This stunning little island was a travel recommendation from one of my co-teachers and was the perfect adventure to end our almost month long hermit lifestyle in Uiseong and Daegu. We love our little town, but Oli and I get itchy feet pretty quick and feel happiest when we are on the road and exploring.
And nothing says exploring and adventure more than taking a sunrise boat out to sea!
After a series of buses taking us off the couch in Uiseong to the seat of a taxi in the Southern city of Tongyeong, 통영, we arrived at the Tongyeong City Hostel, another recomendation from my co-teacher. The hostel was a great find as most of the accomodation in the area were motels, which, although often cheap, have no character. On the contrary, this place had wonderfully cute and girly decor, a cosy common room and an incredible, European style, rooftop terrace! It wasn’t the cheapest but it had comfortable beds, breakfast and little yellow flowers adorning the toilet- what more could you want?!
On arrival, the owner of the hostel was interested to know why we had chosen to travel to Tongyeong and on hearing that we wanted to visit Somaemuldo, wrote down all the details we would need to get there on a little piece of paper. She spoke barely any English but was so happy to help us clueless travelers. We have never been very good at forward planning, preferring to simply show up and see what we find!
So, it was on her recommendation that we found ourselves waking in the dark to catch the 7am ferry to Somaemuldo Island. At 30,000 won (around $30) for a return ticket it was a little more than we had expected to pay, but the experience of sailing into the rising sun was worth it ten times over.
This trip definitely solidified for us the benefits of traveling out of season. We felt this when we were traveling in Ethiopia in rainy season and got to enjoy bus rides through some of the most verdantly green scenery we’d ever seen, and again when I went to Cagliari in April, where the just warm enough beaches were nice and quiet.
On paper, a 7am boat ride to an Island in December does not sound like a lot of fun and it was definitely not warm standing on the open top deck of the boat! Yet, although we would have been warm, travelling in Summer would have meant that the sun would have already risen and the island itself would have been packed with holiday makers. As it was, we got to watch a beautiful sunrise, hike with barely anyone else around, and still enjoy a gorgeously sunny day!
The boat ride would have been worth it in itself, even if we hadn’t been taken to Somaemuldo, as the journey takes you straight through the Hallyeohaesang Marine National Park. The area encompasses between 100-190 islands (it’s hard to get exact figures when googling in Korea!) from tiny tree like shapes seen far out to sea, to large inhabited islands like Hansando, which has a number of historical sites related to Admiral Sunsin Yi and the defeat of the Japanese naval forces.
It is seriously beautiful and we think it is an absolute must see when in South Korea.
With only the time and money to visit one of the many islands, Somaemuldo was a great choice. There is a small village by the port where we grabbed coffee and noodles and warmed up before setting out on a great hike around the whole island.
There are only a handful of trails on the island and they can all be done in around 3 hours, pretty much all ending at a lighthouse looking out into the East China Sea. We took the left hand trail up from the port, past the wooden house with the angel wings painted on them. This trail took us around the edge of the island, through the woods and onto some rocky outcrops with incredible views out to sea and toward the lighthouse. It was a great hike which definitely caused some leg ache and a little sweating in the December chill.
The trail eventually meets up with the right hand side path and follows the hill down onto a stony beach connecting Somaemuldo to Deungdaeseom, which is where most of the Korean tourists headed to straight from the boat. These two islands are at the edge of the National Park so the views of the sea are breathtaking. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to watch the sunrise from the lighthouse.
Our scheduled boat back to Tongyeong was at 12.40 so we trekked it back to the port after a little rest and an orange juice revival. There we stumbled across two adorably fluffy Huskies lounging in the sun. They were the best friends of a man who owned a little tea house and hotel looking out over the port, so of course we were enticed in for some traditional Somaemuldo sourced tea. It was delicious and I think we would definitely try and stay there next time we are in the area.
The boat back was almost as beautiful as the first with more incredible views and some midday sunshine. It was made even more enjoyable by meeting two Korean teachers, a principle and vice-principle to be exact, on the upper deck. We sat for the entire ride talking about teaching, Korea, life and travel. The vice-principle spoke English incredibly well and had some wonderful philosophies on life. He was so pleased with us for exploring Korea, declaring that foreigners who come to Korea and do not travel are foolish. And in his Soju induced wisdom, he repeatedly grasped our arms and told us “enjoy your young life”.
Mr An, we intend to.
How we got there: We caught a bus from Uiseong to Daegu’s North Terminal (Bukbu) at 3.20pm (1hr, 5,700₩). We then transferred to Daegu’s West Bus Terminal (Seobu) by taxi and caught the 6.00pm bus to Tongyeong (2hr, 13,000₩). The boat to Somaemuldo left the ferry terminal, 5 minutes walk from our hostel, at 7am (30,000₩).
Where we stayed: Tongyeong City Hostel. We paid 60,000 between us to rent out a 4 bed dorm for some privacy. Breakfast is included, although we left for Somaemuldo too early to take advantage of it. They have free lockers where we stored out bags while on the island. Check this link to their website, in Korean.
What we ate: Pretty tasty Mandu around the corner from the hostel (near Daiso) on the first evening. Noodles and coffee at the coffee shop near the public restrooms on the island. Don Katsu (pork cutlets) from a great fast food place next to Lotteria in Tongyeong. I did say we were being cheap!
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