Korea’s Island Escapes
Korea is a penninsula where people can’t swim and islands are abundant. Before moving here, I never linked Korea with island hopping, but on so many weekends in the past year I’ve found us running away to random beaches whenever we caught a break from teaching. From the West Coast to the East and the South, they’ve got a little bit of everything.
1. Jeju-do: Korea’s claim to fame a.k.a. Korea’s Hawaii.When I walked out of the airport I was surrounded by palm trees and thinking, ‘I know I was sleeping… but I swear that plane ride was only 45 minutes?!’ We spent 5 days adventuring into lava tubes, hiking up gorgeous volcanic craters, marveling at haenyeo divers, being lazy on beautiful beaches, and eating seafood with eyes staring right back at us. Jeju is so beautiful with so much to do from hikes, wind surfing, and scuba diving to spending the day laughing at a museum dedicated to sex.
2. Heuksan-do & Hong-do: a long bus ride to Mokpo & a 2 hour ferry left us on the sleepy fishing island of Heuksando far off Korea’s West coast (Hongdo is a short ferry ride from Heuksando). We wandered around the fishing town until sunset taking photos of the fisherman’s daily catches, the beautiful harbors, and a handful of islands in the distance. Right before sunset we made the short climb up the island’s highest peak which awarded us with a breath-taking sunset view. We were lucky enough to go to the island during Cheusok (Korean Thanksgiving) when the town had a huge karaoke competition in the center. Warning: KOREANS LOVE THEIR KARAOKE. It’s do or die for them, it’s not about having a laugh while making a full of yourself… it’s all about winning & hitting those high notes. Our group of foreigners took to the stage to impress the audience with none other than YMCA. After a booming performance, we finishing off the night with some twisting and shouting with the old grannies on the island. All in all, both Heuksando and Hongdo are great places rewarding visitors with a much needed break from Korea’s main land concrete apartment buildings and pollution!
3. Seonyu-do: During the long and cold winter Rhys and I fled our schools and headed to an island off the West Coast from Gunsan. There were 10 people on the entire island. Go figure, people don’t go to islands in January? We found 1 restaurant open in the day and 1 convenience store for our beer needs at night. It was AWESOME. With very little tourism Seonyu-do gave the feeling that you were truly among the locals rather than viewing from a distance. We rented a motorbike for the day & drove miles without seeing a single person except for a lone fishermen unloading his catch from the day. At one point, I was standing on the beach with one foot in sand and the other in snow. We simply sat down in the cold sand with hats, scarves, and gloves on picking up perfect SAND DOLLARS and taking in the snow-covered hills around us.
4. Dolsan-do: A lively island off Yeosu at the Southern tip. Karaoke aside, Korea also seems to like fancy lit up bridges– as do I! Dolsando is connected to the mainland by a 450 meter long bridge, that looks especially stunning lit up in the night sky. Like so many of the islands, fishing boats can be seen late into the night far off the coast. Their lights make the horizon come to life. Dolsando’s claim to fame is a beautiful temple high up on a cliff. The temple over looks eerie misty islands far out at sea.Our last night there each had a huge bowl of awesome seafood noodle soup full of oysters, shrimp, and squid at a restaurant overlooking the distant islands– the meal cost us $4.00!
A slideshow with some of our favorite pictures…