Monday, August 18, 2008

Jeongdongjin: A cruise on a hill and lots of waves!

Yes, that is a cruise ship on top of a hill.....

This past weekend was a long weekend for us (I love having so many national holidays in this country), so we decided to take off for the beach. We had been thinking of going to Busan, since that seems to be where everyone goes to go to the beach, but a Korean friend of ours came up with another idea.. and since she was willing to plan the entire trip for us, it seemed like a better plan than trying to do it ourselves going south.

Our friend chose Jeongdongjin. This is an area on the coast of Gangwon-do province in the northeast corner of the country (see map at end of this entry). This place is famous for its sunrise, which is popular for couples to go see. We weren't so motivated to get up to see any sunrise... maybe because I am lacking in the significant other department.. although.. it's more likely that I just am lazy. But, there certainly more to see here than just a sunrise.

One of the most prominent features of the landscape is the Sun Cruise. This is a huge cruise ship on top of a hill that looks out over the ocean. The ship is actually a hotel, but it has other things there that you can check out if you don't feel like shelling out all the money to sleep in a cruise ship on top of a hill. We ate at the restaurant. It was a bit pricey, but we had live entertainment by a Filipino man and woman who sang and played piano, the restaurant was on an upper floor of the hotel so you could see all around the area, and sitting near us was a famous Korean entertainer (as if I would have even known if our Korean friend hadn't pointed him out to us... Oh! Oh! Look! A famous person!). Actually, all things considered, it wasn't that expensive. I'm just getting spoiled by cheap food in Korea... and I'm still waiting for my first real paycheck which won't come for another 22 days (yes, I'm counting down).

From there we made our way up to the bar on the top floor of the ship. The perk of this bar was that it rotated around 360˚ so you could really get a good view of everything. Although I'm not sure that a rotating bar was the wisest idea for drinkers.. I only had one drink... yet everything was moving on me.... I wasn't drunk.. I swear. Oh, and our entertainers followed us up to the bar, and they accepted requests. They sang a duet just for us, since we asked so nicely....

After our drinks in the bar, we headed down to the bottom floor of the ship to find the norebang. I haven't written about norebang here before, and I feel as though it really deserves its own post, but simply put, its karaoke where you rent a private room for your friends so that you can sing your hearts out without torturing the ears of strangers like traditional American karaoke bars. Basically, its karaoke the way it should be. Anyway, we got our room, and the nice man in charge actually gave us almost an extra hour for free because the first room that they put us in didn't have as many English songs, so after 30 mins in that room, he put us in another room with a little over an hour on the clock. It was excellent. After norebang we hit up the little store in the basement of the ship to buy breakfast (ramyon... ramen to all you folks not in Korea) and we made our way back to our motel.

This is the view of the cruise ship from my balcony window of the motel. We stayed at the DaVinchi Motel (or dapinshi if you're Korean). I'm still not sure if it was a love motel or not, but it was nice enough, and because we had 3 people in each room, we only had to pay 54,000 won or $54USD per person total for two nights. Not too bad, but if we had had 4 per room it could have even been a little less. I slept on the floor but there was a double bed. I don't mind the floor though, and they provided a traditional Korean bed mat for the floor.

Here is another view from my motel balcony

Another famous attraction of this beach is the giant hourglass. I believe this is the largest hourglass in the world. We were trying to figure out how much time the hour glass measured. We guessed a day. We were slightly off I just found out now with a little research online... it lasts for a year. At midnight on New Year's Eve every year the hour glass is turned.

These were some electric trees that we found by the hourglass. Not quite sure what's up with them, but they are kind of cool I guess.

And then of course.. there is the beach. Saturday's weather was kind of miserable.. rainy and cooolddd... but we tried to make the most of it and still rented a table and chairs and umbrella on the beach... and some of the braver ones of our group went in the water as far as the life guards would allow... the surf was very rough because of the sour weather that it really wasn't safe to go out farther than waist deep. For me it was a bit too cold for playing in the waves. But I did put my feet in an get splashed quite a bit by huge waves. Sunday was our day for the beach. The weather was perfect. Sunny, not too hot, but not quite cold either. We rented another table and chairs and umbrella, three people in our group rented some bright yellow tubes to float around in and we jumped in the surf. The waves were incredible. I wanted a boogie board so bad. It reminded me of Coastguard Beach on Cape Cod where I used to go often enough back at home.

From looking at photos of Haeungdae and other beaches in Busan, I'm so glad I went to Jeongdongjin. It wasn't wall to wall people. In fact, I was surprised how few people there were really, considering it was a long weekend. I mean, it certainly wasn't deserted, but there was really just one long row of rented tables along the beach. No blankets or anything. By afternoon, the water started to feel a little crowded, but that was mostly because so many people were floating around on blow up tubes which were tossed pell mell every time a wave came by, which was like every 30 seconds or so.

Another interesting cultural fact I noticed is that no one seems to lay out and sun tan. In fact, they kind of hide from the sun. At first it seemed crazy, but it's probably pretty smart actually... maybe they don't all get skin cancer like we do. They also generally don't wear bathing suits. Just regular clothes. Probably clothes they don't care about. Junky t-shirts and shorts. Oh, and by the way, if you're coming to Korea, bring enough sunscreen to last you a year. Bottles here are small and expencive. And you have to be careful not to buy the ones with whitener in them. Yes, that's right. They put some sort of skin bleach in their sunscreen. Koreans really don't find it attractive to be tan, evidently. Sometimes you see women with quite unnaturally white faces. I don't find it very attractive at all. I guess they do though.

Anyway, if you are interested in getting here I can tell you how I did it. From Dong Seoul bus station by gangbyeon station on line 2 you can take the bus to Gangneung. Make sure you get on the express bus, because we accidentally got on the bus that makes 4 stops or so on the way and it took us 6.5 hours to arrive. Coming home it only took 3 hours and 45 mins, and that included sitting in some traffic coming home from a long weekend. Once you get to Gangneung, you can take a city bus to Jeongdongjin. The 109 bus takes you right to the beach and up to the Sun Cruise. It only comes every two hours. I suspect other buses run on slow schedules as well, so make sure you know what bus you want and what time it comes. It was fairly simple, but it was facilitated by the fact that we had a Korean with us who could navigate everything for us.

It took me a while to find information on this place. It's not as well known by western travelers, although I did see a couple of white faces though. Here are some helpful sites that I used while writing the blog.

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