A Night in Tongyeong
This weekend was the world famous Jindo Sea Parting Festival and I desperately wanted to go. I mean, the sea parts for an hour and a half, on two days, once a year, and you can walk from one island to another across the sea.B How amazing is that?! Ya, I was pumped. I had a dog sitter all lined up, I had spent weeks gathering travel info and getting people to help me gather festival info, and we were going to make it happen. Right. Until reason set in when I realized that it was going to take waaaaay too long to get there and if even one little thing went awry we would have spent 8 hours on a bus and missed the parting, and had to turn around and spend another 8 hours on the bus to get back, without having seen a thing. Soooo we didn't get to go. Sad.
However, as my consolation prize, we did get to go to Tongyeong! It's a town in amidst a bunch of little islands right off the coast, not far from Busan. It was only an hour and a half bus ride (*info on how to get there at the bottom of this post) from Busan so we arrived by noon. The weather was relatively cheery and we hadn't bothered to book a hotel room, so we grabbed a tourist map and took off on foot to find somewhere to stay.
Turns out the place is kind of huge. Sprawling, really. And the hotels are all in cahoots! We went to a few different hotels (we couldn't find any love motels!) and we ended up paying $100 for a night. That's about double what we should have paid here in Korea. That didn't even include breakfast! But at that point we were already a bit in for taxis and continuing to waste our day looking for cost-effective lodging didn't seem the best use of time. So we sucked it up, got a hotel by the canal, dropped our stuff, and set off to explore.
Tongyeong boasts the longest cable car in the country (and I think the fastest, too). We sped up Mt. Mireuksan (or just Mireuksan, since 'san' means 'mountain' in Hangeul) and arrived to the top with breathtaking views. After another jaunt up a rather long staircase (we climbed stairs steady for almost 15 minutes), we arrived at the peak.
It really was gorgeous! As you can see from the photos, the islands dot the seascape on three sides and Tongyeong is nestled in at the base of the mainland. Despite the foggy day, it was beautiful and we spent a good chunk of time just taking it all in (and caught our breaths from all the steps!).
By mid afternoon, it was starting to cloud in and the wind was picking up. A quick check of the weather forecast told us it was set to rain at some point, so we opted to leave the boat tour through the islands until the next day and headed over to check out the "Art Walk".
It's a small area above the canal harbour where some artists have graffiti-ed the sides of buildings. It was cute and charming and so typically Korean-tourist-attraction, in that they made it seem unmissable when it is, in fact, a few walls with a few pictures of cartoons. Then again, I like those kinds of things ;-)
It was starting to rain so we headed back down to the harbour, stopped to check out some crazy war ships (used in battle against the Japanese and replete with stakes on the roof), and grabbed a coffee with a view.
We also mauwed down (how do I spell that?!) on some of Tongyeong's famous Omisa honey bread. I forgot to take a picture!B You can google it ;-) but they are little round honey donuts, with different savoury fillings. One must have been pea or bean because it was green, another was sweet potato I am sure, and the third type was a mystery. They weren't bad, they were even kinda good, but I am a girl who will, I think, always prefer her savoury and sweet options separate.
Also, turns out that all the love motels were down by the canal harbour that because a certain two people did not research a thing before leaving for their destination, they did not know about. Oops!?
We wandered back to the hotel and had a little nap before heading for a nice dinner. It was pouring buckets at this point, so we went to the hotel restaurant and had some over-priced pizza and wine. But we did it all with a great view of the canal and bridge, lit up in green at night, so it was actually quite nice and kinda romantic.
Aaaannnd that was about that. After we got back from dinner I got a text from the dog sitter saying her cat was terrorized by Daisy and could we come back to Busan earlier than planned the next day? What could we do!? We had to save that poor kitty! In the morning we packed up our few things and headed on back to Busan. And we only got a liitttlle lost trying to make our way to the bus station after scrounging up some food :)
We missed out on the boat tour, sadly, but we will just use that as our excuse to go back! And I'm angling for soon. We would love to take the bike down there, maybe even for a day one of these next weekends. It's not a place to get around on foot, but there is so much more to see. It's so quaint - a little run down, a little off-the-beaten-path, but with all sorts of charm. And, it's such an easy jaunt from Busan.
Getting out of the city gives me a fresh perspective and a better appreciation of Korea each and every time. More day trips are in order now that spring has arrived!
Random additional thought to myself: There are few things in life better than hanging by the water with someone, letting the world pass you by, drinking a beer and eating some food. Maybe nothing better, if we get right down to it. Motivation to make that a constant in life.
*To get to Tongyeong from Busan, head to Seobu Intercity Bus Terminal (stop Sasang on the Green train line) and you're right there.B Buses leave approx. every 20 minutes and cost 10,000 won. They say 2 hours, but it was closer to 1.5 (on a NON long weekend). No toilets on the bus!).
When you arrive in Tongyeong, grab a tourist map and decide where you are heading - then grab a cab or a bus. Don't attempt it on foot, it's farther than it seems (just trust me on this). It seems the black cabs there are regular cabs, too, so don't be afraid of them as you would be in Busan or Seoul.