“On Bijindo, time seems to stop.”
You will realise just how apt CNN’s description was the moment you arrive at Bijindo (CNN article here).
First, you are likely to only bump into a handful of villagers throughout your time on the island, reasonably because there are only a hundred odd residents on the island. The day I was there, I encountered a handful of older villagers apparently cleaning up the beach, and a few of them tending their farms, or supposedly on their way home.
Second, there is minimal buzz on the island – no ticketing/ tourist office, vendors and few tourists (even fewer foreigners). There’s probably a small drinks store near the terminal, but there is no customer in sight. The owner is probably sitting around having a conversation with fellow
villagers. This is one of the things you learn to appreciate and will miss by the end of the day when you leave the island for the buzzing Tongyeong mainland.
The ferry took ~50 minutes to arrive at Bijindo. The journey was such a pleasant one – surrounded by the vast sea, a glorious sunny day (after which it was rainy seasons in almost every corner of Korea for days and days) and the many sea gulls that cruised along with the ferry. By the time I realised to disembark, it was the second and final stop that the ferry is making, though most passengers remained on the ferry that’s heading for the other islands.
A small signal read “Welcome to Bijindo Colorful Coral Beach”. And ahead of me, I saw a few Koreans walking up the coastal trail. Naturally I trailed behind and at some point asked if it was alright for me to tag along with the group. Was so glad that they speak English! Prof Byung-sun, a Law Professor who also teaches Music, and his students were visiting Bijindo for the first time as well! I am so fortunate (my good luck to miss the first disembarkment in fact!) to have met them. Prof was friendly, kind, and caring – throughout the hike, he helped me with my load, waited for me as I was
slow careful on the trails, exchanged stories and always offering to help me with the shots. He later also lent me a helping me when I was hospitalised (read here).
The trail was easy and short. My new-found friends had to take the ferry back to Tongyeong as they were returning to Seoul on the same day. I decided against to join them for lunch on Tongyeong mainland since I’ve already bought my lunch with me.
After they were gone, I dug into my packed lunch, of 2 portions of Chung Mu gimbap, under a shelter near the beach. My lunch view was the bright and sparkling sea in the afternoon sun. Windy, I hid under my hood, ever conscious of how seemingly slow time has passed, or that I literally have nothing much to do.
After loitering around, like a lost puppy, I decided to try the steeper hike up, hoping to get a bird eye view of the barbell island. But the thing is, no one hikes up in the afternoon so I was all alone for most of the way up. To a point that I was on my fours, trying to balance myself and my load, and taking count of the time to make my way down so that I wouldn’t miss the last ferry back to Tongyeong. And so, I gave up halfway..
When I first came across the article on Bijindo, I thought it would be a dream to make it to the island, never imagining myself to be able to do so. It would take a non-stop ~12 hours journey from Singapore to arrive at Bijindo (the same time it takes to fly from Singapore to Paris) and my day on Bijindo is clearly the highlight of the entire trip, just for being so different.
I didn’t stay for a night on Bijindo, but if I am going back again, camping or just staying by the beach will be great.
Because of my experience in Bijindo, and Jangsado Island, I’ve come to love Korea islands (with 3,800 over Korea islands to explore!), coastal trails and just being out there away from the mainland.
“Bijindo, the island you dream about, that you will forget about everything trivial but life..”
My accommodation in Tongyeong (read here)