The ITU World Triathlon Championships was held this past weekend in Tongyeong. Every year,Olympic triathletes and professional athletes travel to South Korea to race in the beautiful city with scenic views. A friend of mine was racing in the event and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to experience a region of Korea I haven’t ventured to before.
After work on Friday night, a friend and I made the trip to Tongyeong. We traveled on the 11 p.m.express bus. The express buses are very convenient and comfortable, and they are a great way to travel Korea. The trip cost $38.00 and it took four hours from Seoul Express Bus Terminal to Tongyeong. Once we arrived at Tongyeong Bus Terminal we caught a taxi to Tongyeong city and checked into the Bay Hotel. Considering that the Bay Hotel was fully booked up with triathletes, the polite staff went out of their way to accommodate our late arrival. For a two night stay, it cost 125.00 each. This really was not expensive considering the size and views they offered to us.
The first night our room was Korean style. In Korea, you generally have the option of booking a Korean style room or a Western style room. The main difference being that a Korean style room you will sleep on the floor. This option is rather fun, and I would highly recommend that other avid travelers try it out! You sleep on the floor with Korean style mattresses and bedding, and it might bring out the inner child in you, when you used to have sleep-over’s on the floor. Other than that, the rooms of the Bay Hotel were big, and fully equipped with a fridge, hairdryer, toiletries, bath and shower, flat screen TV and very comfortable decent sized beds.
The following day we were blown away by the view of the islands from our hotel balcony. Tongyeong is surrounded by mini islands and the water is a deep blue. The atmosphere of docking ships and busy fishing boats is very relaxing. The ITU World Triathlon Championships started at 8 a.m. with the women going first and the men second. The cyclists sped through Tongyeong on its winding roads and ran 3 laps around the harbor bay, struggling up the final infamous hill. The men’s race was won by a South African, Henri Schoemann, followed by two Americans and a Spaniard.
After the Triathlon we grabbed a Western breakfast at the Gallery Hotel, and then went with some of the triathletes up Mt. Mireuksan. Mt. Mireuksan is a famous viewpoint in Tongyeong, and you can catch the cable car to the top. The cable car costs $10 both ways and it is a perfect way to see the stunning terrain of the Southern region of Korea. This was by far one of my favorite viewpoints in all of Korea, it was truly breathtaking and being that it was fall it made it the optimum time to venture up the mountain. At the top of Mt. Mireuksan you can grab a bite to eat and then hike to the summit or see some old temples that are hidden in the mountain. The hike from the cable car drop off to the summit is about 20 minutes. Other sightseeing stops in Tongyeong would include catching a ferry to the many surrounding islands or visit the old harbor. You can also visit Tongyeong Grand Bridge, Dara Park, Ma Mul Island, and Mal Mang Mountain Park.
Tongyeong is for more laid back travelers, but for those who would like to have a little fun in the evening there are plenty of seaside restaurants. If you would like to go out and party you should head to Mujeongtong which is in the center of the city. Here you will find the heart of Tongyeong and it is about a $10 cab ride from where the harbor is. A famous restaurant to go to near the Tongyeong Bus Terminal is Blacksmith. Blacksmith offers a variety of steaks, pizzas, pasta and salads. Here you can also find Home Plus, Starbucks, McDonalds and Tom Tom’s coffee shop.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!