20 (Fri) August 2010
Cabbage with Salt & Sesame Oil
-Ulleung, Gyeongsang-Buk, Korea-
with Backcountry Camping
Trip to Ulleung-Do + Dok-Do, Day 1.
Ulleung-Do is an island, part of the Gyeongsang-Buk Province, about 110 km off the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula. Requires a 3-hour boat ride from the mainland (on a good day).
Dok-Do is not really an island, more like a scattering of rocky outcroppings, about 70 km farther east of Ulleung-Do. Officially called “Liancourt Rocks” by the international community. Also called “Takeshima” by Japan. They’ve been the subject of territorial controversy between Korea and Japan for centuries but are currently held and carefully guarded by Korea. Requires a 1.5-hour boat ride from Ulleung-Do (on a good day), sometimes as long as 3 hours (on a bad day), sometimes ending in abort-mission after a few distant loops around the rocks because the high waves prevent the boat from approaching the dock.
Dok-Do is a mecca for Koreans, for whom a visit to Dok-Do is an act of patriotism. The experience really is little more than a symbolic gesture. Once the boat docks on the east islet and the doors open, the clocks starts ticking: 20 minutes. Visitors are allowed to stroll around the pier, maybe a few hundred square meters of real estate. Guards are stationed at various points to prevent wandering. It’s a photo op, but only from certain angles. Guards will stop shots of certain things, like the base of the pier or the generator or presumably whatever else might be the target of mischief.
Back at Ulleung-Do, en route to the campsite, we passed by one of Ulleung-Do’s most prominent photo locations, a small harbor with a view of the “Drinking Elephant.” We were mesmerized by the sight of the sun kissing the western horizon.
Narabunji is a park/campsite at the base of the island’s central mountain peak.
By the time we arrive at Narabunji, the night is upon is. Everyone dons a head lantern and, within minutes, we establish basecamp with a line of solo tents clustered among the trees. For some of us, this is where the fun begins. With some preparing more than one dish, I counted at least 30 different menu items in total, as well as 10 different types of booze. It’s difficult to argue with a good and plentiful and diversified spread, but I do wonder if we’re overdoing it a bit. Another issue is the seating arrangement. Granted, we’re all in it together, and it is a social gathering, but at times I do wish we could have some alone-time with just the people whose company I’ve come here to enjoy. I’m close to maybe 8 of the 20 and on friendly terms with another 4. Although I welcomed the opportunity to meet new members, I don’t like feeling the obligation to hang out with them all, all of the time. That aside, we had a good time.
The featured dish was nothing more than raw cabbage leaves with a sprinkling of sea salt and a splash of sesame oil. Some kind of synergy between those 3 simple ingredients, taking the cabbage to a whole new dimension of flavor, though I suppose the quality of the cabbage would be critical. CJH said that she’d discovered it at a restaurant in Japan. Surprisingly good, especially if not expecting much to begin with.