For Part 1: Please refer to K-Travel: Geoje-do (거제도) – Part 1
Still early morning we decided to walk to the Haegumgang Island Boat Ticket office(해금강유람선) instead of waiting for a taxi to show up. Walking along the main and only roadway in Haegeumgang actually gave us the opportunity to see more of the island then we had the day before. Upon returning to cliff area we had tried to reach the previous night we could see islands beyond islands off of Geoje’s shores. I was amazed that there were so many uninhabited islands along Korea’s coast. Continuing on foot from way up above we could also clearly see the emerald color of Geoje’s coasts especially the Haegeumgang inlet where we would board a boat out to Geoje’s Oedo-Botania Island(외도 보타니아-해상관광농원) and Geoje Haegeumgang Island (거제도 해금강).
Descending from the hillside we made our way through the small Haegeumgang inlet town nestled at the basin of Geoje’s shoreline. Thankfully, we still had half an hour to wait until the next Oedo departing boat started boarding. Purchasing our tickets at the office me and my boyfriend headed further down to the pier where we finally came across more travelers(*all Korean travelers), like ourselves, waiting at the pier for the boat to arrive. Within 15 minutes we had our tickets checked, received group tags for our boat, and boarded. After departure from the pier our boat sailed around the cove of Haegeumgang before leaving the inlet for the open sea.
Once out on the open waters we were briefed on safety regulations and procedures and then informed of our travel schedule and course. Our first destination was touring the 1300 year old rock island of Haegeumgang with high cliffs that had small pine trees growing on top. Sailing around the cliffs of the island was a sight to see. After learning about the names of Haegeumgang’s cliffs and the island’s formation we sailed back out to the open waters and towards Oedo-Botania. Once docked at Oedo we were told that we would have close to two hours to explore Oedo and should remember our boat name/ number when returning to the port.
It was only 11AM and there were so many Korean tourists already making their way up the port side hill toward the top of Oedo for its scenic views. Me and my boyfriend also began our ascent. Along our route we would stop every so often to admire a few of the gardens 3,000 plants species, including some we had never seen before. It was very surprising to see how diverse Oedo’s botanical garden was even in the middle of winter.
Once we reached the summit section with the iconic views of Oedo’s gardens, Geoje’s shores, and coastal waters we took some photos and asked some fellow travelers to take a memorable one for us. Then we moved on to the trail for the next summit. Oedo may have had 3-4 summits, truthfully, I lost count. But, the trails were easy slopes and not too difficult to climb. After reaching the final summit we started to make our way back down. Along the return-to-port route we noticed a small gift shop, but unfortunately it was closed. So my boyfriend and I continued to head back to port. Once back at the port we decided to relax until our boat arrived. While sitting by the water I noticed that I was not the only foreigner among the group of people waiting. There was an Indian man who appeared to be visiting Oedo with his Korean wife and their young daughter. It was nice to see a fellow foreigner, and nicer to see another international couple together. Seeing the family made me and my boyfriend talk about going on future family trips with children. Though far in the future it seemed like a great idea to one day bring our child to Oedo too.
Within thirty-minutes our boat had returned and we along with the travelers we had disembarked with all boarded the boat once again. Once all boarded our boat headed straight back to the main land. Wanting to enjoy the fresh sea air me, my boyfriend, and a few other passengers went outside to the deck to check out the views and take a few more photos. Once back at Haegeumgang port we thanked our captain and crew as we disembarked and headed back to the ticket office area. From there me and my boyfriend discussed our afternoon schedule. After working out a solid afternoon/evening plan we decided to walk back to our pension house area where Windy Hill(바람의 언덕) was located. We had thought of catching a bus, but yet again chose not to wait an hour for one to arrive(*and unfortunately we did not see any taxis in the small port town).
Upon returning to our pension house area we headed straight for Windy Hill. This was a destination especially chosen by my boyfriend. Wanting to enjoy the picturesque views of Geoje from the iconic hill was the main reason our stay in Haegeumgang. After a short walk to the hill we were greeted by a very large windmill facing an emerald bay. Located on a steep slop portion tourists can easily see a small town below, docking ports with boats, and even Hakbong Mongdol Beach on the other side of the bay.
There was so much to see from the top of Windy Hill. We spent some time there resting while chatting about Geoje’s beauty. After taking some panoramic photos of Windy Hill we headed back to the main road and were lucky to spot an available taxi cab waiting by the local bus stop. Not wanting to lose a chance to return to Geoje city within reasonable time we waved to the taxi, got in, and set out back north of the island. Along route we once again drove through Geoje’s lush green mountains, passed by Hakdong Mongdol Beach again, passed the large dam we had seen the day before, and zigzagged through the mountainsides before returning to Geoje city. On route to city we discovered that our taxi driver was also be from the Seoul area. Our driver told us his life story and why he relocated to Geoje. He even told us about the rise in number foreigners working and living in Geoje.
Once back in the city area we asked to be dropped off by the nearest mall. From there we discussed our lunch options and decided to try a popular Vietnamese restaurant mentioned on some Korean Naver blogs. After lunch my boyfriend and I checked in to our hotel, dropped off our belongings, and went back out to head to our next destination. On our first day I had done some research on historic landmarks in Geoje and had learned about Geoje’s P.O.W. Camp (거제도 포로수용소 유적공원) grounds. Wanting to see it during our trip I was glad that we were able to fit it into our schedule last-minute.
Arriving around 5PM, just one hour before closing, we purchased our entry tickets and began our course route. The P.O.W. camp grounds were enormous to say the least. There was so much to see, so many stations to visit, and so much history that could be learned while exploring the camp grounds. Thankfully, my boyfriend was a great tour guide for me. At every new station he would provide me with a short summary on Korean War battles and POW stories he grew up learning in school. Due to the realistic displays ranging from actual camp bunkers, to toilet outhouses, to dinner halls for Korean soldiers my boyfriend was also able to give me more details of military life that both he and his father experienced when in the military. It was surprising to hear his stories especially after witnessing the rough camp grounds military soldiers would train in.
Though unable to see all of the P.O.W. camp grounds we were able to see roughly 80% including the final section where the Children’s Peace Park is located. I really liked the Peace Park’s ‘World Peace’ exhibit, which had informative displays recognizing influential figures throughout history including Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Kim Gu, Gandhi, etc. As the last visitors at the exhibit we made our way out as the workers prepared to close and lock up the camp grounds. Once outside we decided to walk back to the city and tour the area before heading to a noraebang(*Korean word for karaoke) place and then having dinner. Our interest in visiting a noraebang place was purely due to wanting to sing together and finding time to do so even on vacation.
Back within the Geoje city central area we easily spotted a noraebang place and spent an hour singing to our hearts content. Afterwards we strolled around until we spotted a place to have dinner. During dinner my boyfriend and I talked about our excursions for the day and which places we loved and which we did not. Being openly honest about such things was a great way for us to see how much we were enjoying our vacation and time in Geoje. After dinner we burned some calories by walking around a couple of blocks, and then stopped by a convenience store to pick up some late-night snacks to have back at our hotel. Back at the hotel we relaxed, bathed, ate some snacks, and together watched a Kdrama episode of Goblin/ Dokkaebi (도깨비) on demand before bed.
The next day was our last day in Geoje. After waking up we packed up our stuff, checked out, and had breakfast at a local restaurant. Once we had breakfast we headed to the Geoje bus terminal, which was nearby, to catch a mid-morning bus back to Seoul. Just like our bus down to Geoje the bus back to Seoul took just 4 hours. Once back in Seoul we left the Nambu Bus terminal area and traveled to the Gangnam area of Seoul to check out a highly-rated restaurant for lunch. Overall, our 3 day/ 2 night mid-week vacation in Geoje was great. The weather, scenery, accommodations, and sites were all lovely. My boyfriend and I each enjoyed our stay, especially our time together away from daily life back in the Seoul area. The only negative part of our trip was the minimal public transportation available ranging from taxis to buses. My boyfriend and I learned from this trip that next time we will certainly rent a car like we had on our Jeju trip. Like Jeju, Geoje island transportation runs slow. But, this is true for many travel destinations that are not within major city regions in Korea. With that said many future trips for us might involve car rentals as we set our sights to explore smaller cities in the eastern region.
Why do you travel? To getaway from city life or slow life?