Ulsan was my first choice when I applied to EPIK. I was drawn to the proximity to the coast and the mountains, the size of the city, the small expat community and the lack of interest most people have in living in Ulsan. I knew that by applying to Ulsan, I essentially guaranteed myself a spot, because, as many will tell you, “Noone ever requests Ulsan; everyone wants to live in Busan”. Had I chosen a more popular city, I may have been turned down and placed in the countryside far away from any city (which even in Ulsan, still sort of happened).
If you read anything online about selecting a city to live in with EPIK, Ulsan usually falls at the bottom of the list. Why? I’m not sure. Many tell you that Ulsan is just an industrial city – it is home to the largest Hyundai plant and the world’s largest shipyard – they will tell you there is nothing to do, and you will head to Busan every weekend. Essentially, Ulsan is Busan’s ugly step-sister that get’s overshadowed by such a vibrant and large neighboring city. For my Kitchener-Waterloo friends – think of how everyone talks about poor Cambridge, yeah, that’s Ulsan.
I have been living in Ulsan for over a month and a half, and I have come to the conclusion that it is an extremely underrated city. I have spent more weekends in Ulsan then I have in other cities, and there is still so much more to explore. There are plenty of great restaurants to eat at, foreigner bars to go out on a weekend, cafes galore, and many beautiful nature sites to see.
Here are some of my favourite spots throughout Ulsan:
Taehwa River Grand Park
Awesome spot to walk around, cycle, or visit the bamboo forest.
Seongnamdong Night Market
Awesome spot for street food, restaurants and shopping, OR you could spend all your money trying to win stuffed animals out of those claw machines (they’re a pretty big deal here in Korea)
My favourite place in Ulsan by far. How this stunning spot is not in Korean travel guidebooks is beyond me. It’s an absolutely stunning park on the coast where you can spend hours hiking and walking around. It is also the point where the sun rises first in Korea.
Ulsan Grand Park
I just visited this park yesterday (24 degrees and sunshine, sorry to all of my fellow Canadians). It is the largest urban park in all of Korea, and it’s beautiful. Luckily – drinking is legal anywhere in Korea, so that automatically makes any trip to the park more interesting. In Ulsan Grand Park, you can rent tandem bikes (or regular bikes), and make your own DIY sangria right in the park if you are so inclined.
Cat Cafes, Dog Cafes, and More
There’s a local orphanage where people can volunteer to socialize with the kids monthly. There are also a number of cat and dog cafes. I think this photo sums up how much more babies like me then cats do…
Pretty beautiful eh? So, the next time someone tells you Ulsan is “just an industrial city”, tell them to think again.
Oh ps. I’ve been doing that whole teaching thing, and that’s been pretty awesome too. Here’s some proof: