Friday, July 3, 2015

Ulsan Tour of Ancient History: Munmu Tombs, Petroglyphs, Whaling

I took a 4-day tour in and around Ulsan to see some of the ancient sites:
Daewangam, King Munmu's off-shore tomb (near Kyoungju actually)
Daewangam, where King Munmu's wife is supposedly buried offshore also
Bangudae and Cheonjeonri petroglyphs and Cheonjeonri dinosaurs footprints
Ulsan Amethyst Cave (not ancient but unusual enough to merit a visit)
Jangsaengpo Whale Museum and whale experience area
Getting around was tricky but with Internet help and people at information desks I've got bus numbers for next time, and to help others wanting a wonderful trip that smacks of the ancient.

I arrived via the Mugunghwa train at Taehwangang station (Ulsan) from Pusan. From the station, it's roughly a 6-block walk to Lotte Department Store (which btw has a very tall ferris-wheel beside it that makes a wonderful future landmark for knowing when to get off buses as the department store has bus links to all the major sites mentioned above).

click to enlarge
From the Intercity Bus Terminal to King Munmu's offshore tomb, take a bus bound for Kampo Beach (감포 해수욕장) but get off 10 minutes before arriving there, at Bonggil Beach (봉길 해수욕장). There are no motels here, just a very few tiny minbak. I stayed in one opposite the bus drop point for W30,000; it was small but clean, had its own shower and tiny kitchenette so it was more like a motel room. The owner made a point of telling me she was a Christian as did the person who told me to go to that minbak when I asked. I thought that was a bit odd, but she wanted me to know that she was not like the people who prayed on the beach. It was dark and getting late, but I had to know what people were praying on the beach. Shamans! A lot of people come and pray to the sea. Very interesting so I will definitely be coming back to spend another night, the most interesting time here. A few shamans were on the beach during the day with their prayers and traditional instruments. A camp ground is quick walking distance south for pitching tents too and a lot of shamans were staying there. The bus schedule back to Ulsan leaves typically on the hour, although an altered schedule is posted at the bus stop.

From the Lotte Department Store bus stop to Daewangam (where offshore Queen Munmu is buried in spirit) / Ilsan Beach, take local bus #108, 133 or 401. Takes more than an hour. There are tons and tons of motels and hotels as the location is in a new tourist zone and located just after Hyundae Heavy Industries. If it's off-season, you can get quite the rate and have a view of the beach and its lighthouses at the same time.

From Ilsan Beach to Ilsan KTX station where you can get a bus to Bangudae petroglyphs, take red limousine bus #5001 or #5002 to the KTX station. Takes well over an hour and probably only passes every 30-40 minutes. Timing this bus is essential as there are only three buses daily from the KTX station to the petroglyphs, bus #348 (a new bus): 10am, 1pm, 4pm. The bus takes 25-30 minutes. Best to get off at the first museum, Ulsan Daegok Museum, and from there walk the trails that link the Cheonjeonri petroglyphs, dinosaur footprints and the 2.4km walk through forest to the Ulsan Petroglyph Museum and another 1-2km to the Bangudae Petroglyphs. The return bus leaves Ulsan Daegok Museum at 11am, 2pm and 5pm. It stops on its return at the Bangudae Petroglyph Museum, which is the other end of the trail that started at the Ulsan Daegok Museum.

From the Bangudae Petroglyph Museum, I wanted to go to the Ulsan Amethyst Cave. There is no direct bus so take the #348 bus only as far as the Eeonyang bus terminal (언양 벗터미날) and from there take a taxi, probably 10-15 minutes, or return to the KTX train station and take bus #323 to the amethyst cave. This bus runs inconsistently. Taking a call taxi from the cave to the KTX station cost me W8,000 for fare and W1,000 for the call, so expect paying around W10,000 one way.

From the bus stop in front of the Ulsan Express Bus Terminal to Jangsaengpo Whale Museum, take bus #246. Expect riding an hour or more. The museum is near the end of the line. There are basically no restaurants along this beach front that do not serve whale meat. I do wonder how so much whale meat can legally be served... Expect to pay a hefty sum for this, because as I understand it, this is now the only place that regularly serves whale meat in Korea and the price for the novelty is definitely built into the product served.

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