Islands of South Korea
The Island I can’t Remember the Name of:
My first island getaway in Korea was to an island I can’t remember the name of but it was not far from Siheung (maybe an hour of driving). I went with my 2 coworkers and my boss.
We rented a couple of hotel rooms and spent the evening eating Kalgooksu (seafood noodle soup) and drinking makgeoli (rice wine) and obviously soju. I learned that night that if the restaurant doesn’t have what you want (Makgeoli in this case) then they will run down the street and get it for you.
Inevitably we ended up at the local Norae-bang (Karaoke room) where Amy and I sang an inebriated and heartfelt rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. The next day was spent exploring the coastline and visiting a Buddhist Temple on the island.
View from the restaurant.
There are so many islands around South Korea, some more popular than others, some you can drive to and others you need to take a ferry. Daebu-do is a 40 minute drive from Siheung and where the best restaurant in Korea is located; up on the rocks overlooking the sea. When the tide is out, the area is a huge mud flat for as far as you can see, the land appears to be squirming, it’s teeming with creepy crawly life forms just below the surface of the mud.
We brought a group of Kindergarten students out here one day; it was hilarious watching the kids run around, digging in the mud, discovering, and playing, this entertaining them for hours! After we hosed the kids off, we had lunch in the restaurant. I have eaten there a few times; this time we ate kalgooksu, another time we had an entire Korean BBQ seafood feast, watching Oysters pop open from the heat of the grill, crab legs and sashimi.
Muii-do on Buddha’s Birthday weekend is like Spring Break for ESL Teachers. The beach cabins and all other lodging on the island fills up very quickly, everyone running around on the beach playing volleyball, ultimate frisbee drinking Hite beers, soju, and Makgeoli. You have to go to Incheon Airport and catch a bus from there to the ferry. Then you hop on a short little ferry and from the ferry hop on another bus to the beach.
Myself and 2 friends rented a cabin together for 2 nights, but upon entering both Chelle and I realized quite quickly that we would not be able to sleep in it, the cabin was very moldy and both of us are allergic. At this point there were no more ferries to or from the island and accommodation was overflowing, but no matter we had Hite Beer, the beach and a bunch of random strangers to befriend. Chelle, fell on this mangled concrete walkway and scraped up her knee pretty bad. Being drunk and on an island with not much for first aid supplies, we found some tiny band-aids and tried our best to stick them on strategically. When everyone started dropping off to sleep, Chelle and I decided that the best thing to do would be to sleep on the beach, so we grabbed some blankets from our cabin and went down to the beach. At around 6am I woke up freezing, it was only May after all, I managed another hour or so but people were starting to stir and families were arriving. There is nothing quite like waking up on a beach hungover with children milling about, to make you feel like a degenerate loser.
We spent much of the morning on the beach nursing our hangovers, but the tide was so far out we weren’t able to seek relief in the water. We did enjoy a lovely Ramen noodle breakfast outside of a convenience store.
Chelle’s leg was pretty bad off so when an alien space-craft (marine police hovercraft) appeared on the beach, we went down to see if they had some first aid supplies. They kindly welcomed her aboard and patched her up. Thanks Space Police!
One fine weekend a few of us decided to go Deokjeok-do, which takes about 3hrs to get to from Siheung. We took a bus for approx. 40 minutes to Daebu-do and then a ferry for about 2 hours and then a taxi for about 20 minutes. The ferry ride stops at 1 or 2 places on the way to Deokjeok-do. Entertainment on the ferry, consists of buying shrimp crackers and holding out your hand for seagulls to snatch with their hell mouths…I couldn’t get down with this but I was morbidly fascinated, watching from the safety of the cabin.
Another past time on the ferry is to drink beer. There are no seats so the trick is to bring a mat, stake out your territory and hold a picnic feast. Apparently if you don’t have a mat, people will assume that the middle of your group’s circle is open space; the mat claims this as your territory.
As soon as we arrived on the island I could tell this was going to be quite different from other beach or island adventures in Korea. We took a taxi to Seopori Beach on the other side of the mountain from the ferry dock. The whole ride is quite spectacular; windy, hilly roads surrounded by huge trees growing along the mountain side, it can feel like a rollercoaster of death with the right driver. We arrived on the beach with our camping gear (2 tents and some sleeping bags) to find that we were the only ones there; in a small country with over 40 million people we found an entire beach to ourselves! I surmised that because summer break had recently finished, families were not up for weekend adventures.
First of all, thank you Korea for free camping on the beach, allowing campfires, and having well maintained public washrooms with showers on said beaches; and also thank you for the easy access and availability of fireworks.
The island offers some great biking and hiking, so I’ve heard, but we stayed on the beach eating Bibimbap, and throwing a football around. Eventually the tide came in so we braved the squirming mud flats and went to play in the ocean.
Living in Abu Dhabi, I long to escape the city, the one time I tried to go desert camping we went to Al-Qudra Lake outside of Dubai, not knowing anything about it except that we didn’t need a 4×4 to access the area. Our serene night in the middle of the desert turned into a scavenger hunt for a place to pitch a tent that wasn’t in direct line of sight of large groups and families. The next morning at the butt crack of dawn (7am) I awoke to a Tagalog sing along and raucous team building games from the Church group camped out next to us. The point being that to escape the world in the UAE, you need a large 5* resort budget or a 4×4 vehicle but in Korea you need only to board a bus and a ferry. I respect countries that try to make every aspect of life accessible to all those willing or curious.
Throughout the weekend, a handful of people showed up to swim and sunbathe but no one else stayed throughout the night. I have ever since wished I could go back to Deokjeok-do, whenever I feel like I need to escape the crowds, spend very little money and still have one of the most memorable weekends of my life.
There are many more islands to explore in South Korea, sadly I only managed to escape to a few over two years.