Discovering Ulsan!

korea, places, Travel

Ulsan, the seventh-largest metropolitan city in Korea, lying along the Eastern Coast, neighbouring Busan, prides itself on being the country’s industrial powerhouse, home to the world’s largest automobile assembly plant and the world’s largest shipyard, both operated by Hyundai as well as the world’s third largest oil refinery, owned by SK Energy.

The facts speak for themselves, painting a picture of Ulsan as an industrious, busy city. However, while that may be extremely true, a recent trip to the coastal city provided me with a different outlook; a city which houses some of nature’s finest work, both of which are free to visit and relatively accessible.

Taehwa River Regional Garden

At a language exchange meetup in Seoul last year, an Ulsanite implored me to visit his hometown making the Ulsan bamboo forest his main selling point. Having never seen bamboo and having always wanted to travel to Japan specifically to wander through a plethora of shoots, the Seoul Ulsanite didn’t need to be super persuasive, I was already sold on the idea and made the bamboo groves in the Taehwa river park my first Ulsan agenda.

Observe my many pictures! My friends and I hung about amongst the shoots for a loooooong time, first wheeling our way through them on the seats of two seater, four wheeler bikes (only 2,000won each for an hour’s jaunt) before heading back once again on foot, snapping a variety of pictures, using a load of filters before realizing the natural look was the best approach.

I loved the variety of colours on display; some shoots were a vivid green, others muddier and there were a few baby ones that were only just transitioning to the traditional green from a golden yellow.

The park has other treasures to enjoy: stepping stones crossing streams, picturesque little corners with European vibes to appreciate, benches made from bamboo to relax on and my ultimate favourite; Ulsan’s very own shout out to the homeland in the guise of a British telephone box!

Daewangam Park

What better way to visualise nature doing its thing than to see waves crashing against jagged rocks? Two of the earth’s elements locked in an eternal battle, or maybe relationship, both magnificent alone and singular but even better combined together.

대왕암 or Daewangam, literally translates to the Great King’s Rock; a vast number of weathered rocks carved by nature and standing 50 or so metres away from the mainland within the vastness of the sea. The rocks are accessible by means of a steel bridge, adorned with LED strip lights, that once illuminated at night time make for an epic sight.

The rocks aren’t the only thing to see at Daewangam; approaching the Great King itself is a 1.1-kilometre-long walk amongst a variety of trees, pine, cherry, camellia, magnolia as well as others included, and right at the start of the walk is a u shape, decked out with a variety of cafes and eateries for visitors to enjoy before or after seeing the park’s namesake.

Additionally, just after the u shape and before the walk to the rocks, to the left and up ahead, is a hiking trail. Take your time doing this, especially when the sun is down from the sky, for it goes up and down and round and round, sometimes over smaller craggy rocks reminiscent of the Great King down by the coast. It makes for an easy hike though, one reminiscent of the Igidae coastal walk in Busan, ultimately leading out on to Ilsan beach.IMG_3091

Honourable mentions:

Bite Me Pizza:

Right on the Ilsan strip, located on a second level, with ceiling to floor windows overlooking the sea, is the Bite Me pizza parlour. Visiting both parks in one day, in a city where buses operate as the only public transport, left us all with growling bellies! The idea of a big old pizza to stuff myself with was far too tempting!

I ordered my classic, pepperoni pizza! The crust was nice and thin, for all who know me well know I despise a thick, bready dough base. The pepperoni was typically spiced, the tomato base rich and not chunky, all topped off with some herby basil – a pretty stellar pizza in my opinion!

One of my friends opted for a Korean twist to their pizza, ordering the Bulgogi one which was superbly fresh tasting, owning to the topping of cherry tomatoes and mixed salad leaves. My other friend went for some spice, selecting the pizza with the chilli pepper warning to the side, and my third friend opted for a pasta dish, a creamy yet tomatoey plate full of flavour!

Bite Me pizza was a well-deserved treat for us all! We devoured our food, paid the relatively cheap bill and headed down to the beach for a little chill before heading to our home for the night to catch some ZzZzZz.

Baeho Hanmaru Apartment:

Lodgings for the evening and what a pleasant place to rest your head! The owner/manager, although speaking limited English, is wonderful and so, so helpful, going above and beyond to accommodate my friends and myself in every which way possible!

The property itself is easily located, a ten-minute walk from the Ilsan beach strip. There is a communal kitchen for guests to use, water and coffee available on tap and each room is well secured with an electronic door lock and well stocked; shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hairdryer, toothbrushes, toothpaste and towels to boot. It was a very comfortable night’s sleep after a busy, walk-filled day and at a charge of only 17,000won per person, I cannot recommend Baepo Hanmaru more!

The many wonders of 삼락생태공원 | Samnak Ecological Park! 🚴🏻‍♀️💨

busan, korea, places, Travel

The great thing about living in Busan is there always being a mountain to climb, a beach strip to walk along or a park to cycle around. A favourite place of mine is Samnak Ecological Park; located in Sasang-gu, you can reach the largest park along the Nak-donggang River by either jumping on line 2 of the subway where you depart at Sasang station exit 3 and walk for 10 minutes or by taking one of the many number of buses that drop you off right outside the park entrance.

The park itself is extremely large; it spans 5 kilometres/3.11 miles of the Nak-donggang River, has built in sports facilities for badminton, baseball, basketball, football and tennis, a convenience store where you can buy a snack and a drink, an extra large swing for both adults and children to enjoy, a bike rental station, various pathways just to take in the scenes of nature as well as secluded, peaceful areas to just sit and chill or even enjoy a picnic, some enclosed under wooden structures, others just open and free to all on the larger grassy patches or land.

It also plays hosts to a variety of flowers throughout the year, displaying each season’s finest foliage. In spring the cherry blossoms make their long-awaited appearance, summer brings with it lotuses and sunflowers, cosmos come when the leaves begin to fall during autumn and lastly winter is not as bare as one would expect, as Samnak displays a large number of reeds, which some may deem bland in comparison to the previously stated flowers, but are still a pretty sight swaying in the wind.

My first visit to Samnak was at the start of summer last year. I got to see the lotus flowers in full bloom! They were stunning! Exotic pink petals splashed across thick green leaves, swaying in a gentle breeze that pushed them ever so softly across they water they called their home. What made the viewing even more remarkable was the lack of crowds; every single flower festival I have thus far attended in Korea has been absolutely heaving, full to the brim with people making the experience that much less enjoyable. Therefore, I found the lotuses all the more charming given I did not have to crane my neck around copious heads.

My most recent trip to Samnak was just over a week ago. The chill around the city has started to lift, spring is indeed on its way and I saw a sunny and surprisingly warm day as the perfect opportunity to head over to Sasang and take in as much of the spacious grounds as possible. As previously stated, the park has a bike rental station available, which is located just to the right-hand side of the main entrance. There are singles, tandems and even sheltered, two-seater, quadricycles. A quick handover of my identification and 3,000 won and I was on my way, cycling around the park for one hour, getting joyously lost amongst the last of winter’s golden reeds that blew ever so elegantly in the wind.

Every time I visit Samnak, the flat openness of the area never fails to surprise me; in fact, I like to view it as potentially the flattest and most open piece of land within the heart of Busan. Whilst I was cycling, weaving my way through the multitude of paths, I could look in any direction and see the park land stretch ahead of me, dotted here and there with trees, with a backdrop of the mountains in the distance. Never once did I feel I had reached an end point or the boundary line. It is such a freeing feeling really; to just continuously move forward, onwards and onwards without the sense of overstepping a limit.

Furthermore the spaciousness is such a contrast to my local neighbourhood of Seomyeon, where the roads are so narrow and long, with buildings piled on top of one another and swarms of people about their day, clogging the non-existent pavements. Ultimately, time spent in Samnak is a welcome escape from the hectic normalities of every day city life and I implore all residents of and visitors to Busan plan to spend some time there for Samnak has something for everyone after all!

Golden Korea!

Travel

We are well and truly in to the latter half of December; the first frost has been experienced, the wind is bitingly cold and I find myself swaddled in more and more layers each and every day and night. No complaints here though – winter has always been and will always be my favourite season. There is just something so special about this season; maybe it’s the Christmas spirit or the desire to do and see more for the upcoming new year. Or perhaps it is the fact that, given the cold temperature, I can wrap myself up in to a burrito with a blanket and snacks, Netflix blaring on a screen in front of me. No matter the reason, I always feel a sense of overwhelming joy in winter, an admission that would no doubt shake most other people to the core.

Despite my love for winter, however, I find myself daydreaming about golden hour or should I say golden season. Autumn always comes in at an extremely close second place in my eyes; it is the time I start to feel that little chill in the air whilst all around me the leaves start to change. One thing I love to do is strap on my Doc Martens and go for a walk amongst autumn’s prettiest feature. Leaves upon leaves upon leaves; piles and piles lashed with copper, auburn and golden tones. The crunching sound they make when my rubber sole flattens them to the ground; it is music to my ears, a noise so organic, so unique that takes me on a journey of appreciation for the wonderous world I live in.

The autumn season in Korea fulfils my desire to crunch and crisp more so than any other place before. Leaves are in abundance, fallen softly from the copious number of trees (after all 70% of the country is made up of mountains and most of their surfaces are covered in trees with leaf-filled branches). On a trip to Seoul in November, I visited 창경궁 (Changgyeonggung), the second largest palace in the capital and indeed the home to the king’s wife. The palace itself lies within a complex, similar to the one that houses 경복궁 (Gyeongbokgung) but off to one side is a large garden, consumed by walking paths, ponds, and obviously, trees. I was in heaven; all the leaves hadn’t yet fallen and their colours shone brightly with pride, dangling from the gnarly and smooth branches of various types of trees. The rest of them lay on the floor, forming mounds of crunchable fun. I sat within a copse, rolling around, looking like the leaf-obsessed lady I am, pausing only to grab a handful and chuck them up in to the air with a massive smile plastered across my face. It really is the little things that make life enjoyable! You need only look at the picture below to believe my joy at being amongst one of nature’s most simple yet most beautiful characteristics!

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To all my fellow expats, leaf lovers, autumn dreamers, I highly recommend a visit to 창경궁 when the season hits again in 2019. You will not regret seeing such a stunning sight! Furthermore, given the palace’s historical purpose, you will enjoy the trip even more if you are an East Asian history buff, or indeed go if you are interested in traditional Korean architecture, of which the structures within the complex fit the bill completely! Just do not forget to check out the adjoining garden – will only set you back 1,000 KRW and I’m certain it is just as wonderful during the other three seasons. For now, I will leave you with a few snaps I took during my visit… Enjoy!!

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