So it is that time of year in the Korean school calendar for the new year to roll in. Today is the first day with students back and nerves are on edge as we wait to meet our new classes. In a few weeks everything will become routine again but the lead up is never easy. Moving to a new home makes it all the more difficult!
Being the pretty adventurous souls that we are, staying in our little town of Seongju was not a challenge enough and when the opportunity arose we applied move somewhere just off the edge of the map, Ulleungdo (울릉); A small island about 120km off the East coast of Korea.
Moving to an Island!
We knew nothing of this place except what little information we could find online about the ‘Mystery Island’ and from some friends and co-workers who had visited. Most people expressed surprise at our intended move and we were heard stories from great to terrible. Needless to say we did not know what to expect and there were many times that we felt like we had made the wrong choice!
Just to get this out first, after our first week on the island we are super happy here and excited for what is to come this year! It is beautiful and the people are very friendly. Our schools also seem very welcoming and we do not regret our choice!
With that out the way here are some of the things we encountered on the way;
Moving your stuff in Korea.
This was a nightmare. moving things in a language that is not your own is tough. Monique did a great job finding a company to help us. It turns out they were taking us for a bit of a ride in terms of fees. They wanted an exorbitant amount of money for something that can be done very cheaply by a local Taekbae (택배).
택배 is a new thing I learnt about on this trip. It is the Korean movers, cheap and effective but it seems without any insurance. It is also difficult for an English person to track. The post office also runs their own 택배 but they seem to be quite numerous around the place, just look for the signs! After being told by our moving company that the 택배 can’t take our travel bags the day before we wanted to move and that they wanted to re-pack all our boxes in Busan (WTF!?) Monique’s co-teacher offered to help.
This is when we discovered we could do the move at a fraction of the cost we had first been quoted. And at a place just done the road from our apartment. We were warned that they couldn’t be held responsible for any loss or damage. Apparently we were also trying to move such a large amount of stuff that some things might have been delayed (wtf again but a little smaller). At this point there were no other options so we had to take it.
It turned out that everything got to us on the same day we arrived on the island and was completely unharmed!
The ferry to Ulleung
The ferry to 울릉 is notoriously bad with cancellations due to weather. Again we had been warned so we were prepared, but still frustrated, when our trip got cancelled twice before we could finally get to the island. We had to do a quick check-in to a hotel in Pohang. Thankfully that is pretty easy to do. We use booking.com which has always been quite reliable! When we finally got on to the ferry the ride was rough. I don’t usually get seasick but even I was feeling very wobbly by the end and that was a good day! Apparently this is one of the worst times of the year to try and travel.
Our new home
In Seongju we had been utterly spoiled with the size of our apartment. We knew not to expect something so lavish but hoped. When I was finally able to make contact with my future school we were told they could only put us in a tiny, one room apartment. Both Monique and I need space, it doesn’t have to be huge but living on top of each other would not be good for either of us! We tried to convey this to everyone involved but the answer generally came back that there is no other option on the island.
Preparing ourselves for the worst we got taken to our new home. It turned out to be better than we feared. Still only one room, but big enough to make our own little division between ‘bedroom’ and ‘lounge/kitchen’ area. The apartment has also just been built. Apart from a small leak in a mini-typhoon we had the other night, everything seems to be in great shape!
Our first impressions of Ulleung
울릉 is beautiful. We still haven’t seen much of the island but when we arrived the terminal looks up a mountain still dusted with snow and mountains to either side leading out into the ocean. The town also feels wonderfully coastal and rural. If you like your macdonalds and kfc, this is not the place for you. But there are tons of local restaurants (we had a squid innards soup as our welcome lunch). There is a very new Lotteria right outside our front door. There are also numerous grocery stores around, nothing large but you can get the essentials.
I’m hoping to explore the island in its entirety and I will blog about cool things I find here!
Over time we are hoping to put together a decent English guide of the island. We will be keeping our blog up to date with our adventures on the island 🙂 To keep an already long post short I will stop there!