Whether you travel to or live in Busan, take in consideration a day trip to Geoje. Some will say that this is not enough, and they’ll be right. In order to explore this island at a slow pace and see most of it, you’ll need probably from 3 to 5 days. We didn’t have so much time and that’s why we decided to focus only on a specific part of the island and not try to see everything in one shot.
Mr. Park recommended this island over other places in Busan and we decided that one day trip will be a good idea and a good thing to do…and I say it was worth going! If you love exploring something else than temples, cities and crowded places then Geoje is a very very nice place to go. It somehow resembles Jeju 😉
The simpler and cheaper way is to take a bus from Busan. There’s a bus to Geoje from Busan Seobu terminal almost every hour. The journey will take 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach Okpo via the new bridge. Note that where the bus drops you off is often not where you can pick it up again!!!
Services to Okpo, for example, will drop you at a local bus shelter outside the Geoje Museum but for the return trip you need to pick up the bus from a stop about 500m further east along the same road, just by the traffic lights outside a Foreigners Mart. Your other option is to make your way to the Gohyeon Intercity Bus Terminal to get back to Busan, and this is what we did.
Gohyeon is the largest of the townships that make up Goeje City on Geoje Island. Gohyeon is the home of the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard. The city has nice wide roads and you can understand the scale of the industry just walking to the port. There are some cruise trips available, we did not take that trip simply becasue we couldn’t find the ticket office and the departure point.
At the bus stop there’s a small tourist information office where we got the map of the island and because it seemed small (:D) we decided to go to the southern part of it of the island, towards the Hallyeo-Haesang National Park – to Haegeumgang. My boyfriend read somewhere on internet that we needed to take a bus to there and we have found the line we needed, but which direction to go (none of us could read hangeul)? After an hour walking around, we decided to take a cab to the place that seemend very interesting (to us).
In South Korea you need to stay in a line to get a cab, and when our turn came to take a cab we were refused a couple of times, simply because drivers could not speak English 😦 At the end we have found a driver that was able to understand English and take us to the destination.
We considered this ride a short one and we were so wrong…the whole journey took about 80 minutes if not more!!!! Will you ever cross one island from North to South in a taxi? Well, we did it! We paid the taxi fare and started to look around.
In the parking, where we were left, were only private cars and touristic buses but this wasn’t something to make us concerned about because in less than 5 minutes we realized that my boyfriend’s phone was forgotten in the taxi and by that time our cab was far away!!! We got no plate number or the company logo or name…that was so foolish of us, I reckon! My cell phone had no roaming and the battery was almost dead…what to do?
While we were looking around and trying to find a police station or maybe someone that will speak English, we understood that the way out of that place will be very and very complicated! Luckily, there was a kind of a tourist office for those who wanted to take a cruise trip around some small islands and there we found Wi-Fi. I have sent a message to my chingu and asked him to help us find/ track my boyfriend’s phone. The only information we had and gave was the color of the taxi, the route and time. We weren’t hoping for much, but at the end we tried to do something.
At the same office we asked how to get back to Gohyeon, but no one knew to answer us. I was angry and a bit desperate of the situation we were facing back then, but I kept thinking what to do. Then we started to walk around tying to speak with the locals. At a small shop nearby the parking lot we have found a woman who could speak just enough English to make us understand that there’s a bus to Gohyeon and it will be at the bus stop around 5pm.
Because the bus stop wasn’t anywhere to see, we asked again if she was sure about that and then she pointed where that place was. A great relief and a big Kamsahabnida for that woman!!!
At that point we had not enough time to take a cruise, also because the boat was leaving in about 1 hour and the whole trip was about 2 hours. This is why we decided to walk around and make the most of our time there.
We have discovered some old bridge and a tower on top of one of the mountains from where the view of the South Sea was open wide and the blue color of the water with other rock islands here and there was mesmerizing.
I think that we walked almost all the streets in Haegeumgang. The restaurants they had there were mainly seafood restaurants. Some had funny design, some were old, some had an original touch to them, but all had big aquariums with alive fish, lobsters, shrimps, oysters, etc that you could choose for your late lunch or early dinner.
Oh, yeah…. If you ever go there, walk down to the village/ town port. There you will see some local fishermen working on their nets or fixing their boats. There aren’t many tourists and for sure you won’t see many foreign tourist walking there!
The stress was kind of gone and the funniest part was just ahead.
At 5pm we were waiting for the bus when 3 men with bikes were looking desperately for signs and walking around touristic busses. We understood that they are not locals by their looks and even though they had bikes, they had the same same problem: they wanted to leave that place by bus and were looking for one. Also because the way back to Goyeon was going through the mountains and the slopes were long and stiff.
We told them that there’s a bus around 5pm and that we’re also waiting for it. They looked at us in disbelief, but when the bus came they were more than happy to have stayed there.
Besides us, there were 2 other passengers (locals): one old man and an old woman. We got our tickets (which were times and times cheaper than our ride by taxi there) and sat in the bus.
The 3 other tourists with the bikes have done their best to convince the bus driver to let them take the ride. The bus was small and did not had a special place for big luggage, that’s why they had to, somehow, store their bikes inside the bus 😀 in a such a way that they take as little space as possible and do not disturb other passengers. At that point, the old lady started to complain. We have no idea what she was telling to the driver, but at the end he ignored that ajumma’s complaints and requests and let those 3 men take the ride.
We were in a bit of hurry because in Busan that night was a big event and I wanted to attend it – the Fireworks Festival! My friend asked us to go to his place and watch it from their balcony, because their house was facing the beach, therefore was a perfect spot to watch and take pictures. We arrived to Busan just in time for the fireworks, but not to my friend’s place. The Fireworks Festival was awesome and worth running to the beach 😀 We did not make it for the concert, but the fireworks were AMAZING!
What other things you may want to see on Geoje Island?
Geoje offers a variety of attractions, including Oedo (located 4 km from Geoje), a marine western-style botanical garden in Hallyeo-Haesang National Park, built by Lee Chang-ho and his wife when they settled on the island in 1969.
If you love trekking, then you will be pleased to know that you can visit Jisim-do. Jisim is also known for its Camellia vegetation. Another popular tourist attraction, Haegeumgang-do (located southeast of Geoje) hosts the Sipja Donggul Cave, Buddhist and Shamanist sculptures can be found in the cave.
Some more information, you can find also on this website.
If you wonder what was the end of the forgotten cell phone in the taxi, I’m going to tell you that we got it back. My chingu called and filled a report on our name as soon as he learnt about this situation and few days later we got a positive answer from the police office in Geoje. They asked us where to send it and we gave them our post mail address in Seoul. By the time we left Korea, we had my boyfriend’s phone back 🙂
Travel safe and wise!