Category Archives: Pohang

Pohang Soju cocktail restaurant Damichon

A while back my school had dinner at a pretty famous-in-Korea restarurant/ bar called Damichon (다미촌).

The lady who owns the establishment is kind of like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, just taller. She started as a server but made so much money with her skillz, red lipstick and toit tops that she managed to buy her own place after a while.

The food was pretty decent but you can’t really go wrong with Korean BBQ. Two things set Damichon apart from your standard Korean dining experience: our Soju bottles were branded with the school name and logo and the after-dinner cocktail show was unbeatable!

There are loads of videos on YouTube– check it out.  My principal went nuts for this dame… I’ve never seen him bow to anyone before.

It’s a good idea to pre-book Ham Sun Bok (함순복) in advance so that she can entertain your table with her tricks!

 

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Dokdo bread

If you live in Korea you know that passions run high when it comes to Dokdo, that tiny rock near Ulleungdo that somehow got left ouf of the peace treaty between Japan and Korea after the Korean War ended. “Dokdo is Korea” as the slogan goes and although Korea currently occupies this tiny, unhospitable rock it officially belongs to Japan. I guess you can thank Uncle Sam for that one.

Someone saw a gap in the market and decided to start baking Dokdo Bbang (bbang=bread) here in Pohang. As it happens, the bakery is quite near my house so I couldn’t pass up the chance to buy my school leaving gifts there.

According to The Korea Times, owner Kim Ki Sun got well pissed off when he heard that a baker in Japan was producing “Takeshima bread” so he decided to retaliate!

I bought 3 boxes of ten, and was offered 2 samples and 3 freebies- pretty awesome! These madeleine cakes are orange flavour whereas Dokdo itself is blueberry. I liked it for the most part but it did have a slight aftertaste, like when you add too much baking powder.

You can order the bread cake, online or just pop into 소망 베 이커리bakery itself, located in Song-do dong (they’re open til 11PM and they also sell pizza).

They make the perfect gift for principals so they offer the perfect ending to a happy school relationship.

 

Cycling from Pohang to Gyeongju (40km/ 2 hours)

On Hangeul Day, a public holiday in Korea, I finally made time to cycle from Pohang to Gyeongju. The bus journey between the 2 cities takes 30-40 minutes and the straightest line (on highway 7) makes it just over 30km. But I’m not looking for straight lines. I’m looking for curves that will swoop around beautiful stretches of farm land, small villages, rivers and streams.

The first time I did the ride I had the good fortune to be stopped by a farmer who was having a barbeque with his family and friends. I met his family, horses, dogs and cows and sampled some really tender beef! It was a random but great encounter, just another example of the extreme generosity and kindness you will come across in this country.

The route back was slightly less auspicious as I left Gyeongju a bit late and got horribly lost on the small country roads. It took me 4 hours to get home, double the time it should have taken! It was a beautiful night ride though, the night after the lunar eclipse: huge moon, clear skies… you could even see some stars. The silence of the sleepy countryside was intermittently interrupted by the sound of a stream or river nearby. It would have been true bliss had I not been so lost.

I was determined to try the route again since it’s a nice easy ride that’s easy on the eye. I made a pig’s ear of  the route on the way there so I’m only going to post my return route (Gyeongju-Pohang).

Most of the route will be on quiet concrete country roads/ nice bike paths, maybe 55%, about 5% on road, 15% gravel and 15% side walk/ shitty bike paths. I did the ride on my road bike, which handled the gravel sections fine but beware of uneven surfaces just before leaving Pohang and when you’re cycling in Gyeongju (next to the main road – there are some truly awful bits that can give you a snakebite if you’re not on the look-out). Obviously it’s common sense to take a spare tube, patching kit and a pump with you.

Some cool restaurants  near the Express Bus Terminal in Gyeongju include:

– Hawa Dhaba 하와다바 (Indian food) – google 하와다바 HawaDhaba 경상북도 경주시황오동 108-2

– Kong Story  꽁스토리 (Falafels)- opposite the Express Bus Terminal. OMG so good.

– NeCoZzang 네코짱 (Japanese Ramen)- also very near the Express Bus Terminal.

Here’s my route on Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/209040367/embed/dbbd52f4072d70d513c188145f42f5158175d1b1

My Pohang start/ end point is Posco bridge, since it’s a well-known landmark. My Gyeongju start/ end point is very near the Express Bus Terminal. Where you can see loops it signifies going off-route so just go straight (none of the detours are huge though, should they occur). If you are starting from Pohang, you will need to cross the road when you see the huge retail park between Pohang and Gyeongju, otherwise you’ll be cycling against highway  traffic coming around a corner. Do-able but not safe at all.

Ice skating in Pohang

I’ve just come back from a morning of ice skating with my school. Pohang’s ice rink (포항아이스링크) is located in Jansangdong- click here for the map. Prices can be found on the 2nd tab at the top (아이스링크), 요금안내: 입장료= skates and대화료(헬멧)= helmet hire.  If you have a group of 30+ you can get a discount. If you want to play ice hockey join the Ulsan, Busan, Daegu, Pohang Ice Hockey  facebook group.

From the Seabed

Sometimes the most random encounters lead too the most interesting experiences. Not so long ago, I was cycling along and this Korean guy started talking to me. I complimented his English level and he thanked me. It was a slightly awkward moment when he told me that he was an English teacher at a local high school. Face palm. Turns out he’s an ex-colleague of a friend of mine and boy, is he an interesting character.

Why Seabed? He chose his name because he believes in living deeply, and that everything he says and does comes from the depth of his soul. Poetic. I like it.

Apart from being an English teacher, he is a keen cyclist and photographer. He also casually mentioned that he circumnavigated Korea on a bicycle. This was a while ago but he managed it in two weeks. He also owns a Moulton bicycle with a Brooks saddle. Now, shame on me but I didn’t even know that Moulton existed and it’s a British Brand! I thought the only fold-up bike made in Britain was the Brompton (whose headquarters are opposite SEGA in West London). Turns out Moulton’s quite popular in Korea, what with their own member’s group and Youtube videos. If you like Abba, you should watch this vid:

Seabed told me about Kustom your Bicycle, useful for pimping your ride as well all learning how to spell bike components in Hangeul.

He’s quite into photography so it was great riding with him.  We stopped at a few places along the way, he chatted up the old biddies so that we could get some character shots. It helps to speak Koran eh! Seabed showed me some of the photos he’s had published and told me about some noteworthy Korean photographers.

Jay Cheon Im (임 재 천) hails from Chuncheon and he collected a decade worth of photos of old-school Korea (small villages that capture the spirit old the Land of the Morning Calm). He published a book called “Korea Rediscovered” or “한국의재발”. Out of 1000 images he had to choose only 120. The book is available through Noonbit and retails at 40,000 won. I think that would make an awesome present for someone back home! He uses the Korean version of crowdfunder to help fund his projects and his contributors get limited edition prints in return for their help. Im is currently on Jeju island, where he is documenting the lives of the famous women freedivers, 해녀 . This project is also sponsored by his many followers. If you’re interested in Haenyeo, check out this documentary:

Two other photographers Seabed told me about are 이 갑철 (Gap Chul Lee) and 이 상일 (Sangil Yi). I reckon these webpages should keep you entertained for a while.

Finally, he also told me about a famous Korean poet who lives in Guryonpo, but that will have to wait until next time.

It took me a week to start catching up to the load of information Seabed dumped on me. It will take me at least 4 times as long to properly learn more about these subjects. I hope that you enjoy learning about them as much as I do.

 

Learning about Pohang from the seat of my bicycle

There is more to this place than just Pohang “Shi” (City). Pohang is actually a region made up of several towns and townships. Last weekend I rode from Jukdo Market (downtown) to The Cape, just north of월포 Wolpo-ri (Wolpo Beach). I had great company- I randomly met the co-teacher of one of my friends while cycling the previous weekend. “Seabed”owns a Moulton and circumvented Korea on his  bicycle when he was younger. I’m going to dedicate a whole post to this guy and what he told me so let’s get to the ride.

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Once you leave Yeongildae (Bukbu) and Jangseongdong (JSD) behind, hang a right and this will take you up the coast past a few awesome places:

1,2 &3. Jukcheon-ri, Umok-ri and Yonghan-ri: These small townships offer great photo ops and you can find deserted hanok (traditional Korean houses) and 해녀 (bad-ass old ladies who freedive and collect everything from seaweed to abalone). We also stopped by an old ladies house to take some photos of her and her front room. She told us she lives “혼자” – (forever) alone. At least she has lots of photos on her wall.

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4. 영일만 Yeongilman: Home to the Pohang Surf School, a Scuba Diving shop where they don’t speak English and the Yeongilman Harbour.

5. 칠포리 Chilpo-ri:   The first decent beach north of Yeongildae- smaller than Bukbu and pretty by Korean standards.

On the way to Odo we were passed by a truck booming out announcements about its wares for sale. Usually you’ll hear “삭와” (apples) or “수박” (watermelon). On this occasion it was the “개” truck. I did a double take because I couldn’t believe my ears. Yep. A dog truck. Lots of little brown maltese poodles in the back.  Seabed explained that the dogs get fed a lot of water before they are sold because it makes the meat more tender. Very surreal.

We also cycled past many rice paddies being planted. Back breaking work, but made better with some makkoli no doubt! Again, idyllic scenery-  great for photos.

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6. 오도리 Odo -ri: I really like Odo beach. Smaller than Chilpo, good for camping and the water gets deep quickly (unlike Yeongildae where you’re knee deep for 200m). If you don’t want to camp there are a few pensions around. Peace and quiet.

월포 Wolpo-ri: Wolpo is OK. I think Odo is better but is beach has more facilities.

화진리 The Cape: We ended up at The Cape, just north of Wolpo. The owner showed us around and explained that many famous K-Drama stars and politicians often stay at his hotel. As you can expect, it’s decorated to very high specs and each sea view apartment has its own Japanese sauna. The cheapest room costs 150,000 won per night but I’d say it has the nicest, widest, cleanest, wildest beach I’ve seen 30km to either side of Pohang City. This is definitely the place to celebrate anniversaries and Valentine’s Day.

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A note on using naver: Search “포항오도리” and click “지도” on the top left hand drop down box. It will bring up a map of the area. Now hover over the bus symbol and all the other search categories will appear. Click on the Bed symbol “숙박” and it will display all the hotels, minibaks and pensions in the area, including the company’s website if it’s been provided. Take the tropical paradise looking cover photos with a pinch of salt though and look at the gallery for the truth.

If you fancy doing the route yourself click here. It’s approx. 60km and takes about 3 hours on a road bike.

If you don’t have a bike:

 Tsk tsk. Get one.

There is a country bus without a number you can take from the Heunghae Transfer Center Stop. You can get to Heunghae by taking bus 100,500, or 107 from Shiwae (stand opposite the bus station). The bus with no number only goes every hour or so… Taking a taxi from JSD is probably easier, or if you continue on the 500 bus or the 510 you can get to Wolpo beach. 

 

Pohang Orchestra

Tonight I watched Pohang’s local orchestra perform at the Pohang Culture and Arts Center near POSCO Bridge and the baseball stadium. Mendelssohn, Mozart and Dvorak all featured in tonight’s performance.

What makes attending this classical music event so special? Well, for starters, it’s 2,000 won per ticket! Show me anywhere else in the world where you can regularly access good quality music for less than a quid!

Tonight’s performance was conducted by Byeong-Uk Lee (Lee Byung-wook), who usually heads up the Korean Symphony Orchestra and featured Ju-Won Kim (Kim Juwon) on flute during Mozart’s “Concerto for Flute and Orchestra No.1 in G Major, K313. It’s hard for me to find information on these musicians using google but I’m sure that if you naver them you’ll find a trove of information. Most of my info seems to indicate that they’re usually based up in Seoul but both of them have connections with Germany.

Great performance, really enjoyed Dvorak’s “From the New World Opus 95”.

Two things I’ll mention about the overall experience.

1) There are loads of kids. They run around and they whisper and make telescopes out of programmes. Cute and slightly annoying.

2) It’s hot in the auditorium – the musicians were sweating on stage. Don’t sit in the lower section – definitely aim for higher up where the air is cooler. You’ll also have a better view of the orchestra if you sit in the elevated section.

Booking tickets: My co-teacher was kind enough to book the tickets online for me but you can probably buy them at the venue too.

The next performance is on June 19th and will feature works by Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky.

Getting there: Take the 200 from Shiwae Bus Terminal or a taxi to 포항문화에술회관대공연장 (790-722 경북 포항시 남구 시청로 1(포항시청 14층 포항시시설관리공단).

Sidenote: There are also free monthly concerts held on Saturdays at 17:00 – 육거리 포항 아트홀. The last one was 17th May.

 

Pohang Botanical Gardens

Teacher Trips are par for the course here in Korea, as are teacher dinners. Some people HATE these events and are always whining about them on waygook.org , trying to find new excuses to avoid attending. LOL. These guys don’t realize that Koreans become waaay more confident in their English skills after a few drinks. It’s the BEST time to talk to other teachers who are usually very shy and reserved.  You have to realize that they are curious about you and the country you are from, they’re dying to ask your opinion of Korea and the rest of the world but they’re usually too shy to speak English in front of everyone else, should they make a mistake. Going out with your Korean co-teachers is a great privilege- I can’t stress the importance of attending enough. It’s like mainlining Korean culture.

Yesterday we went on an afternoon trip to Pohang’s Botanical Gardens aka Arboretum. The gardens opened up in 2001 and feature 24 sections separated by theme and season. The iris garden looked a bit rubbish because it’s not quite the right season yet but it’s full of tadpoles! A section near the top is dedicated to the foliage of Ulleungdo island.

There is a pond which features some pretty big carp and a mini replica of Dokdo island in the centre (Dokdo is a disputed island territory between Korea and Japan, who call it “Takeshima island”).  Many foreigners find Korea’s  Dokdo propaganda  excessive but it has very rich fishing grounds so you can see why they are fighting for it (nevermind historical proof of ownership).

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Dokdo island replica

My teachers told me about Jangseung, the Korean totem poles we saw in the gardens. Traditionally a male and female wooden totem pole were erected on either side of the road at village boundaries to scare ghosts away and to keep the villagers safe. 

I also learnt about Dooly the dinosaur, the “famous” Korean animation series (another statue on the grounds). Gotta say, I’d never heard of it but here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxgJvYxr6J4

There was also a moon bear statue. One of my teachers explained to me that the bears, Asiatic Black Bears, are used in Chinese traditional medicine. “Medicine for what?” you might ask. According to wikipedia “It is purchased and consumed to treat hemorrhoids, sore throats, sores, bruising, muscle ailments, sprains, epilepsy, reduce fever, improve eye-sight, break down gall stones, act as an anti-inflammatory, reduce the effects of over-consumption of alcohol, and to ‘clear’ the liver”. Sore throats and hangovers. Awesome. The Korean government recently elevated the bears’status to protected level to ensure their survival however illegal farms still exist and there is a big bile tourist trade in China.  Read more about moon bears here and here.

The gardens were pretty but not exactly Kew (wink wink!). HOWEVER, the drive that leads there is probably the best I’ve done in Korea so far. The road winds slowly up the mountain and the views on the way up are incredible! I kept on thinking “This would be awful to cycle!!!”and then “This would be amazing to cycle!!!!” So, I’m well keen to cycle this baby once I have a lighter bike that can handle gear changes 😉

If you don’t own a car or don’t fancy a killer bike ride, you can take the bus there too. From Pohang Intercity Bus Terminal, take Bus 500 bound for Cheongha (청하). From Cheongha, transfer to a local bus bound for Sangok/Haok (상옥/하옥).  By car the journey takes around 40 minutes from downtown Pohang.

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Bouldering in Busan

I went bouldering yesterday for the first time ever- what a great experience! There is a strong relationship between freediving, yoga and climbing- I noticed this in Egypt when I did my AIDA 2 and 3* with Freedive Dahab. You can climb and freedive with these guys in the Sinai . I plan to get back into freediving later this year so it’s important for me to do as much prep as I can beforehand. I’ve wanted to give climbing a go since arriving in Korea last year but all my local queries about the subject lead to vague answers. I came across the big wall near the baseball stadium pretty early on, but how to use it as a foreigner remained a mystery to me.

Over the last few months the pieces have slowly started falling into place. Last year I went to KOTRI’s Reel Rock Film Festival in Daegu. I asked about climbing in Pohang but no one really seemed to know much about it. Lucky for me I was wearing a crazy pair of leggings. Fast forward a few months and I get a Facebook message from a Pohanger who recognised them on a night out at Tilt! He told me about local climbing walls and gyms and invited me to “Bouldering Appreciation Day”. I sort of forgot about it and was planning on surfing but I got a reminder FB message on Friday night. I was on the wrong end of pay day but I couldn’t NOT go. I woke up on Saturday morning with a healthy mix of apprehension and excitement- I was psyched to have the opportunity to try something new but pretty scared of cracking my head open before school on Monday 😉

Fear not! I wasn’t the only beginner and the community is extremely supportive of newbies. It was really nice to be in an environment where people guide you through the learning process without ego or impatience. I believe that a sport can only grow and survive if you nurture new talent and build confidence through proper training and gentle encouragement. It certainly made a refreshing change from some of the other sports I’ve tried in Korea, where you mostly learn by breaking rules no one told you about or having people shout at you.

Some sporting communities here make you question the teaching ability of teachers in Korea because there is so much negativity that comes out on the field and so little proper nurturing methods being employed. I’ve had a few girls confide in me about how their confidence is being knocked by being on the receiving end of egotistical, over-competitive coaching methods. A sport that makes you feel small and worthless is not worth your time, especially if it’s a team sport. I’m more of a solo sport person. I prefer competing against myself and using others as a guide and inspiration for improvement.

We went bouldering around Geumjeongsanseong Fortress in Busan- an area of incredible natural beauty and great vistas. I tried 2 routes on a beginner rock and managed to solve both “problems” (a climb is called a “problem” waiting for a solution). The second rock was more tricky because the lower part of the rock didn’t have much grip and required more arm strength than I currently possess. It’s also very important to wear the correct shoe size. I borrowed Korean size 250 (250cm) for the day. They were fine for the first rock, but the second one demanded shoes that fit super tight. I borrowed somesone’s 245s and got a bit higher with them.  Apparently the rule of thumb is to buy a pair 2 pairs smaller than your normal shoe size so you can truly tap the shoe’s spiderman potential. That means I needed size 235- I’m glad I have short toes!

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I was lucky enough to win a pair of size 235 climbing shoes at the after party-  I had to plank for it (my yoga teacher would be proud).

Pohang has 3 climbing walls that I know of: the first one is near the Baseball stadium, one near Pohang train station and one near Yeongdeok. If you want to know more about climbing in Pohang, go here.

I look forward to growing stronger!

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Butora shoes – 100% hemp