Some friends and I wanted to see a bit more of the lovely city we live in so we thought we would take the “We Love Ulsan” tour offered by the Ulsan Metropolitan City Tourism Division. The brochure promised that for a mere 5,000 won, we could “gain a better understanding of historical relics and sites, tourist attractions, industrial tour sites and many other places thanks the great commentary of the Cultural Heritage Narrator.” It sounded perfect.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny, which was especially exciting because it had been raining for about two weeks straight. The bus tour was surprisingly busy. Who would have thought that on a beautiful Sunday in December so many people would want to do a bus tour of Ulsan?
We were the only foreigners, 4 American and me. The Cultural Heritage Narrator we had been promised in the tour brochure was sweet and clearly thrilled to have us along (she kept clapping) but she didn’t speak a word of English. Undaunted, we boarded the bus and began our adventure!
Our first stop was National Treasure No. 147 – The Ulju Cheonjeon-ri Petroglyphs, carved in the 6th century.
The Koreans were enthralled, and our guide spent a long time pointing out every swirl and lozenge. The only thing I understood was that this squiggle that looks a bit like a goalie mask was in fact a tiger. Perhaps tigers looked different in the 6th century.
Our next stop was a small temple. It was unclear why it was included on our tour as there was nothing really exciting about it at all. We did spot this interestingly named hotel though. Anybody need a place to stay?
The location of the amethyst mine was gorgeous. The mine itself however, was a little unexpected. Perhaps it was silly of me, but I expected to see some amethysts or even a miner or two. Instead we found complete and utter randomness.
We were greeted by this sign:
In the first cavern there were statues of naked cavemen.
I made a new friend in the next cave.
This guy (were the bones real? I don’t know) died in a somewhat awkward position. He was in the Egyptian section but the pillars looked quite Greek and the pottery with him in the sandbox was Korean. ???
We exited Ancient Egypt/Greece/Korea and passed by a mural of quite chubby dinosaurs before entering a cave dedicated to African and Polynesian tribal art.
Our guide rushed us through the caves, clearly in a hurry to get us into our seats for the acrobatic show. Or perhaps she was worried we would ask what all the exhibitions had to do with amethysts…
We took our seats in front of a small stage in one of the large caves. The stage was decorated in Korean flags, various acrobatic paraphanelia and the head of E.T.
The lights dimmed, the music started and out came several children. Chinese children by the looks of them. With mounting discomfort, we watched the show. There was no doubt that they were very good but they were only children. It broke my heart. Surely there is some sort of international child labour law that prevents this sort of thing? They should be out playing with their friends not performing like trained monkeys six times a day in a cave.
Our final stop of the day was the Whale Museum/ Experience Hall.
Outside the museum was a charming statue of a whaling ship preparing to harpoon a large whale. I began to be a bit worried about how exactly we would be experiencing the whales. My nervousness increased when I spotted a sign saying “whale museum/ snack bar.”
We were led inside to discover the whales we were meant to be experienceing were in fact dolphins. The tank was too small for three dolphins but it was really neat to see the show from below, especially when they leapt out of the water.
The rest of the museum was dedicated to the history of whaling in Ulsan and the world. We didn’t check out the snack bar.
My lovely friend Maury with a yummy dolphin treat! 😀