Monday, June 7, 2010

Camping in Korea! Island hopping Korean Style

Danny and I decided to try another new experience in Korea... camping! We had a 3 day weekend so after buying 2 sleeping bags and a tiny tent on Gmarket, we headed south with our friends Andrew and Helen. We had to head through Daegu by bus, so of course we had to start our adventure with a delicious meal at the illusive Holy Grill. The Holy Grill is a restaurant that is rumored to be owned by a Canadian in Daegu that has all the western food you can ever imagine! We gorged ourselves on nachos, cajun chicken sandwiches, and the most amazing chocolate brownie I have had in Asia. I haven't felt that full in a while, and because that is the closest western restaurant to Andong, we will definitely go back.

After a fantastic meal, we took another bus down to Tongyeong, which a port city from where we would start to island hop. From Tongyeong, you can go to over 100 little islands, so we took a boat to our first stop... Yeonhwado.

Since we have been to some of the Carribean islands, we sort of expected Korean islands to have a similar feel...WRONG. The islands we saw didn't really have beaches surrounding them, but the stuck out of the water with rocky cliffs on most sides. It was actually very beautiful and it made me feel like I wasn't even in Korea anymore. The funniest thing we noticed when we compared Carribean islands and Korean islands was definitely their use of land. On a Carribean island, they would use the "beach front property" for the tourist shops and restaurants, but not Korea. They don't hide anything tourists might see as unpleasant, but instead they flaunt it!

We discovered that the "beach front property" was taken up by large blocks of ice and row after row of freezers. But wait! If you look a little closer, you will see that they aren't blocks of ice, but instead they are blocks of frozen fish...YUM!

Why would they move the blocks of fish farther away from the water so they could make room for more pleasant sites and smells when they need to grind up the fish right by the boats?! Such a silly question. This is a perfect example of Danny and my slogan for Korea: A great idea, just poorly executed. Letting tourists tour islands in Korea by boat was a great idea, but what would be the point of having shops or restaurants on the islands once they get there? Haha, we are constantly seeing our slogan come true all around us, and even if you think it probably ruins the country, in instead gives it a goofy kind of charm.

After we passed the fish cube alley, we continued to wander around the island and found a beautiful hike. We walked straight up for about a kilometer and got some great views of the island and the islands around us.
Danny and I do love that you can take a 3-4 our bus ride and get just about anywhere you want to go, and the scenery is so different all around Korea. Who knew that Korea had so many islands!
After spending the afternoon on Yeonhwado Island, we decided to "hop" to another island which was about a 20 minute ferry. We headed to Yokjido Island, which was where we decided we were going to camp for the night. Right away we decided that it was time for some fresh sushi (or sashimi) so we chose one of the seafood stands along the water. We chose a few fish from a bucket and proceeded to watch the lovely woman below cut the fish apart. I watched the fish continue to flop around even as she skinned it, and I have to be honest, it was a bit unsettling. With that said, I still enjoyed the freshest raw fish I had ever had and had a good time even though the chopping and smacking of fish was the soundtrack for our meal! ; ) Side note: Apparently many women prefer the style of a towel clipped on their head over a hat, and I must say that I am thinking about gettin' me one of those to wear when I get back to the states. That's Korean fashion for you!

I just had to throw in this picture of "the only way to travel". Koreans don't only NOT have the seatbelt law or the helmet law, but they aren't afraid to take their small children out for a hazardous ride as well! (See mom, no one else wears a helmet!)

Our goal on the island was to get to a beach where we were going to camp that night. So like a true group of foreigners, we started walking toward the direction of a beach but really had no idea where we were going. After walking for about an hour, and with no beach in site, we decided that it was time to turn around. Now it's time for a little confession: I (Katy) have become an expert hitch hiker since we moved to Korea! There, I said it! My hitch hiking career started after I got tired of walking an hour and ten minutes to go home after school and so far it has been an interesting experience. I have met many different people, and even though many of you may be worried about my well being now, hitch hiking in Korea is actually safe and I have only been picked up by completely nice and completely normal people! Anyways, what that has to do with our island experience is this: after walking a long time to nowhere we decided that it was time to try hitch hiking back to the main town.
After waving to many passing cars, a really nice family finally stopped to pick all FOUR of us up and take us back to town. The good Samaritan, Mr. Kim, had to basically repack his car so all of us could fit in his van, but he made it work. He was celebrating his anniversary with his wife, and decided to take pity on us so after that Danny, Helen, and Andrew all got to become Korean hitch hikers as well!

We never did find a sandy beach, but after resting in the main town again, we decided to set up camp at a stone beach on a grassy area right next to the water. It was really beautiful and what could be better than waking up to the sound of the ocean? Our tiny 3 tent camp wasn't much, but it worked and I'm sure shocked a few Koreans on the island being that we weren't sure if we were in a "approved" camping area.

The night in our tents was filled with rain, lots of drunk Koreans walking by, little sleep, and anthropods (which were centipede type bugs that decided to crawl all over Andrews tent...haha... he had anthropods and Danny and I had cute lady bugs!) Even after all that, we survived our camping excursion, and we are hoping to go camping in the next couple weekends.

On our way home, we decided fill our belly's after an exciting and tiring weekend with one of the most excellent Korean meals I have had so far. We ate a seafood stew that was out of control... it had crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, fish, and who knows what else and it was awesome. This wonderful lady working at the restaurant took it upon herself to help us with cracking all the shells and getting the good meat out, and she even helped me eat some of it as well!

You would think that all of that was enough right? But no! The finale of a great weekend involved our friend Andrew, a water bottle, and NO bathroom. You can probably imagine what a 3 hour bus ride will do to a guy when he needed to pee after 15 minutes... let's just say drastic measures were taken.
Danny and I are both looking forward to more camping adventures in the future, our only hope is that we somehow find a nice sandy spot next time! The Korean word of the day: tentuh (that is how Koreans pronounce tent!)


  1. Katy, you are hilarious~seriously, I always enjoy reading about your crazy life; you two look like you are having the time of your lives : )

  2. I live in Daegu and heard about Island hopping. Is it expensive? Can you go to a couple of islands for a weekend? And should I wait until September to do it since the rainy season is upon us and it sucks to camp out when its raining? Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Looks like you guys had an awesome time, can't wait to try it.

  3. Sounds awesome. Even I, a Korean is envious of your island hopping experience.

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