Ulsan, you’re not that bad…?

Last time round we concentrated on the non-crap food elements of Ulsan so this time we thought we better include some non-crap, non-edible stuff.  Of which, we are starting to discover, there is…well, not lots, but some.

Feeling inspired that Ulsan might be more than just places to eat, we thought what better place to start than consulting the list entitled “The 12 Scenic Sites of Ulsan”.  Now, a couple of the entries are a little dubious…for example, “night view of the industrial complex.”  This is something we get the pleasure of seeing every time we catch the 205 bus home at night from Ulsan.  Yes, its pretty amazing seeing what looks like a futuristic, space city floating up out of nowhere.  But it doesn’t really bear thinking about too much.  Petro-chemicals, heavy industry, insane pollution – once you realise that the purty looking lights are really just oil rigs, cranes and flames emanating from puffing chimneys, it really loses its gloss a little.  The air is thick and chewy as you pass though this area, and indeed often in our village ,so it seems rather an interesting addition in terms of tourism.  We don’t think it does particular favour to the “Ulsan, a global, green, industrial city” tag-line either.  Well, maybe the industrial bit, but green?

While we don’t have a photo of the industrial area at night (we value our lungs), here’s a picture of another attraction in Ulsan – a nuclear power plant.  Its actually the first one we’ve ever seen, being from a completely nuclear free country.

Clearly, this wasn’t quite going to cut the mustard for us, so we went off in search of one of the other 12 Sites instead – Ganjeolgot.   Unfortunately, our skim reading led us to miss the bit that says that inclusion on the list is actually SUNRISE at Ganjeolgot.  Oops.

Anyway, its the place where the sun rises first in north-east Asia, located on the south-east Korean peninsula and, more suitable for our purposes, “surrounded with many tourist attractions”…which are listed as pine forests, rocks (we kid you not) and Jinha Beach.

Aha, this sounded promising.

Now, being from New Zealand AND having lived in the Caribbean, admittedly our experiences of beaches are pretty stunning examples of what beaches should be. However, we’re in Korea so realise it might be slightly different to what we expect, especially in light of Jeju Island’s claim to being the “Hawaii of Korea” (cough cough) so we lower our expections accordingly.  Unfortunately, while the forecast was for nice weather, it turned out grey and cold which never does a seaside town much good.  Still, we’re determined.  Its a scenic wonder, right?!

What perplexes us is this:

Hmmm…people are fishing on one side of the beach and preparing for the updcoming windsurfing competition on the other.  But on this stretch – which, by the way is seperated from the other two areas by NOTHING – is a clearly designated no swim area, complete with a boat dredging god knows what out of the water.

We notice a cool bridge further along so decide to walk over and check out the view from the top.  There are people picnicing, families taking photos and, ahhh, pollution-puffing factories lining the horizon.

There’s a cool little island sitting in the middle of the harbour.  Might be worth walking to one day when its a bit sunnier and the water a bit less un-swimmy.

And more good advice about what not to do here.  No cocktails it seems.  Boo.

We give up on the beach and head over to nearby Ganjeolgot to see what all the fuss is about.  There is a house, famous due its being a set for a Korea drama or something.  Meh.  There’s an extremely large post-box (5 metres tall and 7 tonne in weight, in case you were wondering) where you can post mail from.  Sadly, on the day we went, they had run out of postcards so we were unable to make full use of the facilities.

There is a lighthouse which is pretty enough.

And there is quite striking coastline, all rocky, exciting and good for climbing.  Dan made for the rocks like a fat kid to cake and spent a good hour scaling precarious looking inclines with our friend’s two small children, while she looked on in horror/fear.

Random fact – and this is the kind of stuff that makes it onto the tourism website for Ulsan – there used to be another rock, the “front most rock that sticks out from the land. However, it was later detonated and removed due to safety concerns on the coast.”

Fascinating stuff.

So what else does Ulsan have to offer?  A random celebrity sighting one afternoon turned an innocent grocery mission into something slightly less mundane.  Asking the largely non-speaking English crowds who had gathered in a crazed looking mob who the celebrity was prompted the following succinct reply, “No talent. No talent. Just face” and similarly worded variations.  Hahaha.  We’re still not really sure who he is, but his presence warranted three security guards and a large gaggle of fans furiously snapping photos on their smart phones while he shopped for glasses with his friend. LOL.

Our GREATEST new discovery has been this: The Ulsan Culture and Arts Centre!

Having both been heavily involved in theatre and the arts in our previous lives, we’ve suffered somewhat in Korea living in the cultural vacuum that is Deoksin.  And to be honest, we hadn’t managed to find anything outside of Seoul to entertain our thespian leanings.  This was all to change when our new friend, Jeong, asked us to join her at a show last weekend.  “A SHOW?”, we exclaimed?!  Hell yes.  And so off we went to the UCAC where we saw an entertaining Italian clowning show but were also introduced to the fact that (a) this place existed and (b) that they have a pretty solid programme of events.  Their website, unfortunately, is in Korean which may explain why its taken us six months to discover it but now we know we can just turn up and find out what’s on.  Score.

The grounds of the centre are also really cool – heaps of sculptures and waterfalls (!), even an outside amphitheatre.

After seeing the show we then were introduced to another non-bad, actually quite cool feature of Ulsan, the Taewha River Observatory 태화강 전망대.  Granted, we went there initially because we’d heard there was a famous cafe on-site but quickly realised that the reputation is due to not only its coffee but also its location.  Taking the lift up to the top of the tower, the outdoor viewing platform provided us with great views right down the river as well as over the Ulsan skyline.

One floor down from the lookout is One’s Coffee, apparently a bit of an institution in Ulsan.

The place is lovely but the best bit is that the cafe slowly revolves allowing you to do a complete turn in just on an hour.  You spin gently while sipping your coffee and every few minutes have an altered viewpoint of both outside the window and inside the cafe, all without leaving the comfort of your seat!  The coffees are very expensive, both by Korean and New Zealand standards, but the experience makes you forgive that.  Dan declared that the chocolate shake he ordered was “the best he had had in years.”   The coffees were pretty stunning looking too!

Some highlights and some lowlights in this bout of exploring our nearest city and its further reaches.  There’s still a couple more things we feel the need to tick off the Ulsan “To Do” list so no doubt a mixed bag of experiences heading our way.

But all in all, Ulsan – its not that bad, really…

Categories: Art, Coffee, Korea, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. That rotating cafe is great eh? I live just across the river. Their green tea milkshakes are AWESOME. I don’t go very often though because it rotates too slowly. Drives me nuts. I have trouble sitting still long enough for a complete rotation… 😀

    • Its SO cool…its made it onto the list of Not Awful Places to Take People if They Come to Visit Us in Korea, haha. Maybe you should try and locate the gear box and try and speed things up a bit, then blog about it because I’m sure it would be very amusing 😉

  2. always fun to peak in on your life and see your world!

  3. “Where ever you go there you are”… it’s just what you make it. Nice post – and fun for me to be here but have a vacarious mini break in Ulsan. 🙂

  4. looks like the dragons just noticed they’re being wiped out by meteors and don’t have time to do anything other than freak out.

  5. I love that little character on the restroom sign!

  6. Enjoyed the idea of ‘Not Awful Places to take People’ – looks like you’re making the most of it!

  7. Glad to hear you guys could fit a sojourn to the theatre in too, who would’ve thought, Italian pantomime in Korea! Secret fact, I’m a sucker for revolving towers, restaurants, cocktail bars you name it!!! There’s slways something wonderful in starting at the beginning of your meal (on one side) & ending there at the end of the meal 🙂

  8. hahaha…’not that bad…really…’

    No nuclear energy in New Zealand, eh? We have some plants in eastern Canada, I think – but on the West Coast it’s a lot of hydro and sprinklings of other things. What do you usually use?

  9. Enjoyed that and am glad you are getting to know the place better!

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