Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend the weekend cruising on ‘The Koreana’, a Korean Tall Ship capable of sleeping almost 50 people. The trip was organized by WinK Travels, and included two days cruising around the Southern coast of Korea and stopping off on 2 islands along the way. One of these islands is famous for dinosaur footprints and the other is famous for being the home a of makgoli (korean rice wine) factory. It was hard to know which one more people were excited about, as they were both equally exciting!
We set off early on Saturday morning, just after sunrise, armed with a few changes of clothes, some water and enough food and drink to keep us merry (and some) for the duration of the trip. We were told there would be no stores to buy stuff in along the way so it was important to come well prepared.
After a few hours of cruising, making new friends and breaking open a few bottles of champers, 10am had arrived and we were set to make our first stop at the Makgoli Island. Sadly, due to the low tide, the ship’s captain said it was not possible for us to dock as the water was too low. Fear not, said our incredible trip leader William Cho, as he had a mighty plan in place.
No doubt in any other country, or if you were with any other travel group, the leaders probably would have apologized for the inconvenience and sailed onwards towards the next destination. Instead, the Captain phoned ahead to the Makgoli Factory to order 3 crates of wine. After less than 20 minutes waiting, a small fishing boat pulled up alongside us and the good people handed us crate after crate of delicious rice wine. It was equally hilarious and amazing, as they were laughing and us and taking photos and we were inevitably doing the exact same thing to them.
It was almost 10.30am and the party was about to get started! We pumped up the music (thanks Ryan for that epic playlist!), sang along to classics such as ‘I’m on a boat’, and had a full on game of Kings Cup completed before noon. An unbeatable start to a great weekend.
Our next stop was at an island famed in Korea for its dinosaur footprints along the coastline, and in case anyone should forget this, they had two HUGE, almost life-size T-REX dinosaurs welcoming tourists to the island. The view sailing in was a true sight to behold…especially now that quite a few bottles of wine had been consumed.
Despite the weather changing, ponchos and rain covers appearing, and it becoming quite chilly, nothing could put a damper on everyone’s high spirits and following a delicious lunch on board the ship, everyone started jumping, leaping and swinging from the boat into the surprisingly warm waters. This was an activity that was repeated throughout the weekend, including a sneaky swim around midnight when the rained had finally cleared.
We spent Saturday night docked on the ‘dinosaur island’, where we were treated to a delicious Korean BBQ which was followed by salsa dancing lessons on the pier, sing songs and countless drinking games both new and old.
We also watching in awe as the Captain and his first mate impressed us with their fishing skills, catching an array of colorful marine life from an Octopus, to a multi-coloured starfish. One of my friends was even brave enough to try out some raw fish, hand fed to her by the Captain himself! I think it’s capturing moments like that, and having those memories and interactions with locals, that make trips like this so special. He may not have spoken a word of English, but somehow, after a few drinks, we all seem to have a common language involving hand gestures and smiles.
While some brave folk decided to venture off and sleep on the island, with some even choosing to find shelter at the feet of the two enormous dinosaurs, most people found a bunk bed on the ship, and cosied up there for the night where we were gently rocked to sleep.
We woke up on Sunday,surprisingly hangover free, to the smell of toasted bagels and freshly brewed coffee. Shortly after, we set sail again, and soon the sun was shining, the sound of Jack Johnson’s sweet, sweet voice was filling the air and everyone was nothing but content. We eventually made in to the Makgoli island where we were treated to freshly cooked corn-on-the-cob…picked fresh from the owners garden that morning.We were also treated to not one, but two classic rides in the back of pick up trucks to save us from walking the long up-hill stroll back to the ship. Zooming past groups of Korean hikers while about 15 of us waygooks (foreigners) were crammed into the back of a pick-up truck was a pretty hilarious sight.
All in all, it really was a magical weekend and I would highly recommend anyone living in Korea to jump at the chance to spend a weekend pretending to be pirates onboard the beautiful Koreana.