Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Long Way to Jeju.... via Cheongsando.

In his economy cabin *seat* on the Hanil Carferry 1 from Wando to Jeju.  You have no idea how relieved he is to finally be on the ferry!

It started out like any morning except the alarm went off bright and early at 6a.  We didn't want to miss our 8a ferry to Jeju Island so we quickly prepared for the day.  We checked of the Piano Motel which had been a very quiet and uneventful stay.

It was just 6:30a when we hit the road for the short 5 minute ride to the ferry terminal.  We both agreed it would be a good idea to be at the terminal early to buy our tickets and get in line early as we had no idea how crowded the ferry would be.

Wando is not a scenic port town.  The streets were quiet - not a soul around at this time of the morning.




As we pulled into the ferry terminal area, we noticed a line of cars already queued up to board the ferry that was docked.  I knew we were early but still there was a line already waiting.  Wow! 

We spotted what looked like a ticket kiosk.  The posted departure times should have told us something was not right but we just got swept up in what was happening so mushy travel brain took over.  We definitely were not thinking straight.  So George went up to get the tickets.  

Oddly, when he came back to the car, he said that he could only buy a ticket for the car and him.  There was no ticket for me.  What??


We were both confused so I went off in search of some help.   No one spoke a lick of English.  Then, one very kind gentleman spotted me and realized I needed help.  With a smattering of hand gestures and nodding each time I asked, "ticket?",  he pointed me to the ferry terminal.

So, I went inside the ferry terminal and headed for the Hanil Express counter.  It was closed.  I went to the next counter over and asked "Jeju?" and the woman shook her head and pointed me back upstairs.  Now I was even more confused.  I headed upstairs and the office was closed.  What the hell??  So back downstairs I went and I again crossed paths with the gentleman who had kindly tried to help  me out.

He led me to the counter and spoke to the woman.  She typed away and then swung around her terminal monitor so I could see how much I had to pay - 7500 won.

Apparently, I was running late so everyone around me pushing me ahead towards the departure gates which led back out to the ferry dock.  I didn't want to miss the boat so I ran to the ferry and boarded.  There, I spotted George standing next to our car.


Whew!  We were finally on board but something did not sit well with me.  Not only were we leaving at the wrong time but the boat was not the Hanil Express Carferry 1 boat which is distinctively displays the yellow and gray Hanil Express logo on its side. 


As we made our way up to the upper deck, I mentioned my doubts to George.  He's knows to listen to the seasoned traveler and he soon shared my doubts.  Unfortunately, it was too late for us to get off the ferry.

As the ferry pulled away from the dock, the same sinking feeling that I had hit George.  He decided to find out exactly where the ferry was headed so he asked some fellow passengers.   All replied back that the boat was heading to Cheongsando.   They told George it would be about a 45 minute ride.   Poor George, he was now really worried because he had already booked our hotel in Jeju and it was a non refundable reservation.  So, I decided to get on line and see how many daily ferry runs there are between Cheongsando and Wando and there were at least 5.  I doublechecked the Hanil Express leaflet that I had picked up yesterday and noted that there was a 4p ferry from Wando to Jeju.  So all we had to do was get our selves back from Cheongsando to Wando by 2p we would be okay.  I told George to relax, this is all part of the adventure and the worse thing that could happen is that we would lose our reservation at the hotel in Jeju - no big deal.  I think as soon as he realized I was okay, he relaxed.


So, this is how we ended up in Cheongsando!

As the ferry made its way out of the waters around Wando, I focused my attention on the scenery around us.  As you might expect, lots of boats and lots of smaller, mostly uninhabited islands.




In the meantime, George had made his way to the passenger cabin.  I expected to see rows of seats but instead it was an empty floor.  We followed eitquette and took our shoes off before walking onto the wooden floor.  Man, it's not comfortable being a passenger on a Korean ferry.  Next time, I will have to bring along a yoga mat.



I can never sit for long.  In no time, I had left the cabin and made my way back outside and to the ship's bow.  There, this logo caught my attention.  Must mean something so I captured the photo.


I just Googled the word, "Cittaslow" and it turns out that both the word and the orange snail logo represent Cittaslow, an organization founded in Italy and inspired by the slow food movement. Cittaslow's goals include improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace, especially in a city's use of spaces and the flow of life and traffic through them. Cittaslow is part of a cultural trend known as the slow movement.  Of course, Italy has the most registered Cittaslow cities.  Korea has several Cittaslow cities including Cheongsando and Jeongju.  Cheongsando became the first Asian Slow City (or 'Cittaslow Town') on December 1, 2007.

Each year, in April, the island celebrates its Cittaslow designation with a festival called the Cheongsando Slow Walk Festival.  Several events take place during the month long festival including seashell crafts, traditional fishing net building, and sampling local specialty foods.  One of the main programs of the festival is walking on the 42 kilometer long Cheongsando Slow Road route.  If you ran the route, which I think would be counter to doing something *slow*, you'd be running a 26 mile marathon. Participants who collect over a certain number of stamps during their walk on the Road will receive a commemoration badge and festival certificate.

In US, Cittaslow cities are all in California - Fairfax, Sebastopol and Sonoma.  My cousin Gigi lives in Fairfax.  I'll have to ask her about the pace of life there the next time I see here.

Time does fly by when you are anxious.  A short time after leaving Wando, the harbor of Cheongsando came into view. 


I met back up with George and we got in our car, ready to disembark the boat.


Ms. Kimchi came to life and was already receiving a signal.  We had no idea where we would be going but hopefully, if we do get lost, she can lead us back to the dock.



As we left the ferry behind, George parked the car so we could go inside the small ferry terminal to find out about departure times back to Wando.  As I had hoped, there were plenty of return ferries.  The next one would leave at 9:30a.  It was only 8a - too early to buy our tickets. 


At the terminal we picked up brochure. The most important thing was the map.  It wasn't hard to figure out that as long as you stay on the main road, you basically do a loop of the island.  Our starting part was Docheong Harbor which is located in the southwest area of the island - located near #11 on the map.


Okay, with a game plan in hand and assurance that we would be back in Wando well before the 4p Hanil Express ferry departure to Jeju Island, we both breathed a huge sight of relief.  We set out to explore Cheongsando.

Well, downtown Cheongsando aka the area around the dock is barely a handful of blocks long and wide.  The buildings are all very nondescript.  There is not a drop of charm or quaintness here.  I think I counted barely a handful of restaurants and shops.  I knew that George would be in dire need of a cup of strong joe soon and so I was keeping my eyes out for anyplace that would serve up a cup.  Nada.  Not even a convenience store selling something in a cup.  When you're not looking for coffee, you can find it everywhere.  When you want it, especially when you want it badly, nothing.  Never mind that there was no place for food either.

By now, I had running low on cash so I tried to hit up the one and only ATM in town.  No luck with a foreign card.
 
So, with no coffee, no food and little cash in hand, we set out to explore the island.  There was only one road leading away from the dock.

The island was designated as Dadohaehaesang (Marine Archipelago) National Park on December 23, 1981 and for Koreans, is one of the most beautiful places in the country for taking in scenery.  I've traveled to so many places and seen so much spectacular scenery in so many countries that I have to admit, my first impression of Cheongsando was not all that high.  Granted, we had come here knowing exactly nothing about the place so perhaps we were not in the right spots to catch the best scenic views.



As we drove along, George would occasionally pull over so we could take in the view which I think would have been far lovelier had the skies been bright blue.  The overcast skies kind of dampened things.


We're off the beaten path in Cheongsando!


At times the road ran right alongside the water. 

Oyster beds perhaps?


I squealed when I saw the cows.  Startled George stopped the car and put in reverse so I could take a photo of them.  I think they're the famous Korean Hanwoo which are farmed on the island.


Cheongsando is a small island. Our drive around took barely 30 minutes!  We were back at the ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare.  By now, the rain was gently falling.


A few of the small eateries had opened up for business but I could tell that George was not interested in having a meal in any of them.  I have to admit, working dock restaurant ambiance is not attractive - definitely not something that whets the appetite.  So, George parked the car near the ferry terminal.  I headed out to check out some of the small shops nearby.  There were only about a handful of places open for business and all of them were pretty much selling food related items - lots of dried seafood. Business must not be so good as I was hounded by one vendor after another to buy their stuff.  Unfortunately, nothing they sold would be stuff that I could bring back home so I did a lot of head shaking as I walked along.  Unfortunately, I hadn't learned how to say "no thank you" in Korean.

The moment we saw the ferry pull into dock and cars offloading was when George started up the car and pulled it behind the few vehicles that were already lined up to board.  It was the same odd ticketing system here except instead of walking up to a kiosk to buy the tickets for George and the car, a guy walked around and handled the transaction.  I had to head back inside the terminal to get my ticket.  I got back in the car and handed the guy my ticket when he motioned for it.   


There were as few vehicles and passengers on this ferry as there were on the one that brought us to Cheongsando.

The ferry was a bit late leaving.  Slow city, slow island, slow ferry :-)


Like the other ferry, this one also had a place where you could buy food and drink.  Instant ramen noodles are a very popular item here.  You buy the bowl and then get the water from a hot water dispenser.

You cannot imagine how thrilled George was to see the coffee machine.  When he thought that the woman didn't know how to operate it to serve up a quad shot, George took over.  I think he was trying to not complain but I was certain his caffeine withdrawal headache had long kicked in.  Thankfully, one cup was all he needed!


The passenger cabin on this ferry had seats so George made himself comfortable while I restlessly wandered around the boat, took in the scenery and took a few photos.  Eventually, I joined George in the passenger cabin.

Our little Hyundai is the white one on the right (top row).

Docheong Harbor, Cheongsando.  The building behind the neon green car is the ferry terminal aka information center.








I happened to be back out on the upper deck when Wando came into sight.  I've never been so happy to see a place. At least we knew we had arrived back at our starting point and in plenty of time to catch the afternoon ferry to Jeju.




I even recognized the Piano Motel.  You can't miss that neon pink building!


Back at the Wando dock, we knew we had to make reservations for our afternoon ride.  So, we headed back inside the ferry terminal building and back to the Hanil Express office.  That was easy since we had already done it once before :-)  This time, before we left the office, we asked where we had to go to get the boat.  George sheepishly admitted how we had missed our ride this morning.  The woman told us the boat would be docked at Pier 3.  So, we left the terminal building in search of Pier 3 which turned out to be right next door.  There was a big posted sign.  We then found the place where we had to get the tickets for George and the car.  There, we confirmed the location for where we had to be to board the ferry.  Indeed, it was Pier 3.  This time, hopefully, we got the right information and won't  miss the boat....again.  That would be really embarrassing!

Pier 3.

So, we had a few hours to kill.  We decided to head in to the heart of Wando's commercial area.  First thing on my agenda was to get money.

We spotted a few ATMs but none would take a foreign card so I decided to try and exchange USD.  I tried a few banks and even a couple of credit unions and no luck.  We finally ran into luck when we drove along the main road that runs through town.  That was until I saw a sign, posted outside a bank building, that clearly stated they do foreign currency exchanges.  In we went and indeed, I was finally able to get more won which I handed over to George.  We've been using the pooling system for this trip - each of us puts in the same amount into the shared kitty which George handles so he pays for every thing.  So much easier than having to constantly split the bill.  Every now and again, one of us  makes a small purchase but it's never enough to really worry about.  We then replenish the shared funds as we need to.  


Next, it was time to take care of George's need for body spray.  He had been on the hunt since Jeongju and given the selection of supermarkets and convenience stores in Wando, I hoped we would have better luck.

 
As George wandered the aisles, I would occupy myself checking out the uniquely Korean goods.

They're serious about chili here - gochujang sold in huge containers!

Snacks gift boxed and ready to go!  Koreans must give out a lot of gifts to each other!

In the end, George didn't exactly get what he was looking for but he got something that would be a decent substitute.

Next, it was truly time to find a place to eat!  Neither one of us had had breakfast and by now, it was lunch time so our stomachs were more than empty.

On our way from the dock, we had spotted a bakery called Tous Les Jours that looked like a good option for a lunch spot.  We decided to check it out.  Walk inside and look around and you could be in any bakery in the US.  Baked goods were held in self serve bins and there were a few items, mainly sandwiches, in the refrigerated section.

Apparently, Tous Les Jours is a "Asian-French" bakery that serves a selection of bakery goods and beverages.  The bakery items are Korean versions of your classic French inspired baked goods.  Tous Les Jours is a successful South Korean chain that has locations in the US including two in the DC metro area that I've not been to.

We were hungry but we didn't want to stuff ourselves so we got a few items to eat. The place was pretty empty - occasionally a patron would come into to buy something.  I  figured no one would kick us out so after we had our sandwiches, we moved over to the comfy chairs by the window.  We relaxed and chatted the time away.


Unfortunately, both George and I are antsy by nature so by 2:45p, we were back at Pier 3.  I was so elated to see our, yes it's our boat, Hanil Express Carferry docked.  I went in with George to get the car ticket and his ticket before making my way to the Ferry Terminal to get my ticket.  By now, we had the ticketing routine down!


This time the Hanil Express counter was oepn for business.  The departure gate was also indicating Jeju.  I knew exactly where to go to get the ticket and which door to board from.  I got my ticket and then George to let him know that I got it and that I was sitting in the terminal waiting to board.  He replied back that he had parked the car and had to come back to the terminal to board as well.  Okay.


When our time came, we followed the crowd and FINALLY.....got on board the ferry to Jeju. 


We did it!


The ferry's lobby with its small gift shop/food stand.

We got directed towards the 2nd class cabins.

Floor map of the ferry.

The first class ones are clearly indicated to you know which ones NOT to enter.  The 2nd class cabins were all located down one wing of the ship.  Each *cabin* is really just a large open room.  Following etiquette, we deposited our shoes in the shelves and then claimed spots on the floor.



Our shoes are on the 2nd shelf on the left.

George securing our spots for us. At least this cabin floor is carpeted.

Vinyl covered foam box.  Your pillow :-)


Pro ferry riders come equipped with mats and blankets.

When in Korea, laying down is de rigeur when it comes to sitting in your 2nd class ferry cabin :-)

We settled in for our 3 hour ride to Jeju. I bounced between room and deck, taking photos.  There was a lot wandering the decks and daydreaming on my part.  I find ferry rides to be incredibly relaxing.



There was no announcement to tell us that we were arriving into Jeju.  We just noticed people getting up and putting their shoes on and heading out of the cabin.  Well, we just followed suit.



Since George had parked the car, he knew exactly where it was so I followed him through the maze.


Each vehicle had been securely chained to the floor so I had to be careful walking between them.  Blocks had been placed in front of tires to further prevent the vehicle from sliding forward.




In the car, we patiently for the workers to come around and unchain us.




Then it was time to drive off into the streets of Jeju.


George had booked us into the well rated Hotel Leo, located right in the center of town.  Ms. Kimchi directed us from the ferry dock to the hotel.  It was a short drive but I could sense that George was a bit nervous. It was his first time driving at night. I kept assuring him to just drive slowly - no rush.  He chugged along.

The hotel has its garage and we were instructed to just leave our car and hand over the keys.  The valet would take care of parking it for us.  Our room was ready for us so check in was a breeze.  I was so glad to be in a my nice, modern room :-)


We asked the hotel receptionists for suggestions for where to go for dinner and basically they pointed out that there were plenty of options all around the area so we just hit the streets in search of some place for a bite.  George had been deferring to me to find places so my eyes settled on a place that was touting itself as an izakaya.  George had never had izakaya food before so I described it simply as a Japanese pub.  Foodwise, it would be grilled meat on a stick.  Sounded okay to him so in we went.

Happy to be eating dinner.

Puzzled by the complimentary appetizer.   I cracked the egg and scrambled it with the bean sprouts atop the piping hot iron dish.

I ordered the same thing for both of us.  What got delivered was a bit odd - four skewers of chicken and shishito peppers, a few mussels, some pickled ginger and pickled garlic.  This is definitely a Korean take on a Japanese dish.  Tastewise, it was not good.  I think the chicken had been boiled or steamed.  There was no grilled taste.  It was then all slathered with a sweet sauce of some sort.  I don't know what the mussels were doing on the  plate.  Better to have had another skewer of meat.  Anyway, a disappointing meal and not a very good introduction to George of what an izakaya meal is.


It had truly been a long day for us.  Even though we did a lot of sitting, it was still somehow very tiring.  We were both definitely relieved to have finally made it to Jeju.  We lost at least 1/2 day of sightseeing here so I hope we can make it up in one day as we leave to go back to Wando the day after tomorrow.

Goodnight from Jeju!