Did you know that Korea is home to over 3,000 islands? I didn’t know that, either! Travelers and locals alike aren’t able to visit most, but there’s still plenty we are able to enjoy! If the rest are at all like Bijindo Island (비진도), then they offer a nice reprieve from the homogeneous mainland cities and an opportunity to really feel off the grid if that’s what you desire. Here, you won’t find convenience stores on every corner, neon lights advertising the karaoke rooms, or even a single ATM.
After my friend invited me on this Bijindo excursion and I Googled pictures of the island, I could not say no! The pictures you see online are gorgeous! This island is very unique in that it’s shaped like a barbell, two mountains representing the disc weights and a narrow beach representing the metal bar in between. After a foggy & overcast trip to the beach (Busan) the weekend before, I was also excited at another opportunity to take in the sunshine!
Saturday, June 23, 2015
Woke up early to meet up with everyone at the intercity bus terminal in Cheongju. We were in total 6 girls and 1 guy. I didn’t know everybody at the beginning, but everyone was so wonderful and we all got along very well! Unfortunately, Kevin couldn’t make it on the trip so he is not the 1 guy in the tally!
In order to get to Bijindo Island, we had to take a bus from Cheongju to Daejeon (45 mins). Then, we took another bus from Daejeon to Tongyeong (2.5 hrs). From there, we took a local bus to the ferry port in the same city (25 mins). After a 50-minute ferry ride, we had arrived!
Bijindo is actually so small that we were required to buy return tickets when we bought our tickets to get to the island, as there is no way to buy a ticket on the island itself. In fact, there’s no way to buy pretty much anything except for water, beer, soju, makgeolli, and ramen.
Here are some photos from our ferry trip to the island:
We got to Bijindo around 3:30pm on Saturday, a few hours later than anticipated due to the ferry schedule. The first thing we did was find a “pension” in which to stay. A pension is a type of accommodation here in Korea that is essentially a large, empty room, often with a fridge, tv, bathroom, and mats/blankets/pillows. There are no beds, which is a common thing here. We didn’t shop around and split a 90,000 KRW pension. We could not have fit 1 more person.
This was my first pension experience and I think it would be considered a tad sub-par. We weren’t provided with mats, so we slept on top of “thick” blankets and under other blankets. It was quite painful against the linoleum-covered concrete. Additionally, we had to walk outside to use the bathroom and there was no proper sink or shower. Apologies to anyone who suffered through our offensive odors. Anyway, while we were sorting out the pension, it started to rain. So much for a beachy afternoon! We walked ourselves and our umbrellas around the island on a search for food!
Here are some photos from walking around the island:
We found a “restaurant” at which to eat. There was no menu, just 1 lady that was able to cook up a couple different things for all of us to share. We ordered cod (which comes out as a whole fish, mind you. I don’t know why I would have expected anything less!), a seafood soup and a kimchi soup, the latter tasting sooo delicious, surprisingly!
After we ate, we went to the other side of the beach and sat at the picnic tables of this outdoor seafood “restaurant” (please don’t be picturing an enclosed building with a host, menus, servers, or anything like that– because it’s not, there’s none of that) and drank some beer overlooking the beach. They closed at 7:30pm, at which point it was time to retreat to our pension and play some games, but not before taking a photo of the sunset!
Sunday, June 21, 2015
The next morning the rain had ceased but the sunshine was still struggling to peek through. We were all up early after a painful night’s sleep. Not only were we physically uncomfortable from the floor, but we all got attacked by mosquitoes and were itching all night.
We decided to move forward with the hike up one of the mountains! Apparently, you are able to overlook the beach and the other mountain from one of the viewpoints, and we really wanted to see! We heard the hike wasn’t that bad and were really excited to do it! Um, this hike is hard. Blame it on slippery rocks from the previous night’s rain, but we went the long way up (maybe that was a mistake?) and there are some steep inclines! Not paved road inclines, mind you, but inclines that require you to maintain strategic footing so you don’t fall and crack your teeth (that is a big fear I have).
Here are some photos from our hike up the mountain:
By the time we made it to the top, I could feel the heat on my face. I was drenched in sweat but felt relieved we had made it!
There was a platform with a viewing area and to our disappointment, we could see nothing. We were actually in the clouds at this point. It was quite disappointing after seeing all the beautiful photos online!
There were many other groups of Korean hikers conquering this same mountain, and this group in particular arrived just before us and was having a picnic. They offered us some makgeolli. No thanks. First, how in the world could you lug up heavy bottles of that stuff? Second, how are you gonna get down?!
So, we began our descent and to our great pleasure, we got to see the million dollar (billion won?) view!
During parts, the hike down was way worse than the hike up, as expected. Down is always scarier. There were times I was practically sitting in order to get down the next level of rocks. Glad to say we all made it down alive! 🙂
After our descent, we had an hour to relax before catching the ferry back to the mainland (and heading to McDonald’s for a well-deserved binge!).
When our ferry arrived, tons of Korean hikers got off to do what we had just accomplished. It seems to be a very popular destination to visit just for that.
Even though we didn’t get to lay on the beach, we had such an amazing time and I know I made some great, new friends! I’d call this a really successful weekend! I don’t think I’ll ever return to Bijindo Island, but I’m very glad I went!