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Published: June 20th 2012
Mokpo ferry terminal
the Shanghai one - from my 7th floor window
Getting off the train from Jeonju in Mokpo on 19 June. Once again I curse the Lonely Planet maps for their lack of street names! I have a good sense of direction, and always carry a compass, but as they only labelled two or three street names on the map I virtually only found a hotel that they recommended almost by accident after effectively becoming "lost" as there was nothing to get my bearings from. It's the Good Day hotel - a very narrow distinction between that and the Good Morning hotel I would think! And the supposed interesting restaurant which was supposedly virtually behind the hotel was nowhere to be seen or has gone out of business - the LP does not generally name restaurants in Korean script, which is also a problem as most of them do not have English versions of their names.
However as a result I found myself in what turned out to be a rather good seafood restaurant just along the street. The waitress really spoke no English and I indicated that I wanted something cooked on the hot plate/BBQ. She showed me some wriggly things in the tank at the front and mentioned
unagi I thought (which is the Japanese word for eel -- although according to the LP phrasebook the Korean word is completely different). Anyway some fairly thin white fillets of fish then appeared to be cooked on the BBQ, which she then cut up with scissors and indicated that I should wrap them in the lettuce and other leaves (parilla?) after dipping in soy/wasabi etc + adding from the other side dishes. The bowl of soup that she also brought had more big chunks of fish in it but it just was too chilli after the sufficient components I had already eaten.
20 June: this morning I spent going to the shipping terminal virtually over the road (one definite advantage of this hotel). The other advantage of room 701 is that it is on the 7th floor with sea/port views (mind you they do not have a 4th floor -- is that Asian superstition?) - the disadvantage is that the not so distant rumble of marine diesel engines can go on all night so definitely no windows open, despite sea breezes. In the process I decided that the 2 1/4 hour hike on the boat each way out to
Hongdo island was not really going to be worthwhile unless I stayed there overnight and I had no real means of booking accommodation or knowing whether it would be available so this sounded a little reckless with only two boats a day. Not to mention extremely slender chance of any English out there!
Tried to enquire about simple cruises around the many islands but no one spoke any English at the terminal and ended up speaking to the telephone interpreter service instead. As a result I may take a one-hour trip tomorrow to a small island called Oedaldo for a possible swim etc. Back to the hotel to check out hotel prices and availability on Jeju Island - decided that the 4 hour ferry trip from here to Jeju is also not on (partic. arriving on a Friday for the weekend rush) - it is virtually cheaper to get a return flight from Seoul to Jeju (50,000Krw - $45 at best) than paying 45,000Krw for the fast ferry (one way) from here! So will likely get the two hour or so ferry from Wando further along the coast and go to Jeju from there when it is not the
weekend and pressure on hotels etc. (the advantages of "flexible"/semi-chaotic day-by-day planning!).
Wandered along the seafront where there are a lot of places which do dried fish in all sizes and shapes - the stingray looked particularly interesting. Then got a taxi to the National Maritime Museum further along the harbour front with some other museums but too far to walk. I am pleased to say that a lot of these national museums now do not seem to charge entry fees which is good. They have the relics of a couple of really large ship wrecked ships from the 15th century which have been partly reconstructed from timber materials found on the ocean floor. The biggest was quite huge and would have weighed about 260 tonnes! The recovered cargo on display tended to be celadon pottery etc.
Got another taxi back to the railway station and found a reliable ATM from Woori Bank, which also does transactions in English and got out some more cash. Finally got to lay my hands on some 50,000Krw bills - I had seen an American with one in Daejeon and considered that they might be like the Australian $100 bill, which you
more Mokpo drying fish
the skate looks a bit eaten away
only ever seem to get from Medicare! Considering that the largest bill otherwise is the common 10,000Krw note (which is only about $9!) It seems rather strange in a country which is relatively affluent for an Asian country - China is ahead of them with bigger bank notes I think.
Then did a hike up thru steep Yudalsan Park which gives you some increasingly spectacular views over the city and right around over the harbour. I had considered going down the other side to Yudal Beach and then home via the seaside promenade but it was getting dark too quickly to risk striking out down unknown paths so headed back the way that I had come up the hill. Then headed back to my favourite seafood restaurant. I had somewhat adventurously taken a photograph of the Korean script for a steamed skate dish in the Museum (ray is a local specialty but it is usually eaten raw, which I did not necessarily want to experience). Anyway the friendly lady, as they did not do that dish, asked me whether I wanted it "hot" (i.e. cooked) and I said definitely yes. There were three large pieces covered with a dense
dark reddish sauce - inevitable chilli but more of a sort of blacan (Indonesian dried shrimp paste) taste which was unusual but not off putting. Although the price was double the eel it was worth the experience.
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