Journey to the Naples of Asia – Tongyeong and Geoje
We started our day early today again. We set off from Busan at 7.30 am partly due to the long drive from Busan to Tongyeong and partly to avoid the morning rush hour in Busan. The plan is to visit Tongyeong first as it is further away from Busan, followed by Geoje before returning to Busan. The drive to Tongyeong from Busan takes around 3½ hrs. My biggest worry about driving on this trip is Busan. I read that Busan has narrow roads and traffic jams are very common. Having little experience in left-hand drive, I figured we should leave early. The traffic condition was light at the time we set off, however as we drove westwards towards Tongyeong, traffic starts to build up. It is still manageable. About 1 hr into the journey, we are already out of the city of Busan. Our GPS app led us to drive on the bridge and tunnels that pass through several islands, with amazing scenery. About 1½ hrs into the journey, after passing the first bridge over the sea, we spotted a sign that points to Gadeok Ocean Park rest area. This is a good time for me to take a break and for us to grab some snacks. We found a statue of Le Petit Prince at the back of the building facing the surrounding sea and the best thing is there is no one queuing up to take pictures with it. I told my friends I thought Gamcheon Culture Village is the only place that has this statue. We also discovered a small park behind the rest area building that overlooks the sea dotted with small islands afar. It feels very peaceful looking out while the sea breeze gently brushes against our faces. There is a pavilion here for visitors to rest or even picnic while looking out into the sea. After getting our food and coffee we continued driving to Tongyeong. We drove on Geogadaegyo Bridge that links the several islands in this region together.
Tongyeong – The Port City of Islands
Mireuksan and the Longest Cable Car in South Korea
We drove for another 2 hrs to finally reach our first destination in Tongyeong, Mireuksan. Mireuksan is one of South Korea’s top 100 mountains which boasts a view of the numerous islands in the surrounding. To get to the summit of Mireuksan, we did not have to trek like we did in Hallasan. Here we embarked onto our third experience on this trip, riding on South Korea’s longest cable car system. The cable car ride costs KRW10,000 per person for a return ride. Tongyeong Hallyeosudo Cable Car is 1,975m long and 10 mins ride whisks us to the summit station of Mireuksan. As the cable car hovers above the thick forest of Mireuksan beneath us, I can’t help but wonder the hike up Mireuksan would be tedious if not for this cable car system. The higher the cable car climbs up Mireuksan, the more we get to see the magnificent view of the surroundings. We got a good glimpse of the entire Port City of Tongyeong and islands beyond Tongyeong from the cable car ride. This got us excited about the view of Hallyeosudo islands from the summit of Mireuksan.
The cable car calls into the summit station, exiting the station, we already got a good view of the surroundings. We could see the numerous islands dotting all over the bay. The clear blue cloudless sky seems to merge with the sea, if not for the islands we would not be able to differentiate the sky from the sea. The walk up to the summit of Mireuksan is very easy. The path is well built and consists of a series of well-paved steps with up and down ways well segregated to prevent congestion. At one point up to the summit, the pave splits into two. The path up to the summit is a loop, it does not matter which way we go as we will end up on the summit anyways. We chose the path on the route, where it took us to the viewpoint of the Great Battle of Hansan. The viewpoint of the Great Battle of Hansan is a short way down from the main pathway. Standing at the top of the pathway, the view here is liberating, the islands in the surroundings looked like jewels spreading all over the bay. My friend and I headed down to the viewpoint, other than the surroundings, we could also see the summit cable car station we were at a few minutes ago.
We continued our way to the summit of Mireuksan and reached Sinseondae Viewpoint. The view from Sinseondae viewpoint is the best on Mireuksan. This is where we got the full view of the entire Hallyeosudo area. The view here is simply breathtaking! It is a very short walk from Sinseondae to the summit of Mireuksan. Mireuksan is 461m above sea level and at the summit, there is a tablet marking the summit of the mountain. The summit offers a 360° view of the entire area, including a view of the Port City of Tongyeong and beyond. It was a tad crowded at the summit, looking around, I realised we were the only foreigners here at the summit of Mireuksan.
After taking more pictures at the summit and at the Sinseondae viewpoint, we headed back to the cable car via the other route. Coming down from the summit of Mireuksan, the only other viewpoint on this route is the Sea Battle of Dangpo Viewpoint. From this viewpoint, we see more of the mountain ranges below Mireuksan and a small glimpse of the sea. Despite not as impressive as the view from the summit of Mireuksan, the view here is still breathtaking with some islands spreading across the sea below. It is another 5 mins to walk back to the cable car station, where we took the cable car back to the base station and head on to our next destination.
Our next destination in Tongyeong is Dara Park, which is located south of Mireuksan. The drive to Dara Park took us about 20 mins. Along the way, we spotted a car stopping by the side of the road. Curious we also stopped behind the car and spotted an unmarked lookout that offers a great view of the bay below. From here we were able to see some of the islands off the coast of Tongyeong. There seems to be some sort of farm in the sea near the coast. We were glad to have stopped here (thanks to the car we spotted when driving) as this unmarked lookout is totally Instagram worthy. After taking some pictures, we continued our drive to Dara Park. We parked our car at the nearby paid car park and walked to the entrance of Dara Park. There is a restaurant at the entrance, however, it looks deserted. It is here that we found out there are some parking lots that in front of the restaurant that we could have parked for free. Entrance to Dara Park is free. The walk from the entrance to Dara Park takes around 3 mins and at the end of the walk, there is a single bench that looks out into the bay. We were a tad disappointed with the view of Dara Park. We could only see a small portion of the bay and some islands in the sea, mainly due to Dara Park is not situated in an elevation high enough to offer an unobstructed view of the bay and partly due to the view being blocked by the vegetation between the park and the sea. People usually come to Dara Park for sunset and I have no doubt we would be able to see some beautiful sunset today due to the cloudless sky. I did not plan to come here during sunset as the drive back to Busan from Dara Park would take us around 3 hrs. We left soon after taking some obligatory photos.
Geoje – The Blue City and South Korea’s Second Largest Island
After spending the morning on the island of Tongyeong, we headed over to South Korea’s second-largest island, Geoje where we stopped by three sites on this island.
When I was planning for this trip, I chanced upon a waterfall on the island of Geoje between our previous stop Dara Park and our next stop Sinseondae Platform. According to my planning on Naver Map app (South Korea’s Google Map equivalent), we would have some time for this waterfall. The drive from Dara Park to the entrance of Mundong Waterfall took us 1 hr pass the city of Tongyeong. Driving to the entrance of Mundong Waterfall requires some caution as part of the road became a one-laned road cater for traffic going in and coming out. Fortunately, no cars were plying along this road when we were there. Entrance and car parking at Mundong Waterfall is free. After parking our car, we followed the signs (in Korean, and we roughly knew it is the way to the waterfall) and made our 7 mins walk to the waterfall. My friends and I were shocked when we reached the waterfall. There was hardly any water falling from the waterfall. We only saw a small stream of water flowing down from the cliff on top, as if someone had forgotten to turn off the tap. The among of water is so little that we could walk on the almost dried up stream beneath the waterfall. On the plus side, we could get really close to the waterfall. I guess we were not in season to see the waterfall, no wonder there was hardly anyone when we walked in from the car park. Rather than feeling disappointed, we took this opportunity to lighten ourselves by taking some silly photos. We left Mundong Waterfall for our next stop after spending 3 mins here.
The drive to Sinseondae Platform on Geoje takes us around 45 mins. Along the way, we passed by Gucheon Reservoir. The scenery of the reservoir is so nice that we stopped on the side of the road and took some pictures with it. Gucheon Reservoir is surrounded by mountains that make this reservoir looks more like a picturesque lake instead of a reservoir.
We continued our drive to Sinseondae Cliff Observatory car park and was disappointed to learn that the area was closed for some works when we arrive. We tried to make good of the situation by getting close enough to the side of the cliff without encroaching into the work area. My friends and I decided to take some pictures and then bunk off to our next destination. Just when we were about to leave, we spotted afar there seem to be a route that we can walk down to Sinseondae Platform and there are some people at the platform. Not giving up, we turned off our GPS app and drove along the road towards where we spotted people going down to the beach. Not wanting to miss the beach, we spotted a small parking lot in front of Angel in Us Cafe and parked our car there. We then walked across the road to the entrance of Haegeumgang Theme Museum that looked abandoned where we spotted a pathway that leads to the beach. Following the pathway, we reached Sinseondae Platform which is essentially huge rocks that extends into the sea. The view from Sinseondae Platform is amazing as we were literally standing on the sea looking out into a scene with islands and mountains popping out from the sea. It is around sunset at the time of our visit, making this place looks picturesque. The walk onto the rocks is a small adventure itself as we were exploring which rock we can walk onto to get as close to the sea and yet gives us a vantage view of the surroundings. Although these rocks, eroded by the forces of nature, seems uneven they are very safe to walk on as most of the top of the rocks are flat.
After spending some time on Sinseondae Platform, we headed to our last destination of the day in Gyeongsangnam-do, Windy Hills. The drive to Windy Hills from Sinseondae Platform takes less than 5 mins. For this short drive, we rely on the street signs instead of our GPS (as it points us to take a longer route). Entrance and parking at Windy Hills are free. After parking our car, we took a short walk up to the windmill. Looking out into the sea from Windy Hills, this place looks more like some lake in a European country rather than South Korea. There is a windmill on top of Windy Hill that was used as a set in a Korean drama. Sitting on the bench in front of the windmill looking out at the sea is very therapeutic. This is a good end to the long day we had today. We enjoyed the sea breeze and the tranquillity this place brings and would love to stay here longer. However, as the sun is about to set and considering that we had to drive over some windy roads on our way back, we left Windy Hills and embarked on our drive back to Busan. Along the way back to Busan, we stopped by Gadeok Ocean Park rest area for a break.
Back to Busan Gunam Street
The drive from Geoje to Busan took around 3 hrs. We headed back to the hotel and parked our car there. Instead of going back to our rooms, we headed out to the nearby Gunam Street for dinner. We did not want to have too full a dinner as we wanted to buy some street food back to the hotel to eat. We settled our dinner at a Korea BBQ restaurant, after which we headed to Haeundae Market nearby to get some Korean fish cake, tteokbokki and Korean fried chicken back to the hotel to eat. It is a long day and tomorrow we will be having another long day in Gyeongju. We rested for the night soon after eating the food we bought from Haeundae Market.