2012 Travel Diary 5: the Trip to Tongyeong

by Philip Gowman on 5 May, 2012

in Gyeongsangnam-do, Travel diaries

Seoul, Sunday 25 March 2012. Seoul’s Express Bus terminal is rather confusing. Even my Korean companion is struggling to figure out where to buy the tickets, what the difference is between a standard and a deluxe bus, and where they go from. We eventually work it out, and I’m glad she decided to tag along with me. We have a choice: a 40 minute wait for a standard bus or one hour 40 minutes for a deluxe one. Both take the same amount of time and there’s no material price difference. We elect for the earlier one, and have a coffee while we wait.

The Chungmu Marina Resort hotel, alongside which the new Tongyeong Concert Hall is being built

The Chungmu Marina Resort hotel on Mireuk-do, Tongyeong-si, alongside which the new Tongyeong Concert Hall is being built

The bus pulls into the station on time, 5:35pm, and almost without noticing how we got there we are soon powering down the expressway to Tongyeong. We’re in the bus lane, which sounds like it should be slow, but in fact most of the time we’re overtaking the cars to our right. And although this is the standard bus, it is perfectly comfortable.

The TV screen at the front of the bus is showing a soap opera starring Ryu Seung-beom interspersed with commercials featuring impossibly pretty or handsome models. I drift off to sleep, to be woken precisely two hours into our journey as we pull into a service station for a twenty minute rest stop to stretch our legs. We’re not sure what awaits us in Tongyeong, so we purchase some kimbap and listen to the ppongtchak compilations which are blaring out from the gift shop.

Two hours later we are pulling into the bus terminal in Tongyeong and climbing into a taxi that will take us to our destination: the Chungmu Marina Resort, accommodation hub for the Tongyeong International Music Festival.

Built on a promontory of Mireukdo, overlooking the site of Admiral Yi Sun-shin’s famous victory at the battle of Hansando, the Resort rather dominates the landscape. Next to it, the new Tongyeong concert hall is being built.

The view towards Hansan-do from the back of the Chungmu Marina Resort Hotel

The view towards Hansan-do, site of Admiral Yi Sun-shin’s victory in 1592, from the back of the Chungmu Marina Resort Hotel

Infrastructure is a familiar problem for Korea when hosting big international events such as the Kwangju biennale or the Korean Grand Prix, as these venues have lacked international-standard accommodation. The Chungmu Marina Resort is designed to be the start of Tongyeong’s answer to this problem, but even this would not meet the requirements of the most demanding guests: air conditioning which doesn’t switch on, underfloor heating which doesn’t switch off, an hygienic but incomprehensible Japanese bidet / toilet in the bathroom, bath towels the size of face flannels, no bedside lights for night-time reading, or any means to turn off the main room lights from the comfort of your bed… this is accommodation which is geared towards the Korean self-catering market rather than the international traveller. Though if you are self-catering, there’s a well-equipped kitchenette complete with rice cooker to meet your needs in your room.

But the staff are very friendly and helpful, speak good enough English to meet most needs, the views are amazing and it’s not very expensive. So I’m not complaining. Tongyeong, as I was to find out, is a very special place.

Introduction 12: Yun Isang’s music at TIMF 2012
1: Dansaekhwa – Korean Monochrome Painting at the Museum of Contemporary Art 13: Jeon Hyuck-lim, Magician of Colours
2: Suh Do-ho “Home within Home” at the Leeum 14: Mugwort pancakes and bronze age dolmen
3: Bugaksan to Daehakro 15: A visit to Min Young-ki
4: Walking the palace trail with the RASKB 16: Silla pagodas, Korea’s first beautiful village, and Nammyeong’s tomb
5: the Trip to Tongyeong 17: On hiking in Korea
6: Tongyeong harbour 18: The hike to Beopgyesa
7: Yi Sun-shin — military genius, hero, poet 19: Beopgyesa Temple and those Japanese feng-shui stakes
8: Yun Isang, Sancheong and Tongyeong 20: Rabbit Stew and Love Shots
9: Yun Isang — Victim of the Cold War 21: Seong Cheol’s birthday, Park Chan-soo’s museum and Gaya period tombs
10: Mireuksan and meonggae – a morning on Mireukdo 22: The Burial Grounds of the Royal Joseon Placentas, and why underfloor heating is not always good for you
11: The Tongyeong International Music Festival 23: Mun Ik-jeom: dutiful son and smuggler of cotton seeds
Thank yous The Seoul Nuclear Security Summit
LKL in the 경남도민일보 “A Reason to Live” and “Pain”: Two lame films to avoid
Some regional foods in Tongyeong Some regional foods in Sancheong
Park Kyung-ni’s tomb in Tongyeong If aliens landed in Gyeongnam, would they think Koreans worshipped the turtle?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Han Eui-jong May 5, 2012 at 7:24 am

The bath towels…yes, it is v. annoying as it’s almost impossible to keep yourself warm after a bath or shower. This towel issues definitely spoil your lovely bath or hot shower afterwards as you cannot be snuggled under a thick soft lovely towel!

I do not know what it is about towels in my motherland. Always so small and thin..I asked my friends why. They say oh you want to wash and dry them quickly … so does eveyone in the rest of the world. Doesn’t make any sense.

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