This weekend we joined a small local tour guide, Pedro Kim, for a trip to Geoje (pronounced kojay) Island. Geoje Island is off the southern tip of South Korea, near Busan, and is a truly beautiful place. It is also famous for its massive shipbuilding industry and as the location for a major POW camp during the Korean War. Because it is a major tourist destination, Pedro planned the trip early in the year before the hordes descended. One of the things we are still struggling with is that no matter where you go or what you do in this country you are going to be surrounded by Koreans doing the same thing. Having said that, this was an excellent trip and there were few enough tourists that we were able to see what we wanted without having to pull up the elbows (a common Korean tourist tactic).
Saturday morning we met at the U-Square bus terminal and boarded the charter bus by 9:00. We were fortunate that many people we know also went on this trip, so we were in good company. We stopped to pick up more people in Yeosu and took a couple breaks at rest stops, so we rolled onto Geoje about 13:00. By this time we were ravenous and the stop in Gohyeon for lunch at the New Delhi Indian Restaurant was very welcome. Pedro had taken pre-orders on the bus so service was fast, the food was good, and there was a lot of it!
Immediately after lunch we went to the Historic Park of Geoje POW Camp. Historically, over 250,000 POWs were housed on this island during the Korean War. The museum itself was interesting, although only some of the signs were translated. The dioramas depicting the lives of the prisoners were well done and there were a few ruins of original buildings that were pretty neat. We both learned something new as well. Evidently,as the Korean war wound down, there were several violent riots between pro and anti-communist prisoners resulting in several thousand deaths. Overall, however, the displays left something to be desired due to the lack of English descriptions. If we were fluent in Hanguel it would be a different story!
Beginning of POW Historic Site
A Diorama within the Museum
Blake in the Ruins of the PX
From the museum we were back on a bus and headed to the fishing village Dojangpo where we would stay the night. Here we would like to pause and comment on the bus transport and the roads on Geoje. Bus drivers in Korea drive as if they are in a mid-sized car. They cut people off, honk if anyone gets in their way, and generally behave as if they own the road. Drivers apparently expect their vehicles to corner like sports cars and deem slowing down for switchbacks an unnecessary waste of time. A quick honk to let people know they are coming should suffice, yes? This was all fine on the mainland. However, Geoje is mountainous and has a rocky coastline, which means narrow roads, with tons of corners, along cliffs. As we careened through the island’s interior and along the coast there were several times when we were convinced we were up on two wheels. At one point we met another bus on a switchback (showdown time!!) and the mirror passed inches from the side of our bus (neither drier slowed down of course). All-in-all it made for an interesting ride.
We arrived at Dojangpo and went straight to a viewpoint where we could look over the bay and see the beaches and cliffs. It really is a gorgeous area.
View over Sinseondae
B&T Overlooking Dojangp0
After checking into Gashbush, our pension (similar to hostels but a bit more expensive), we were free to check out the area. We were sharing a room with Hendrik and Caitlyn, our South African friends, which was a nice bonus.
View from Pension Room
Room mates on the balcony
A group of our friends from Gwangju (new and old) headed back towards the main village where there was an area called Wind Hill, featuring a windmill, and a walkway out to some pretty nice rock lookouts over the ocean called Sinseondae. Unfortunately, Geoje is not particularly interested in promoting walking tourism. At least that is the conclusion reached after attempting to reach the village one bay over. The shoulders of the road are extremely narrow, there are no footpaths, and the drivers are insane! No problem, we’ll walk in the runoff channel. As one of our group mates said “we must be scaring the hell out of the Koreans. A bunch of Waygooks cut off at the waist gliding along the road!”
The Walk into Town
We did eventually reach our destination and it was well worth the effort, especially Sinseondae where we took a few great group shots. Like most of our trips in Korea, the landmark destinations were pretty busy. It was still nice to explore around a bit.
T Attacking?? on Sinseondae
We arrived back in time to catch the end of the BBQ. Later, it was the same group who gathered around the grill and had ourselves an awesome little marshmallow roast.
The remainder of the evening was spent playing cards (with Catilyn beating us like rented mules) and the rock-paper-scissors showdown to see who go the one bed in our room. The floor was comfortable enough for the Bouchards that night! Actually, it was really comfortable, except we could not turn the heat down. All four of us were slow roasted by the time we got up the next morning.
We were up a bit after 7:00 and braved the Ocean for a quick swim. March and still spring? The first saltwater and beach we have seen in over a year? Hell yeah we are going swimming! Actually, once you were in (and numb) it was pretty comfortable.
Tamara makes it in for the second time.
Blake comes up from an early morning plunge.
OK, it was a little cold.
Following a quick breakfast and packing we got back on the bus for a quick trip to the ferry terminal. We did a tour around Geoje Haegeumgang, which is a rocky island considered one of the most scenic places in Korea due to the amazing rock formations caused by erosion.
Morning from the Pension
Tamara in the Bow around Haegeumgang
After a quick tour around Haegeumgang which was gorgeous before heading over to Oedo Island. Oedo is pretty much covered in a botanical garden. There is really not much to say. The place combined beautiful ocean and cliff views with fantastic garden layouts and planting. We were a bit early, but it was still pretty nice.
T with a “Dr. Seus’ Tree on Oedo
Tamara could not resist these two little girls on Oedo
Centre area of Oedo
Looking down into the main gardens
Viewpoint on the Perimeter of Oedo
B&T overlooking the Oedo gardens
From there it was over to the black pebble beach in Hakdong. By this time it was after 13:00 and we were famished! We managed to hunt down some food and then hit up the beach. Pebble is a bit optimistic. Black, smooth rock beach might be a bit more accurate. What was interesting was how smooth the stones were (from the saltwater and waves?) and that they were actually pretty comfortable to sit on.
Hakdong Pebble Beach
Tamara on the Hakdong Pebble Beach
After a brief time on the beach it was back on the bus and homeward. We managed to hit Gwangju before 20:00 and caught the city bus out to Shinchang-dong and home.
Overall, an amazing weekend on a gorgeous island, with great friends. Can’t wait for the next adventure!