Monday, July 6, 2009
Weekend in Bijindo Island
This weekend started off as many great weekend do, with no plans and a bus ticket. My friends and I took a bus to Tongyeong city hoping to find a beach and maybe a nice hike. Tongyeong is the largest city in the archipelago of South Korean island. We had over 20 little islands to pick from and so we picked Bijindo because it had two sentences in Koreas Rough Guide. As we boarded our spacious ferry one of my friends remembered that she knew someone who had traveled there a few weeks before. She called him and he informed us that Bijindo had no hotels and no place to buy food. Uh oh, we were completely unprepared. We all rushed to the ferry store in panic. Our boat leaves in 10 minutes, hurry! We bought seven cups of ramen and hoped that we wouldn't have to eat it with seawater. We joined the other crammed tourists on the ferry and we were off.
I knew nothing about this island before we arrived but any hopes I had were outdone. Bijindo is actually two island connected by a man-made and constantly maintained beach. It also had a nice little hotel made affordable by the seven way split. The water was warm (by Oregon standards) and the beach was uncrowded. We even met up with a group of Americans so I wasn't solo in my Forth of July celebrations. After a full day at the beach the owners of the Hotel were kind enough to play restaurant with us and made us a delicious dinner. Fresh caught fish, Korean potato salad (sweet and eggy) and cold noodles, yum! Of course no night in Korea is complete without a little Norebang and we rocked out to MJ after dinner. Then we joined the other group of teachers for a bonfire and fireworks on the beach. Fantastic day compared to the starving cold night on the beach I was expecting.
The next morning my friends and I made the foolhardy decision of hiking up a 305m high mountain in flip-flops. And when I say climb, I mean rock scramble. I was exhausted when we reached the top but the pictures alone were worth it. I wish the sky had been clear so I could have seen more of the surrounding islands.
By the time I made it back down the mountain I was content to just float in the water all day. Sadly our ferry back to Tongyeong left at one. We stayed for lunch in Tongyeong and explored the town. Tongyeong is famous for its role in the war of Japanese invasions of 1592-1598. It's naval forces, lead by national hero General Yi Sun-Sin were undefeated. Yi is also famous for his use of the Turtle Ships, hotly debated as the world's first iron clad dating back to the 1420's. Turtle Ships had a spiky iron roof and a smoke breathing dragon head to confuse the Japaneses. Tongyeong has reconstructed one as tourist attraction and it was fun to climb around inside.
After all the excitement of weekend in paradise it was time to return home, to Daegu :(. But next weekend is the infamous Mud Festival. Huzzah!