Learning to jump in Ulleungdo

I am a very cautious person. I don’t like jumping into water before knowing how it feels. I look before I walk. I research products before I buy them. So naturally, me jumping off a bridge on Ulleungdo island in the middle of the East Sea is very unlike me.

The bridge wasn’t even a bridge that said, “Please jump off of me.” It was more like a bridge sitting randomly next to the ocean, beside sea caves and full of jellyfish.

But instead of letting fear get the best of me, I jumped.

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This past weekend was a special holiday in Korea. Chuseok is supposed to be like an Americans’ Thanksgiving. Families get together and eat lots of food. There are games and people fight over who won those games. Koreans are also supposed to show honor to their deceased relatives.

While I didn’t partake in any of these activities, I did take advantage of the extra days off from work to travel to Ulleungdo.

Ulleungdo is a mysterious island. It’s known as the Jurassic Park of Korea. Or something like that. Indeed, it does feel sort of mysterious. The small sea caves, volcanic rocks and green mountains make the island feel as though magical creatures once lurked behind hidden corners. Only now, the wildlife has been replaced with goats and chickens.

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I wasn’t supposed to go on this trip with Adventure Korea. I actually signed up for the wrong tour. But God has a funny way of turning out things for the good.

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The trip began at midnight in Seoul, in which our large group of over 100 people (mostly around my age) boarded a bus and drove through the night to Donghae, South Korea. Though sleep deprived, we arrived just in time to watch the most beautiful sunrise at Chuam Beach.

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I was pretty nervous about going on this trip because I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t want to spend my entire time feeling like the odd person out. Well, I was worried for nothing because everyone was SO friendly and open. Our group consisted of the best people. I think it helps that most of the foreigners are in the same boat. We all left home to be in Korea and are all needing friends.

After watching the sunrise, we ate breakfast around Donghae, though nearly everything was closed. Our group split up shortly afterwards. Some hung out on the beach, while the rest of us went hiking in Mureung Valley.

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Lunch!

Lunch!

It was then time for us to board a ferry and head to Ulleungdo. The water was dreamlike the entire way there. This is just as well because most everyone slept.

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We arrived on the island close to dinnertime. But before dinner, a group of us went bridge jumping. I was SO scared. But when I realized that no girls had jumped into the water yet, I knew I had to do it. I didn’t want to be the lame girl that was too afraid. P.S. I’m the one in the blue bathing suit.

I am so happy I jumped. The water was cold, but everything around us was beautiful. Besides, what’s more exotic than jumping off a bridge on an island while the sun is setting?

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I went to bed shortly after this because I had only gotten about 3-4 hours of sleep in over 24 hours. It didn’t even matter that we were sleeping on the floor because I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

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The next day, our group took a bus tour around the island. Did I mention Ulleungdo is beautiful? Because it is.

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Some of our group

Some of our group

Bus tour!

Bus tour!

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This island has TONS of squid.

This island has TONS of squid.

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Afterwards, we ate lunch on the Nari Basin, a large volcanic depression. I’ll admit that I totally freaked out thinking about this. I mean, I this place was once a volcano. How cool is that?! The landscape was gorgeous. How is it that a former volcano can be so green? Someone please explain science to me.

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Our group split up again after lunch. Most of us went hiking, while the other half had free time. The hike was intense. We walked up almost 2,000 stairs to see the most amazing view of . . . clouds. Unfortunately, the clouds covered up our view. A lot of people were pretty burnt out by this point. I too was drenched with sweat. I hadn’t planned on actual hiking while on the island and only brought converse. But those suckers are bulletproof. Who would’ve guessed that converse are not bad for hiking?

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Those dang stairs

Those dang stairs

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At the top

At the top

But the way down was beautiful. My favorite moment was stopping with a couple of girls and eating oreos. Oreos make everything so much better.

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Post oreos

Post oreos

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Hiking backwards

Hiking backwards

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We then did more bridge jumping before someone called the cops on us. Apparently it’s illegal to jump off a random bridge into the ocean. Who’s surprised about that? Afterwards, we ate dinner at the hotel and had a rooftop party later on in the night. I pretty much missed the party though because I decided to take a night walk with a friend along the seaside road. This was the night of the blood moon, though we didn’t get the blood part.

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The next morning, I went to pebble beach with a few people, though it was less of a beach and more like a bunch of boulders just scattered in front of the ocean. The water was also freezing.

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A few of us left and went on a special trekking tour. The guides made it sound like we were going on a walk. In actuality, it was a legit hike. And I wore a dress with converse. HECK YES I climbed up a mountain looking like I was about to go on a date. No regrets.

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The view was even more beautiful than the day before. Thankfully, the clouds cleared up for us.

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Outside of a museum

Outside of a museum

We hiked all the way down to the ocean. The guides again exaggerated and made it sound like we were going to a beach. Really, the beach was just rocks in front of the ocean. It was still stunning though I decided to sit out the swimming part. It had gotten pretty windy by this point.

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On the way back, we made 2 pit stops. One was in a small village that had pretty much nothing to look at and the other was at a peaceful temple on a mountain. At the temple, I got so occupied with taking pictures that the bus almost left without me! I was walking to it when I saw it back out of the parking lot. I had to run after it. We (or rather, I) had a bit of a laugh about that.

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Before the bus almost took off without me

Before the bus almost took off without me

That night, I ate pumpkin and bulgogi pizza. It wasn’t too awful actually. Just took some getting used to.

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The last day, I work up early to watch the sunrise, but saw that it was raining! I only made it to the harbor before heading back to the hotel. I was also exhausted.

Some of us decided to go to a coffee shop later on and then to the cable car. On the walk there, we stopped at another temple. Temples here are so beautiful! They make me think of church. If buddhists spend so much time making their religious places beautiful, why shouldn’t us Christians do the same thing? These temples inspire me to help build the church. We should be giving God our all just as these buddhists do so! Anyways, that’s just my two cents.

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After looking at the view from the cable car and walking through the Dokdo Museum, we hiked back down and ate a very quick lunch. Leaving the island was somewhat bittersweet. I made so many friends and enjoyed filling my time with such fun activities! But I also think 3 days is just enough time to explore this island. Side note: I rode a black taxi on the way back home and they really are luxurious! I highly recommend them if you want to feel like James Bond.

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It’s already October and I do not think I will be slowing down any time soon. There are still so many places I plan to visit this month. Also, I finally got a bank! Woohoo! Now I can transfer money to go on more tours! Ah! Someone please remind me that I need to save money.

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What do you think?