I returned from Tongyeong late yesterday afternoon. We had an excellent time. Instead of telling you all about it in one huge post, I’ll break it down into a few posts. Let’s start from the beginning (that’s usually a good place to start).
About a week ago, I jokingly told my Korean friend Miju (미주) that she was boring. She asked me how she could prove me wrong. I challenged her to plan a fun trip, hence the sudden surprise on Friday afternoon: “meet me at Seobu Bus Terminal tomorrow at 2pm.”
I realized just how seriously Miju took my challenge when she pulled out a piece of paper on which she wrote all of her ideas and travel plans. She had apparently spent a lot of time researching Tongyeong, our destination.
Tongyeong (통영) is a small coastal town near the southern tip of South Korea. The bus ride from Daegu takes about two and a half hours. The beautiful landscape is characterized by mountains that fall straight into the ocean. There is little flat space, and all of it is occupied by farms or small towns.
By the time we arrived and found a place to stay, it was too late to do any of the touristy activities, so we decided to wander around and check out the town. From the bus terminal, we headed straight for a traditional market in the center of town called Jungang Market (중앙활어시장). The market’s narrow alleys were packed with people (my nightmare), so we called an audible and checked out a historical exhibit across the street.
Tongyeong’s claim to fame is The Great Battle of Hansan Island, which took place just off the coast of Tongyeong. Credit for Korea’s naval victory against the Japanese (1592) is given to the Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. Admiral Yi is Korea’s most famous military leader. His naval headquarters were located in Tongyeong for many years.
The historical exhibit consisted of four turtle ships, which were the warships that Admiral Yi commanded when he defeated a much larger Japanese force at Hansan Island.
Of course, this exhibit wouldn’t be truly Korean if they didn’t incorporate something weird and out of place. Inside each of the four ships was a themed exhibit. For example, one ship’s exhibit showed how the sailors lived while at sea. Another exhibit highlighted the ships’ weapons and defenses.
The people who planned these exhibits apparently ran out of ideas by the time they reached the fourth boat. In lieu of an educational exhibit, there was a large touch-screen computer display located at the back of the ship. The computer was equipped with a camera and placed a few feet away from a large green screen. You choose a background, start the camera’s timer, pose and wait for the computer to snap your photo.
This would have been only marginally weird if the background images had anything to do with Admiral Yi, turtle ships, Tongyeong or Korea. Instead, they were random stock images of beautiful scenery from around the world.
After we finished touring the ships, we decided to get a better view of the town by hiking up a small mountain above the traditional market. I’ll tell you all about it and share some great pictures in my next post.
Until next time.