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Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Dawn of a New Beginning : Ulsan, South Korea

My initial days in Ulsan....
It's been about a month and a half since I got to Korea and what can I say, man, it's been a ball of an experience, so much so I feel like my mind is bursting to it's brims! Never a day have I regretted the fact that I left my job, my car, our home and moved to Korea, the land of the unknown then. Of course, my only concern was leaving my family behind but hey, with the advent of the technological age (Skype and the likes of it) I don't feel it much at all. Just a 'sign in' away, and I'm in touch with them. So there....
                                                                                                    
A view of the lovely seaside city we're living in, Ulsan...


























Ulsan - The City....
I started loving this city from the day I arrived here. But before I go on about Ulsan itself, some due credit surely needs to be given to South Korea as a whole. My first impressions of the country were surely on positive notes; it started from my observation of how organized and fast-paced people were at Incheon International Airport. Once we collected our baggage, me and Mr.Hubby literally had to race to the special bus stand, luggage and all, which was situated right at the entrance of the airport. And we weren't alone..... Racing with us were a whole lot of Koreans as well!!! (Unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture of this..) :)

Well, I guess we had a choice of either taking a taxi or the bus to Gimpo Airport, but hey, why not start blending into the local culture from the very beginning and just take the bus? :)

Another thing that appealed to me about South Korea is how easily one can find mineral water dispensers at literally all public places. The best part is that it actually comes with a paper cup, and a choice of BOTH hot and cold water! Well, interestingly, in the country that yours truly came from, this wasn't something common..(despite it being in a tropical region with lots of water resources from the torrential rains that pours)...You usually have to pay a minimal sum for water...

Aaaaah...well...I think I'm getting a little sidetracked here...let's get back to Ulsan....tsk tsk tsk...:)

So, once we landed in Ulsan airport from Gimpo airport, we took a taxi back home. Surprise of all surprises, by the way, all taxis are metered here in Korea, doesn't matter which time of the day and doesn't matter as to whether you're a local or an expat! Hmm....so unlike Ma______sia (please fill in your own blanks!)...

The very first thing I noticed about Ulsan is the breathtaking backdrop of the shipyard. My oh my, what a glorious sight it was! Thanks to Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI, that's where my husband works, by the way), Ulsan houses the largest shipyard in the world...IN THE WORLD! It almost feels like the trademark of Ulsan;no, wait. It IS the trademark of Ulsan! No matter where you turned, you'd end up seeing humongous shipping cranes soaring so high up into the skies that one needs to squint one's eyes against the sunlight to take a peek. I almost cheekily came up with a saying "if you ever get lost in Ulsan, look up...and follow the direction of the cranes"....Check out what I mean in the photo below...

taken from the rooftop of my studio apartment, can you see the shipping crane?
 Unfortunately, we're not allowed to take pictures of shipyards (I suppose the Koreans are afraid of technological infringement, who's to blame them?), so all I can offer is a view of the shipyard taken from miles apart..it's still quite a sight, as you can see ....

Shipyard view from Deawangam Park, Ulsan (picture courtesy of Mr.hubby)
                                                                                                                                                            
Now, for a little bit of geography. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulsan, Ulsan's got a population of 1.1 million people and is the industrial powerhouse of Korea. Well, I'm not going to go on, you can read the rest from the wikipedia link above....

So, you might ask me what is it about Ulsan that's so besotting? Well, I think it's a beautiful city, lucky enough to have mountainous terrains and the sea close by. My home's a stone throw away from the sea (which really did shock my grandmother though, for all she could say was "what if the tsunami strikes? Will you be safe?"...hmm....point to ponder), and sometime evenings I take a stroll to the seaside and just let my thoughts flow by. Also, the population of 1.1 million is a fair figure for a city with an area of 1058.92 square km, which generally means you can walk around the city without feeling that it's overcrowded with people. Oh, trust me, you'll know what I mean if you've visited Shanghai, Seoul or Chennai!


Ulsan - The People....
Ulsan's actually got a pretty fair mix of expatriates and the locals, although it's pretty tough trying to place us expatriates. When I walk along the streets, I see an occasional Caucasian, Indian, Sri Lankan, Indonesian or Philipino face. A curt nod, a dash of smile and off we trod along our paths.

When I came to Ulsan, I made a mental note to befriend as many people as possible from different walks of life. I strongly believe that this would truly be an enriching experience. How right I was! Apart from some of my expatriate friends, I've made friends with some lovely Korean ladies as well.  Which reminds me that I've got to get some pictures with some of my friends here!I'll be posting them sometime later this month. But here's a picture of me with my new friends from India, enjoying ourselves at the Black Pebble beach, Ulsan...

Me, Sasya, and Piyali......the fun we have is indescribable...


























The next thing I knew and within the blink of eye, the waves crashed into those rocks and I was soaked wet.....yikes.....wasn't really the best possible thing to happen, since it was only the start of summer and the wind was extremely chilly, at least to a person who came from an all-year-round summer country like me! Well, I guess I just had to take it with a pinch of salt!!!!!:P Life's like a box of chocolates, full of surprises, eh?

Ulsan - The famous port - Bangeojin (where I live)

The main street at Bangeojin, where I live
Me at my apartment - Rheabill (thank you sasya for taking the picture!




















































Thought of starting of with a couple of photos....! :) Well, I can't help it, can I? After all, a photo speaks a thousand words!!

The place we live in is known as Bangeojin, which happens to be in the Dong Gu District. Well, there are 4 main districts in Ulsan : Dong-Gu, Jung-Gu, Nam-Gu, and Buk Gu. I'm guessing that the word 'Gu' means district in Korean language. Interestingly, according to my  ex-student, Chang Jin Yo, The words 'Dong', 'Jung', 'Nam' and 'Buk' actually refers to the different directions (north, south, east, and west). I really think it's such an ingenious way of segmenting and naming a city! From my observation, I'd say Bangeojin is famous because it is the main location for Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI, where my hubby works).

Oh, by the way, that's me, Chang, and his friends at Ilsan beach, taken about a week ago (picture below). These boys drove all the way from Daegu (another metropolitan city, larger than Ulsan) to visit me and devour some warm, Indian vegetarian food. They looked like they enjoyed it immensely!
Chang (far left), friends and myself at Ilsan beach....





























Anyway, back to Bangeojin. I consider myself extremely lucky because I live so close to the main bus stop of my district - the Gotbawi bus station (better known as Gotbawi bus junction, or Kopayi bus station - I wonder where THAT pronunciation came from, when I heard it I couldn't help burst out laughing! I mean, it sounded like some traditional Tamil name like Suppaayi, Karuppaaaayi, Mangaayi, Koppaaayi...get the drift?.tsk tsk tsk....:)))))))

Gotbawi bus Junction - 2 minutes walk from my apartment...


























The best part about staying so close to Gotbawi is the fact that you are able to travel to most parts of Ulsan. Even if you don't, you could still get the connecting bus to Ulsan Intercity Bus Terminal, which is located at New downtown ( as we call it) or Samsandong (as the locals call it). All you need is a bus card (as shown in picture below) that you can purchase from any of the 7-Eleven shops in Bangeojin, and top up whenever necessary.

Ulsan Intercity Bus Terminal - picture courtesy of  http://english.visitkorea.or.kr
Two varieties of bus cards that you can buy...























































And the second best thing about staying here is......tada!!!!!!!! the sea, the blue blue sea, which is a mere stone's throw away from my apartment. In fact, you can get a glimpse of it from the rooftop......aaaaah...the bliss of just devouring the sight of one of HIS wonders...hmmm.....at some point you feel like you yourself are immersed as the sea...that the sea and you are ONE......

This was taken from the rooftop....managed to catch a boat at that!.......:)