Our final day of the tour started with breakfast at 7:30am. I woke up exhausted in our hostel but determined to eat something, not realizing that they would’ve held onto a bagel for me later. I dressed and headed down to the hostel cafeteria where we’d had dinner the night before. I found a tour guide wandering around trying to figure out where everything was. Some things ended up on the bus which was not around but eventually they found a toaster and coffee, tea and hot chocolate as well as bagels (from Costco) and cream cheese.
I’d been warned by some girls who’d gone on a previous WinK trip to arrive early for breakfast as there’s only one toaster and an army worth of people waiting, the same for if I wanted coffee. My cold was absolutely miserable at this point so I stuck to tea, cut my cinnamon raisin bagel (which I haven’t had in forever, I didn’t know Costco in Korea carried them!) in half and popped it in the toaster as more people began to file in. Then helped myself to some cream cheese and found a spot to sit and eat. I had a small plan for the morning. Since my hunt for cherry blossom bread had failed in Jinhae I was determined to buy some Gyeongju bread. I knew from last time that there’s practically a Gyeongju bread shop on every corner in Gyeongju. I also wanted more tissues, because somewhere the day before I’d misplaced mine. Which was awful because I felt fond of my packet of tissues because I’d used them as a pillow at the Jimjilbang. (We’d bonded and somewhere I’d abandoned it) I had no interested or energy to even contemplate going to Bulguksa Temple, hiking Namsan or visiting Seokguram Grotto. Gina went, determined to get a picture she really wanted and I went to the convenience store near our hostel instead and bought myself some tissues before going back to bed for a couple hours.
Eventually the rest of my roommates who also opted to sleep in got up and they and one of the tour guides who’d stayed behind joined me on my mini adventure to hunt down some Gyeongju bread. I found some, about a block or two away and made it in perfect time to wait for the bus to pick us up to take us to our 7,000 won buffet lunch. (The people who went to the temples had a great time.)
Much to my disappointment our buffet lunch was cancelled. Instead we drove to Daegu and waited in the busy traffic to get to bus parking on Palgongsan. Palgongsan is a mountain on the border of Daegu and they were in the midst of having their own cherry blossom festival.
Most of our trip our guides gave us a map, had suggestions and discussed things we could do with our free time and pointed us in a good direction. They didn’t do that with this last minute change. Instead they dropped us off and we all scattered. I figured that if this was where we were stopping for lunch then there must be something to eat worth the journey and tons of options. Because our buffet lunch was going to (most likely) have something for everyone to eat then surely the festival would be on a similar level. Instead we found a few food trucks, all with things Gina couldn’t eat and a tent full of traditional Korean food but nothing we particularly wanted.
We eventually settled on a pajeon…split three ways. It was 15,000 won.
I love pajeon but I was hungry. I could’ve very easily eaten the entire thing myself, but everyone else was adamant about sharing and I was hopeful that we’d find more food elsewhere, so I agreed.
It wasn’t bad, a nice decent octopus pajeon that we all enjoyed as best we could, despite the loud music, because we were right next to one of the stages. After we finished our food and paid we quickly wandered around looking for food, something other than street food or sweets.
We found…nothing. As we made our way back towards the bus we found our guides hadn’t gone up at all and had stayed down near the parking lot to eat at the restaurants there, something they hadn’t told us about at all. I was hangry at this point. I’d been looking forward to the buffet and wasn’t impressed running around a festival in search of food in a way that was reminiscent of my failed cherry blossom bread hunt in Jinhae. I was bitter and exhausted.
But here’s the thing, you can learn from my mistakes. The cherry blossoms at Palgongsan were lovely. They were more in bloom then they had been in Jinhae. There is also, actual things to do at Palgongsan if you’re visiting. One of the other people on our tour had a great time, because he hadn’t stuck with the initial pack that headed towards the festival. He found something we didn’t know about. The Palgongsan Cable Car. Everyone on Palgongsan was at the festival or near it so the cable car was empty. He got to go for a nice ride and see beautiful views of the mountain for about 11,000 won round trip. He was able to avoid the crowds, enjoy the cherry blossoms and go on a mini solo adventure. So I suggest eating before you go up the mountain or eating at one of the restaurants because there’s no guarantee you’ll find something you like at the festival. (I ended up getting a tuna gimbap triangle at the convenience store to eat on the ride home) and then go on the cable car and maybe take some pictures along the road. If you want to try traditional Korean donuts, street food, or enjoy some music then head up to the actual festival.
This brought an end to our tour. Despite the original itinerary saying we’d arrive back at WinK by 6:30pm we did not. We barely made it near Suwon by 6:30pm. We did, however unlike our trip to Jinhae, stop at a rest stop where food could be purchased or coffee if you wanted it.
I really like Korean rest stops. The bathrooms, generally, are very nice, and there’s not just food but also games and souvenirs. This one was no exception and several people bought all sorts of snacks that they shared, like the nice rest stop seasoned mini potatoes.
Suggestion of things to take on a WinK tour beyond your usual packing list:
- eyemask (the lights on the bus come on sporadically and at stops, if you want to sleep through it/ or when your roommates move around you’ll appreciate having it)
- a neck pillow (I forgot mine and balled up my jacket, but wished I had a pillow for sleeping on the bus/ at the jimjilbang)
- snacks (food may be a hit or a miss, I bought lots of snacks at convenience stores which helped me when we were running late/ when the meal was no longer part of the schedule.
- An external battery charger (it’s a long bus ride and you may not find a good charging spot for awhile)
- Comfortable shoes (You’re moving around a lot, and there’s moments of hiking/biking)
- Fans/hats, umbrellas, parasols (whatever you need to protect yourself from the elements)
I had fun, returned exhausted and definitely sicker than when I’d left, but I did over all enjoy the trip. I had a great time with Gina and I think tours like these are a great way to meet other people in Korea. People were traveling on their own and with friends and having a great time. Plus the stress of planning and working out logistics was out of my hands which was nice.