I woke up bright and early Saturday morning ahead of the sunrise and couldn’t go back to sleep (I never can when I sleep outdoors), so I decided this was just going to be one of those 4-hours-of-sleep kind of days. Why not? That’s what coffee is for.
After watching the sun rise, I decided I needed a shower. I set out to find a 찜질방 (jjimjilbang, Korean spa) that I thought I had read was nearby on the internet. I found a building with a sign that said ‘jjimjilbang’, but it had closed down, so I turned to the trusty resource that is the 24-hour convenience store cashier. He and his iPhone explained where the nearest one was and how to get there, so I set out once more, this time with Will and all our stuff in tow. By now it was around 6:30.
We found it a little before 7 (thank goodness!) and were pulled aside to hose the sand off our feet before even entering the building. Oops.
For those who don’t know about jjimjilbangs, there are usually two parts: the sauna, and the jjimjilbang. You can pay for entrance to both or just one; all I wanted/needed was the sauna, because that’s where the showers are, and that was 5,000 won. The sauna has a multitude of whirlpools and other small pools (salt, icy cold, etc.), and they’re separate for each gender. You have to strip down to enter (yes, that means you have to be naked around a bunch of other naked Korean women), but that wasn’t a big deal for me because (1) I grew up going to Korean spas with my grandmother, and (2) I am Korean so I didn’t stand out that much (aka I didn’t get many weird stares). I probably did get a few strange looks as I entered the locker room with my stuffed backpack and sweaty self and proceeded to beeline for the showers with what must have been a very determined look on my face, but I didn’t care.
The jjimjilbang portion of the spa is where the steam rooms are located. This is where you sweat out all the toxins in your body by sitting in rooms of varying temperatures, humidity levels, and even floor materials (i.e. different kinds of stone, wood, etc.). It’s usually not divided by gender, and since most jjimjilbangs are open 24 hours, this is where people spend the night. It’s a really cheap stay for a budget traveler (~8-10,000 won for one-time entry).
Anyways, my shower was worth every bit of the 5,000 won I spent, so I emerged half an hour later squeaky clean, relaxed, and ready to take on the day — and it was still only 7:35 in the morning.
Will and I went off to catch a cab to take us to the nearest subway station, as we were planning on heading to the ferry terminal to take a ferry to Geojedo (Geoje), Korea’s second largest island after the famous Jejudo. Well…we made it to the ferry terminal just fine, but upon our arrival we discovered there were no ferries from Busan to Geoje. You see, a bridge connecting the mainland to the island was built not too long ago (maybe a few years), so ferry service was discontinued in favor of the frequent buses that now run between the two. Since we were by the port, we decided to walk around a little before getting back on the subway. At least we got a decent (but hazy) view out of the unnecessary and otherwise-wasted trip.
After that disappointment, we headed to Sasang station, where the Busan inter-city bus terminal is located. We realized we still hadn’t had a real breakfast, so we had brunch at a small onigiri restaurant next to the terminal. It was delicious, and not just because I was hungry.
As it turns out, buses between Busan and Geoje run every 20 minutes, so we were able to hop on a bus to Jangseungpo (located on the eastern side of the island) within 15 minutes of walking into the terminal. We planned to take a ferry (also known as a pleasure boat) from Jangseungpo to Oedo-Botania, a marine botanical garden located in Hallyeo Maritime National Park, upon arrival. Apparently it’s one of Korea’s best tourist attractions.
The bus ride was less than an hour and a half, and had some great views to boot. Plus, I had some time to read the book Will lent me (The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, for those interested).
Jangseungpo inter-city bus terminal is hardly a terminal — it was more like a small parking lot with a tiny ticket booth. Fortunately, the ticket booth had just what we needed — a map in English — and the ticket clerk pointed us in the right direction towards the ferry terminal. “Just keeping walking straight,” he said, in Korean of course. That’s helpful.
After walking for a few minutes in this small, quiet city, we came across an intersection that made “straight” a much more complicated direction to follow. It was also scorching hot, and there was a supermarket just across the street, so we decided that an ice cream break wouldn’t be so bad. Besides, then we could ask the cashier which street would take us to the ferry terminal.
Two helpful cashiers later, we spotted the ferry terminal. Success! And just in time to catch the last ferry of the day (1:10 pm). We bought our tickets with 2 minutes to spare.
The ferry ride was gorgeous and really enjoyable, even though I couldn’t understand what the ferry guide was saying. The Busan accent is harder to interpret than you might think. We stopped by a couple of beautiful rocky islands on the way to Oedo, which made the ride about an hour in total.
Once we reached the island, we were given an hour and a half to explore before the ferry would be back to pick us up. It was still insanely hot, and the island was quite hilly, so 90 minutes was plenty of time for me, though it had seemed short at first. The entire island is a botanical garden that Lee Chang-ho and his wife, Choi Ho Suk, began to cultivate in 1969. It’s full of a vast number of different flowers, plants, and even sculptures, and has some clear Western influence (take the Venus garden, for example). There were tourists galore, but they were mostly Korean, not foreign. Describing the island in words is much too difficult, so these pictures will have to suffice.
Soon, it was time to get back on our ferry (Champion, it was called) and head back to Geoje. It was truly a day of island hopping — we started off our day in Busan, bussed it to Geoje, ferried to Oedo via a rocky island, and ended our day back on Geoje, where we would beach camp our second and last night.