The Phenomenal People on the Peninsula of Pohang (Day 241)
Wow! What an unexpected day, What made it incredible were the phenomenal people on the Peninsula of Pohang that we met.
We had thought of hiring a car today, however, the online booking didn’t work nor did the phone, OK, we’ll get the bus instead. We planned to go to the top of the Peninsula of Pohang to see the iconic hand in the water and the Lighthouse. There were a couple of other places we’d quite liked to have seen, a bridge over to a small island for fishermen and a Japanese street but without a car, it may be too challenging….or is it?
Our first bus turned up – all good. After 25 minutes we needed to change buses. Off we hopped to find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Not what we were expecting. It was very hot today, a balmy 34 degrees, and I didn’t want a repeat from a week or so ago. Tim put the brolly up to give us some much-needed shade and luckily within 5 minutes a bus arrived – we were very relieved.
We sat so we could see the sea. Hang on a minute, we’re going inland, not by the sea. We’re going across the Peninsula instead of to the top. We …are….on….the …wrong…bus! Oh well, It was nice driving over, up wiggly roads through lush vegetation and to a small village near the top of the mountain. Even here they had the usual tower blocks for people to live in.
When we arrived on the other side of the peninsula we got off and walked to the coastline. Five young children were playing in the shallow calm water “Annyeonghaseyo” It was lovely to watch them all enjoying themselves. We could see that fishermen were around the rocky bay and climbed some steps, over a mound to watch them for a while. I wondered if the bridge over to the small island was near here and it turned out it was just 1km away. Fantastic. Tim noticed some stairs leading to some houses. He went first and I could hear dogs barking. Mmm…and then I could hear voices. It all sounded friendly so I carried on. We had arrived into someone’s private garden, however, the owners seemed quite bemused to see us and let us through the shortcut to the road.
Off to the bridge – yes, we could see it, like an arm reaching out to the small craggy rocks. We strolled down the curved lane to the edge of the bridge and stopped off at a café for a nice cold drink. One of the young ladies working there could speak very good English so we had a bit of a chat with her and then walked across the 200m bridge to Boritdol, the name for some rocks renowned for a good fishing spot. The end of the bridge had a weird glass building that, from the mainland looked like a giant solar panel. The wind was so refreshing and it was pleasant to watch the fishermen and women for a time. No fish were caught whilst we were there though!
We discovered that to get to our original destination by bus it would take over 3 hours or wait for a long time for the next bus. Better get a taxi to Guryongpo – more options there. We returned to the café for a sneaky yoghurt ice cream and the lovely waitress offered to phone for a taxi. She even went out with us and confirmed the price – how kind.
We arrived at Guryongpo opposite the Japanese Street, another place on our list that we doubted we’d be able to see – anyone would have thought we’d planned this! We wandered down, seeing the familiar Japanese wooden houses that we saw in Kyoto. So what are they doing here?
When the Japanese occupied Korea in the 20th century, some fishermen sailed from Kagawa in Japan to here, where they found the fish to be plentiful. Gradually more and more Japanese fishermen arrived and built Guryongpo (meaning nine dragons) to a thriving fishing town, becoming the largest fishery base in the East Sea region. And of course, they built their homes in their own traditional style. The Japanese left after the war and in 2011, the Guryongpo Japanese Houses Street project was launched to rebuild and restore 28 buildings in their original style, protecting and remembering this painful time in Korean history.
Onto our main destination, Homigot. We found the bus stop and asked a young man if he knew the times of the buses. He wasn’t from the area so couldn’t help. We sat and waited, luckily in a bus shelter. Within a few minutes, the young man returned in his car and offered us a lift to Homigot. We couldn’t believe our luck. How wonderful. He drove the 20 minutes whilst we tried to converse in our pigeon Korean. Eunggyu is an Architectural designer from Daegu and here for a short holiday. We walked together around the Sunrise Square, the easternmost part of Korea, where a Sunrise festival is held annually on the 1st January. What we had specifically come to see were Sangsaeng’s Hands. A two-part bronze sculpture of a pair of hands, one on land and one in the ocean, with the message wishing peaceful unification of Korea, and a memorial spirit of reconciliation and coexistence for celebrating a new millennium. Beautiful.
Nearby also is the Homigot Lighthouse. It was designed by French architects, a stunning octagonal shape and built using bricks with no reinforcing rods, hence recognised for its use of outstanding architectural technique. Apparently, the ceiling on each floor is sculpted in the shape of pear blossoms, a symbol of the Joseon royalty, but sadly it was locked so we didn’t see this.
We said a fond farewell to Eunggyu and went into the nearby local museum and observatory in a modern building with a stunning circular surround. It’s weird, there is little mention of this museum online. I think the hands and the lighthouse take all the glory, which is a shame, as it was very pleasant. There were some great photos of the area from 1970, where school children were helping to dig the canal. An exhibition about the history of the area. I was feeling rather tired by now, so can’t tell you much about this! On the next floor up was a large room dedicated to a wonderful collection of rocks, very well displayed in the style of Suiseki and we found it quite calming walking around. Finally up to the observatory with brilliant views across the Port and the Sunrise Square. I can imagine this to be a nice area for a holiday.
Time to get back. Our map showed us where the bus stop should be, no bus stop, but there was one on the other side of the road. We walked on to the next one. The same thing, no bus stop on our side of the road. It happened a third time. Tim went off to ask a local about the bus while I waited, being protected by the heat from the umbrella. It was about 5:30 by now and still baking hot. I did see a couple slow down as they passed us in their car, and within a few minutes they had returned and offered us a lift! Would you believe it! We could hardly believe our luck. And they took us all the way down to the first stop for our final bus ride. The father works as an Engineer at POSCO and his daughter Shi-wang is a student studying Fibre-Optics. A quick photo and a very fond farewell we waited only a few minutes for our bus…which went the right way back to our Airbnb.
Wow! What a day and what lovely people on the peninsula of Pohang. So kind and thoughtful – very humbling experience.