Thursday, June 2, 2016

Somaemuldo island, Geojedo

Somaemuldo Island is one of the top attractions in the Hallyeo Maritime National Park. This is due to its unusual rock formations along the rocky sides of the islands and the sweeping ocean views interspersed with islets. Because of its popularity, the original ferry route from the tip of Geojaedo, which takes over 90 minutes (26 kilometers), has now been augmented with a new 30-minute faster and more expensive route from the Tongyeong Port. Either ferry route is a beautiful experience with scenic rock and island formations appearing and disappearing along the horizon and with flocks of begging seagull escorts.

Maemuldo is in actuality a close huddle of three islands—Daemaemuldo, Somaemuldo and Deungdaeseom. Daemaemuldo as the largest, which is understood by “dae” meaning “large” has its counterpart Somaemuldo with “so” meaning “small”. Most tourists prefer to get off at Somaemuldo as it has breathtaking views of other islets as well as allows visitors to experience the “Moses miracle” when the sea parts between Somaemuldo and the tiny, sharp-peaked island behind—Deungdaeseom, literally meaning “lighthouse island” because of the lighthouse at its peak. 

Getting to Deungdaeseom, also called Haegeumdo but I don’t know why, one must wait for the tide to ebb. People in our group ended up wading part of the 150-meter waterway in thigh-deep very cold water as they pioneered the route for the following large numbers of tourists flocking to experience the ‘miracle’ and climb to the lighthouse, which has been featured in several movies and commercials. The lighthouse was built during the Japanese colonial period as were a few other lighthouses around Korea—the lighthouse at Daewangam Park, Ulsan for example. With the island being so small and with little on the island besides the lighthouse, it takes only about 20-30 minutes to walk around the island and see everything. However, before the return a recommended view is to gaze at Somaemuldo from Deungdaeseom; it is said that one can see rock formations that look like a sitting dinosaur.

Walking around Somaemuldo takes longer as people will want to search out some of the spectacular rock formations—Yongbawi (dragon rock), Buchudae bawi (Buddha rock), Geobuk bawi (turtle rock), Chotdae bawi (candlestick rock) and the spectacular Geulssingi cave. And then there is Nammae bawi (brother and sister rock) which is actually two rocks, one on top of the other; the name was inspired from folk tales of a twin brother and sister, and each rock has its own individual name—sutbawi (charcoal rock) is the top rock and is larger and darker while the rock below is ambawi (female rock).

Expect to walk for 2-3 hours if following the 3.1 kilometer walking course, but observatories and boardwalks have been well-designed to lead the hikers to the most peculiar-shaped cliffs and scenic waterway views. To get to the trailhead, walk past the 500-600 year old camellia woods and continue 30 minutes onward to the Mangtaebong Peak from which the islands of Tongyeong appear on the surreal parchment of the silver-blue Haegeumgang River. From this viewpoint, sunrises and sunsets are said to be spectacular!

To hike the 5.5 kilometer coastline hiking course around the larger Daemaemuldo takes about 3 hours, and on clear days Tsushima Island, Japan can be seen from the 210-meter Janggunbong Peak. Regular ferries navigate between Somaemuldo from two villages—Danggeum and Daehang—but weather conditions make water travel in the waterways unpredictable.

Maemuldo literally means “buckwheat island” as it (Daemaemuldo) was once one of the largest producers of buckwheat in Korea. In 1904, the Gimhae Kims migrated from the mainland to the island as they heard the island was abundant in food and no one would starve. After settling, they established a whole village, which was secluded and only in recent times has become a popular tour destination.

Due to its popularity, booking ferry tickets in advance for weekends and holidays is necessary. Expect booking difficulties also in late-October early-November as Somaemuldo holds its annual Siberian chrysanthemum festival. For booking in English or Korean.

The day was cold, wet and rainy so a few of us migrated to a cute little tea house where interesting and bizarre snacks and drinks were served in appealing ways. This is an island and everything must be imported except what is locally grown, so expect to pay whopping tourist prices. The lemonade--mine just water and fresh-squeezed lemon--was a whopping W7,500. But it sure tasted nice and the ambience was great! The owner came over and showed me his album of show dogs and one of his friendly dogs came over and gently begged--a real sweetie.


No comments:

Post a Comment