Monday, 6 September 2010

Summer Vacation Day 4-7: Samcheok and Haesindang Gongwon (Penis Park)

So after departing Jeondongjin our next stop was Samcheok. Samcheok is known as the city of caves and has so many all around there is even one right under the city center that was only discovered in the 1990s. We arrived in Samcheok in the early evening so got straight down to looking for a place to stay. This is normally a fairly simple affair in Korea as there are loads of cheap motels that generally charge 40,000 won or less but everywhere we went to in Samcheok wanted at least 60 000. I think they must have had a price fixing racket going on because it took nearly 2 hours of walking round and god knows how many motels asked before we found somewhere that only wanted 50 000.

After the long walk searching for a motel we were pretty tired and hungry so we dumped our bags, went out and got some bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetables with a fried egg on top) and a beer from a nearby cafe. The next morning we got up early and set out for Hwanseon Donggul, a large limestone cave system near Samcheok.

The bus terminal in Samcheok had a nest of house martins right above the waiting area, this photo wasn't even taken with a telephoto lens, they were right above everyone's heads but totally unconcerned.

We set off early for the Hwanseon Donggul caves. There aren't too many buses to the caves so we caught the 8:10 up there and it took about an hour so there was still lots of mist on the hills when we arrived..

It's supposed to be a 35 min climb to the caves from the bus stop but its a bloody steep climb so like lazy tourists we decided to get the monorail for a bargain 5000 won - well worth it to avoid the climb!

Looking back towards the entrance of the caves.The caves were huge, apparently some of the biggest in Asia and at least 30m wide and 40m high in places.

Me trying not to look terrified whilst standing on a bridge over an apparently bottomless chasm. The cave's features had many fanciful names, this was called the Bridge of Confessions.

A heart shaped little hole in the rock which a romantic minded Korean insisted on taking a photo of us stood next to. Unfortunately the cave was very dark so all you could see was us standing in the dark in that photo.

This boring looking feature is apparently very interesting to geologists as one of the only examples in the world of whatever this kind of feature is called.

On our way back from the caves we were rushing a bit to make it for the 11:20 bus back so we didn't have time to buy one of the huge triangles of cake that were being sold on the side of the track. We didn't manage to get many good photos in the caves because they were very dark and damp (unsurprisingly) but they did look incredible even if they didn't quite live up to their bizarre and grandiose names such as the Valley of Desire and Valley of Galaxy.

We made it back to Samcheok just after midday and then set off for our next destination, Sinnam, a small fishing village and home of the Haesindang Gongwon (Penis Park). Sinnam was actually the location of a world penis sculpture contest until joyless local Christians started protesting. Fortunately lots of the entries remain on display on the cliffs around the village.

Care to take a seat? The most obscene benches I've ever seen.

Well what can I say? It's a giant wooden penis with tentacles coming out the bottom.

The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac in fibreglass penis form.

Giant penis being hugged by smaller penis.

Sculpture of local fishermen showing their willies to the sea.

This young lady is apparently the reason behind the village's penis obsession.

The girl in the photo above was the girlfriend of a local fisherman until she was tragically drowned on nearby rocks, after she was drowned the fish disappeared from all the local fishing grounds and it was believed that they were cursed by the 'unfulfilled' girl. The villagers were beginning to lose hope of the fish ever returning until one fisherman decided to take a wizz in the sea. The next day the fish began to return. The fishermen took this as a sign that the spirit of the drowned girl wanted to see a bit of willy waving action so they soon began erecting the sculptures around the coast and the fish returned.

Penis by a pond - a still life.

We passed by a pond which was absolutely teeming with frogs of all shapes and sizes.

After walking round the sculpture park we checked out the fishing village folk museum which seemed mainly to be an attempt to explain the village's weird penis obsession.

A rather unconventional dugout canoe design

A bizarre statue which formed part of a display about how normal it is to be obsessed with penis sculpture and how it has happened all over the word throughout history.

The museum's fishing boat simulator - it consisted of a cabin which rocked back and forth, no video or sound, just a box bumping back and forth. It was very exciting.

One of the local Ajummas (Korean old lady) trying to flog bottles of willy whiskey.

When we got back to Samcheok we had some really good Samgyeopsal (bacon BBQ) for dinner and took a few pictures of a particularly impressive fountain.

Samcheok fountain and light show.The fountain had probably hundreds of different jets and a complex LED light show.

The next day we awoke to find the sun had finally returned after a long patch of cloud and drizzle! so we decided to stop in Samcheok for a another day as there are some very nice beaches to the south. We headed down to the bus station and caught the same bus that goes to the penis park about halfway down the coast to Maengbang beach, or so we thought. It turned out that the bus didn't actually go to the beach but came within 500m of it and luckily a very helpful Korean girl was getting off at the same stop and walked us down to the beach. The beach was beautiful and pretty quiet. There was a stall renting rubber rings and selling beer and a few toilets but that was it. We rented a ring for 10 000 won and jumped on in!

Sophie rides the waves in a big yellow rubber ring. She's wearing all her clothes to go swimming in the Korean fashion.

The sand was absolutely teeming with clams, I spent a lot of my time picking them up with my toes and collecting them. Unfortunately, we had no way to cook them so I gave all mine away to Koreans who had brought stoves.

After a few hours on the beach we discovered we hadn't put on enough sun cream early enough and had got horribly sunburnt, so our evening was occupied finding some after sun cream, packing our bags and nursing our wounds. The next morning we got up to find we had no hot water so couldn't get a shower before hitting the road again so we left fairly early. Carrying the bags was pretty painful so we made our way quickly but gently to the bus station and got a bus to Pohang, the first stop on the journey to Gyeongju, the ancient Shilla capital of Korea and home to many historical sights.


  1. well thats the best excuse for a lot of giant willies I've ever heard. how come no one has heard of this park. im sure pilgrimages could be set up ( not by me however!).
    im enjoying the understated ness of this blog. do any of your students read it?? looking forward to the next installment. that goelogical feature looks like a whirlpool. was it igneus rock or limestone ( i expect it was limestone wsasn;t it).

    Ill see if I can get this to stick now xx laura

  2. Glad you're enjoying the blog and it's understatedness! Not sure how popular penis pilgrimages would be but if some were to be set up then I'm sure Penis Park would have to be top of the list! I don't think any of our students read this - maybe all these penises make it unsuitable for children anyway!

    These caves were limestone - we explored some igneous lava caves later on our holiday so keep reading the blog!

  3. just a little piece of information you might find interesting...many polite koreans have told me the same "pee" story, but it's actually a pc line they tell foreigners so we won't get offended. the truth is, the villagers didn't start peeing into the sea (how does getting peed on satisfy a young lover?), but offered their "sea men" to the unfulfilled girl...those statues just got a bit more obscene. glad you liked samcheok!

  4. Thanks for the info - we did think that the 'peeing' statues of the fishermen looked a little odd! Maybe we should write to the Lonely Planet guidebook people and enlighten them on the subject! Nice of the Koreans to try to spare our feelings!