Ulsanbawi and the Philippines: Here’s Another Piece of My Heart

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It may be only a week or two into the new year – but I feel like I’ve already experienced so much! With a week break from work we have been able to explore some new places. Little did I know these places would have so much meaning in my life. I’ve given only a few places a piece of my heart. Now adding to the list – a couple new places – here’s another piece of my heart.

James and I made our way to Seoraksan National Park, a few hours east of Seoul. We arrived on Christmas day late in the afternoon so woke up early the next day and started our hike before sunrise.

We hiked the famous Ulsanbawi. Only about a 2 hour hike but over 900 stairs – talk about a leg burn!

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End Goal

It was a cold day but the crisp air felt great while trudging up those stairs. Near the top, a light snow fell gracefully from the sky, leaving perfectly shaped snowflakes on our faces and clothes. We were the only ones on the trail and at the top to admire the view.

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 It was breathtaking – or maybe that was from the strong winds? DSC00246

Leaning against the railing for support from the wind, I hear behind me, “Hey, what’s this?” I turn around and James is on one knee, asking me to marry him! I was so surprised, said “Of course!”, and we both celebrated. We are engaged!!!!


The moment, the day, the place, could not have been more perfect! Minutes later a Korean man reached the top and caught on to our celebration asking, “Proposal?” He clapped and showed his excitement with a few thumbs up and took our picture. Thank you kind stranger! You will forever be part of our story!

We're Engaged!

Ulsanbawi, here’s a piece of my heart!

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The next day James’s family arrived in Seoul. So happy to see familiar faces!

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Welcome to Korea! Seoul Tower

 Seoul still amazes me, there are so many buildings and so many, so many people!


6 months later in the same place. Oh how time flies.

We tour-guided through Seoul for a couple of days, headed back to Gimhae for two days of work, packed our bags, and flew to the lovely Philippines. We arrived in Manila, had my first experience in a sleep capsule in the airport -great refresher, another flight to Puerto Princessa, then on the road to our island. We had a crazy 5 hour van ride on windy roads, at high speeds, passing families on motorcycles (like 3-5 people on one motorcycle), Philippine tricycles packed with people, and buses with people “casually” riding on top.

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It may not look like it, but this bus is going really fast, like 60mph.

We had a stop at the local market to stock up on some fruit. Although, fruit isn’t the only thing we found …

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Just a good 80 degrees, meat sitting in a open area, hungry anyone??

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Ohh… there’s the fruit! 🙂

We made it the hotel and basically ran to the beach. I will never forget walking through the dirt streets, dodging motorcycles, people, and tricycles, seeing the small shops, people sitting near their houses, then emerging onto the beach, my jaw dropping at the sight.
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This place was unbelievable! Every turn was another incredible view. I was amazed! 

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On our first full day we rented kayaks and explored the private beaches on surrounding islands.

Philippines (6)Look at the color of that water!


Philippines (7)The next day we did the well-known island hopping. Although crowded, we were able to see incredible-dreamlike areas.

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First stop

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Snacking on some coconut

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Lunch cooking on the back of the boat

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Yoshi Island

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After a busy day of island hopping we decided on a walk through the local village to a secluded beach to have a chill day. Although rocky, it was super peaceful.

Philippines (19)Need a refill anyone? -The local gas station.

Philippines (20)Good times with great people!

The next day we went scuba diving. I am not certified but was able to do a discovery dive. I was with another girl from Brazil, who ironically is studying in South Korea, and two instructors. I am so happy I was able to be one-on-one with an instructor for my first time. I had a little freak out but she was so great and got me right back underwater. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures. I was able to do 3 different dives, saw some amazing fish, and beautiful coral. I cannot wait to get certified! This was a tease into a whole new world that I am excited to see more of! 

 On New Year’s Eve we had a delicious seafood buffet dinner and found ourselves at a reggae bar. We danced into midnight, a great start to the New Year! Philippines (10)

 On our last day we took a couple tricycles to a nearby beach. It had the softest sand I’ve every felt! Philippines (24)We enjoyed dinner on the beach, feet buried in the sand, listened to some great music, and watched a sunset of gold. 

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I tried to take it all in – not wanting to forget any part of this perfect vacation. This place will always hold a piece of heart. It was such an unreal island of beauty, kind people, and good food, words and pictures can hardly describe it. I am so grateful for the people in my life, the places I’m able to explore, and the new experiences I get to have everyday! 

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9 Replies to “Ulsanbawi and the Philippines: Here’s Another Piece of My Heart”

  1. christy merrill says: Reply

    It was great talking to you and James.
    What a great way to start the new year. I am so excited for your engagement. He is quite the photographer and you are quite the writer….better stick together! We love hearing about your experiences and you really look happy. I am always looking forward to what is around the corner for you two. You seem to find the most interesting niches. Love you guys!

  2. Glenna CAUDLE says: Reply

    Congrats I’m excited for you.

  3. Hi, Crystal and James,
    Congratulations on your engagement!
    Such a memorable time for you there. I love your blog, your photos and the comments of your experiences. Thank you so very much for your call telling me of your incredible engagement. What a treat to share with the rest of the family there. I loved seeing you all together.
    Have a great second half of your trip and keep the blog going for the rest of us to enjoy along with you!
    Aloha, Grandma Penny

    1. Thank you Penny! I am so lucky to be joining such an incredible family! We are excited to travel SE Asia and we’ll be following your recommendations. Keep reading. 🙂

  4. Pretty much i love all of this! I’m so excited for you Crys!

  5. Woohoo! Congratulations Crystal &
    James!! Love the pictures and your
    lively descriptions. Keep going!

  6. virginia pettit says: Reply

    I am so happy for the two of you.
    What a great experience you are having.

  7. Congratuations on your engagement! How exciting!

    I love reading your blog. Through your pictures and words, I am experiencing some of the most beautiful parts of the world. Thanks for taking us on your adventures too!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! It has been a fun hobby to write about our adventures!

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