emerald green, only a color I had seen in the lakes along Olympic National Park in Washington. A very different hue than what I was used to seeing in the Caribean.
By this time it was around 1 pm and I was hungry. I also needed coffee because the lack of sleep was getting to me. We decided to stop at a coffee shop and grab a drink. We decided to forgo food since we would be eating dinner in a few hours.
After coffee, we hopped on the train back to Jeongdongjin. Once there we decided to walk along the shore through a park that provided more props for photo ops. In the park, there is also a sandglass clock and large sundial. The thing is huge and gets reset every year on New Years Day. Next to it is the time museum, which is housed in an old train. It holds a collection of clocks from different time periods and gives a history of how clocks were made and how we humans deal with time. It was all in Korean so I didn’t really understand any of it but I still enjoyed looking at all of the different pieces.
After we finished the museum, we were ravenous. Jin Hee had a restaurant in mind but we didn’t know exactly where it was located. We walked back towards the train station and asked a couple of ladies along the way for help. Come to find out it wasn’t walking distance at all, so we called a taxi. This was another restaurant that was featured on tv. It is famous for its seafood pancake and seafood stew. Seafood pancake is one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE Korean foods. And this particular restaurant did not fail in either presentation or flavor. We thoroughly enjoyed it as you will be able to tell from the video attached below.
After eating we decided to visit the big ship on the cliff and called another taxi to take us there. The ship itself is a hotel with a couple of restaurants, a sculpture park, and a cafe that rotates. We started at the sculpture park at the front of the grounds. It is very well maintained and has some interesting pieces. As you enter there is a large rectangular pool with statues along either side. To one side you see large hands, to another side, there is a garden with a maze. We walked around the sculptures and took lots of pictures. By this time we were both exhausted. We had been walking all day and since we took the night train in, we had minimal sleep. We decided to go the cafe at the top of the ship to grab a coffee and enjoy the view that the rotating top provided us. The view was indeed lovely but the coffee was expensive and not so great. We settled into our booths and admired the view and Jin Hee even managed to grab a little cat nap. After an hour or so we headed back down to back side of the ship to take more pictures.
It was dusk by this time and the light was beginning to fade. The clouds had cleared some providing some beautiful light for amazing pictures. There were more cliffs, paths, and stairs that would take you to different areas. The light and the view were simply stunning. It was so peaceful. You could hear the waves as they broke against the rocks, you could hear the cicadas in the trees, there was a sea breeze that chased away the last of the humidity. We walked onto a platform over the water that was made of plexiglass and when I faced the water it felt almost like I was flying. There was a sense of freedom and peace that I had not felt for a while in the US. It was glorious. All I could do was marvel at God’s beauty.
We walked a little more but once darkness set in, we completely lost all traces of energy and decided to hang out at the train station until it was time to leave. Once on the train, I passed out from pure exhaustion, and once I got home, I passed out again. It was a whirlwind of a trip and although I am getting too old to stay up that long, I still really, really enjoyed it and am so thankful for Jin Hee for planning it and for being crazy enough to take this adventure with me. I know that I have made a new friend for life.
I have made a compilation video of my photos of our trip. I hope you all enjoy. My next trip is to Pohang, which is also a coastal city that is located on the east side. I have lots to share on that trip as well. This is me signing out and wishing everyone a great night or day…