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Islandcation to Bijindo, Tongyeong

As traveling abroad got technically banned due to the pandemic, popular tourist cities in Korea have attracted more crowds than ever. If you are looking for a place to rest your tired body and mind away from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) chaos, how about a little getaway to a quiet peaceful island? The Sungkyun Times (SKT) will now introduce Bijindo, an island where you can take a complete repose by hiking up the mountains, breathing the fresh autumn air, and chilling on the beach alongside the cobalt blue sea.

About Bijindo

Introduction of Bijindo

Bijindo is an island that is 14 kilometers away from the Tongyeong port of Gyeongsangnam-do, surrounded by other islands such as Maemuldo, Yonghodo, and Hansando. The size of the island is about 2,788 square kilometers and the coastline is about nine kilometers long, with the highest point being 311 meters above sea level. Bijindo consists of two islands. The upper island with the inner port is the inner island and the lower island with the outer port is the outer island. All the residents of the island live on the inner island. When you see Bijindo from the sky, it looks like the number ‘8’ or a sandglass, with the two islands connected by the beach. The name of Bijindo was given as it has beautiful scenery as the treasure; bi in Korean means ‘compare’ and jin means ‘treasure’. Also, residents think that the abundant marine life of Bijindo are like treasures to them, so they named the island after the treasure. Another story behind the name is that Admiral Lee Sun-shin of the Joseon Dynasty fought against the Japanese in the waters of the island, so people considered the island precious. A different name for the island is Beauty Island. This name was given because there are many beauties on the island.

How to Get to Bijindo

There is almost only one way to get to Bijindo from Seoul. From the Seoul Express Bus Terminal, take the bus to the Tongyeong Bus Terminal and then take a ferry from the Tongyeong Passenger Terminal to Bijindo. It takes about four hours and 10 minutes on the bus from Seoul to Tongyeong. The price is 35,000 won one way and 70,000 won for a round trip per person. Then, the ferry ride from Tongyeong to Bijindo takes about 50 minutes. The fee of the ferry for one way to the island is 8,000 won and the return is 7,200 won, so it is 15,200 won in total. The last ferry going to the island for the day for both weekdays and weekends is at 2:30 p.m. Therefore, it would not be doable to go to the island on the day you go down to Tongyeong from Seoul. It is more efficient to go down to Tongyeong the day before you want to travel to the island and take a short tour in Tongyeong. Then go to the island early the next morning. In Tongyeong, Kingos can enjoy lots of seafood from the South Sea that are more expensive on Bijindo.

The Harmony of Mountains and Seas

01 Trekking Seonyubong

Perhaps trekking doesn’t automatically come to mind when you think of a vacation especially one on an island. However, you might regret it if you take out the trekking course as the landscape you see on the mountain is indescribably beautiful. Most of the famous pictures taken in Bijindo are from the Beauty Observatory, which is one of the famous hiking highlights. The trekking course looks like the picture below and the entire course takes about three to four hours to finish. Based on the summit point, the left course is steeper but shorter compared to the right course.

The Ferry That Goes into Bijindo
A View of Bijindo from Bijinam Intersection
Fishing Boats by the Shore of Bijindo
Trail Guide for Seonyubong Trekking

If you a person who is familiar with trekking and enjoys it, it is definitely worth trekking the entire course slowly and enjoying the scenery of Bijindo to the fullest. It is not so easy, however, for non-hikers to finish the whole course since the course is fairly steep and the paths aren’t paved. Therefore, if you are just looking for a decent amount of hiking and nature with iconic pictures, take the left course from the Bijinam intersection and go up to the Beauty Observatory for a cool picture and come down the same way. The actual summit of the mountain is Seonyubong, but there is not much to see up there as the landscape is covered by trees and bushes. So, checking out the summit point would not be too necessary for this hiking. Also, make sure to have proper shoes to be prepared for unpaved paths and wear long sleeves and long pants to avoid getting scratched by branches and bushes.

02 Bijindo Beach

The sea of Bijindo, so-called the Boracay of Korea has clean and clear water that makes it hard to believe that it is one of the Korean beaches. The sandy beach is 550 meters long and this open beach gives you peace of mind. The beach connects the inner and outer islands; the west beach with fine white sand and calm sea, and the east beach with high waves and pebbles on the beach. It is a very cool beach landscape where you can see both the sunrise and sunset from the same spot. The water isn’t too deep, and the temperature is moderate. On the hill by the beach, tons of sea pine trees are more than 100 years old and make for great shade, which provides cool natural air. Also, there are fishing spots by the rocks so you can enjoy fishing by the grand ocean. The beach opens for swimming from July 8th to August 31st so it would be off swimming season in October. Nevertheless, just by sitting on the beach, looking at the cobalt blue sea water, and listening to the sound of the waves will be a great consolation itself. Moreover, lots of islands on the horizon will give you a very exotic experience, as it resembles the landscape of South East Asia such as Thailand or Bali. It would be a great place to take an exotic vacation picture with the silver sand, the cobalt blue sea, and the islands in the background.

03 Warm Rural Vibe Village

Islands of Tongyeong over the Horizon
Santorini-like View of Bijindo

The inner port village is a small fishing village with pensions, lodges, cafes, and houses belonging to residents. It has a clean and neat small-town vibe. Now there are not many places where you can feel the warmth of the countryside in Korea. Bijindo, however, is one of the few places left where you can experience the warm rural culture. Also, the harmony of the old buildings and the sense of arts on the walls gives a very unique vibe. Unlike other famous beaches filled with fancy restaurants and pubs, what you see mainly in Bijindo are the elderly grandmothers and grandfathers. They gather around here and there in the village to chat and greet each other. You can feel the warm kindness that you cannot get from anywhere else. Also, the beach that is shown amid the white buildings reminds of Santorini in Greece, while showing the analog features of Korea. It is a great photo spot that contains the charm of Bijindo all at once.

In a society where there is always work to be done, and where COVID-19 has been conquering the world for over half a year, there will be plenty of people exhausted by all this chaos. Why don't you take a break from everything for a minute and do nothing, while enjoying the nature of Bijindo to the fullest?

고수연  suyunkoh@skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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