Bijin-do, a.k.a. Bijin Island, just off the coast of Tongyeong, is really worth considering for a weekend getaway or even just a day trip. It isn’t nearly as famous as some of Korea’s other islands, but that’s exactly what makes it pleasant. Once you are off the ferry, you won’t be surrounded by crowds of other visitors and one of the best parts about traveling there is that you’ll be able to spend some quiet time in a lovely spot that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for.
A sandy beach is always a great attraction, and Bijin-do happens to have one where you can swim and sunbathe (quite undisturbed most of the time.) Bijin-do is actually two islands connected by a land bridge. Hiking is a good way to spend a big part of the day. A two-hour hike (nothing too strenuous) takes you to a spectacular viewpoint from where you can see the connecting island.
Although the beach isn’t exactly spotless, it’s perfect for chilling out, playing a game of frisbee or reading that book you haven’t had a chance to get to. Swimming is a great option if you are brave enough to enter the chilly water. There is also the choice of befriending some friendly Koreans who might offer you a ride on their jetskis. Sunset displays a beautiful image of smaller islands’ silhouettes against a red-tinted sky.
Among the handful of inhabitants living on Bijin-do, a sweet-tempered woman has taken the initiative to open a small restaurant which serves delicious Korean food. A couple of minbaks offer basic but comfortable accommodation. Although camping is not really advertised there, it is also possible to pitch up a tent on the beach. There is one shop on the island where you can buy some snacks and cold drinks. A late afternoon stroll through the small village’s quiet streets offers some great photo opportunities.
All in all, Bijin-do is hard to beat for a great place to get out of the city for awhile and enjoy some peace and quiet in some lovely surroundings.
Getting there: A trip to Bijin-do will start with a bus ride to Tongyeong (more or less two hours from Busan for 9,800 won). After that, you take a taxi for 10 minutes to the ferry terminal, followed by a 40-minute ferry ride to the island (6,700 won). Ferries leave from Tongyeong only three times a day (at 7:00, 11:00 and 2:00 p.m.). It can get pretty busy in the summertime among hikers, so it’s a good idea to book ahead or show up well early at the terminal.
Photos by Elaine Coetzee