events

Islands off Incheon, South Korea: Muui-do

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Revenge of the killer seagulls. Just lucky timing, on the way across from Jamjin-do to Muui-do.

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Fishing boat at Yeongjong Pier with Incheon City in the background

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Panorama of Incheon City in the horizon from Muui-do

It seems that autumn is finally upon us. Temperature has dropped to 20C on a sunny day like today. Looks like the right time to explore some islands off the city of Incheon. Island hopping is a term I wanted to use, but it is technically not really any hopping at all, since by public transport I would be lucky to even get to one island per day. What more, everything is in Korea here so I will have to guide by chance and by the grace of my GPS. Good light also means I can ditch my big camera and go light with a D300, lunch and plenty of water. Always ready for an adventure.

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Google Earth capture of the entire journey mapped by a GPS. Green path is the actual route taken throughout the day.

Getting to the island is a multi-transport discipline. On my research, it looks like the easiest way to get there is to get out of Seoul and get on the express train to Incheon Airport an then hop onto a bus. The alternative way going through Incheon and then a ferry ride to the Airport island looks to be a longer journey. In most cities, Seoul included, the authorities have this idea that tourists are beings meant to be fleeced, so for example a metro ride to Incheon city proper is less than half of what it cost to go to the airport. Price aside, I’ve said that getting out of the city to the airport by Metro is not an easy task. There are some signs at metro station that looks like you could get a A-REX express train to Incheon Airport at Seoul Station, but don’t make the mistake I did. There’s no train going to the airport as of 2010. The line should be ready in the future, but just not now. I wasted 1 hour looking for that phantom train. Some maps indicate that the line is there, but some doesn’t. Best way seems to be to get to Gimpo Airport using Line 9 and then hopping to the A-REX to Incheon Airport without getting out of the station at Gimpo Airport stop.

Outline for today therefore, to take metro to Incheon Airport and then onto one of the island next to it by bus. End the day with a ferry ride into Incheon city before dark. It doesn't really matter how it turns out. What is clear is that I will have to take a bus over a causeway to Jamjin-do and then hop onto a ferry to Muui-do. Will make up the itinerary as I go along...

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Incheon City from Yeongjong Pier

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So now at Incheon airport, it takes a little bit of investigation to know where to go next. I used up at least 1 hr here figuring out that it is impossible to walk to the pier (2km away) because of the airport security, so a bus is the best option. Go to departure area on the 3rd floor and take bus 222. Unfortunately there is no way to know whether the bus is going to Jamjin island or to Yeongjong pier for the ride into Incheon city. Just have to take your chance or ask the driver.  Bus fare seems to be 1000W as I didn't really pay attention to my stored value card as I put it on the sensor.

However I was one of the ones that got on the wrong bus as the first one I took was going to Yeongjong pier on the return trip from Jamjin-do. When I got there, it was time to wait for the next bus to go to the island I wanted to go in the first place. Good time killer is to hang around the pier and look at all the tent-restaurants that sprouted out at the parking lot, full of drunk Koreans munching on BBQ pork and kimchi.

After half and hour, it was time for the bus to start moving again. Somehow I have a feeling that there’s not more than 2 buses that services this route going from one end of the Incheon Airport island (that would be Yeongjong Island) to the other end. The bus goes through the airport to pick up more passengers (or victims) and then darts to the west, where I wanted to go, confirmed by my GPS. Right after the airport the bus turns left into a small lane full of korean restaurants, seemingly built so that patrons can look at the sun setting over the sea. After a while, going through a tight road and avoiding carks parked on both sides of the road, the bus goes over a causeway connecting Jamjin-do with larger Jeongyong-do where the airport is located. The bus stops in the small island just before the ferry point. Roads here are tight, as real estate is not plentiful. A building sells 3000 Won return tickets to Muui-do for pedestrians.

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Ferry connecting Jamjin-do with Muui-do

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Four lanes of cars, they go in on the left then make a u-turn at the end of the ship and get out the same way.

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There are two ferries operating here, taking turns in a maritime ballet shuttling cars and pedestrians across. On this day, and at this time, there are more cars returning than going to Muui-do. It's almost 5pm by the time I got to my destination, which rules out any possibility of exploring the island. Just enough time to enjoy the sunset. The trip itself is an adventure in getting lost and letting a bus driver determine my fate for the day. Muui-do is not very far away by ferry, it takes less than 15 minutes to get across. As the ferry glides across the straits, seagulls follow the wake of the ferry, I’m not sure if its because the boat of to feed off the bread crumbs thrown by passengers.

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Jamjin-do’s ferry ticketing booth. Notice the small space which is almost all taken by roadside restaurants. No place to park for sure.

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Ferry anchor points on Muui-do

The trip back is quite straight forward. I already have a return ticket, so just hop onto the ferry at the pier, get back to Jamjin-do and wait for the same bus 222 to get here at the front of the ticketing building. The trip to Yeongjong pier is long enough it is possible to get a nap here. It was already dark by the time I noticed the bus making a detour from the standard route and realised that the driver was going off course to get some fuel. Thought that only happens in Malaysia. Though the sun was already below the horizon, the cold evening and clear skies gave the sky a nice gradient between dark orange and dark blue. I couldn’t take a picture of the nice colours since I can’t set up my tripod here (nor did I remember to bring one) and my camera does not do high ISO that elegantly.

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Small fishing boat at Muui-do

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Evidence of what peopel do here. Drink beer, eat oysters and light up fireworks (on the bottom right).

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... and fishing...

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This reflecting pool is actually a small pond on Muui-do with the sea in the background.

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View of Jamjin-do from Muui-do in the late evening.

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The convenience store in Muui-do

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Heed the warning!

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These two guards are looking after the ferry boarding points on Jamjin-do. Muui-do is in the background. This picture was taken on the way back to the mainland.

At least on the map, Muui-do looks like a holiday place with beaches and resorts. However, by the time I got here, I have less than an hour before darkness, and perhaps the last boat back to the mainland too. So it would not be too wise to hang around here too late, so only thing to do is to hang around the main town just after the usual Family Mart convenience store and watch the moon rise from the east over Incheon city. There are some fishermen, but they look local, the rest of the people here are making their way back to the ferry for the trip back to Yeongjong-do. I was thinking of taking some pictures of the small fishing boats in the harbour but at ground level they do not look too interesting. I have quite a number of pictures of it, but I only kept a few as most of them are quite boring. I was able to isolate the boats with a 105mm lens on a DX crop sensor but in general nothing much to talk about.

Tickets for the ferry ride back to Incheon city from Yeongjong pier cost 3000w too. But quite sure this time it is one way, so it is not a cheap ferry. It would be cheaper to grab the A-REX and Line 9 from Incheon airport. It is getting dark and the next boat is at 8 pm, just 20 mins away. Other than loud Korean travellers, the night is peaceful tonight. We have full moon now and during the long Chuseok holiday, and add to that a cold and cloudless night. I am unfortunately outfitted for summer. But I still prefer to be outside during the boat ride to the part of Incheon with the seaside promenade and a big ferris wheel.

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For this shot I wished I had brought a longer lens. Its a 105mm on a Nikon D300, not too bad framing, but I would have liked a little tighter cut. That’s the Incheon bridge in the background. One of the longest in this region.

The boat took 15 mins. Could see that the second ferry is finished for the night, hence the longer than usual wait. I guess for those who don't mind paying, they could go by bus, taxi or private car over the long bridge connecting the airport and Incheon city too.

The boat landing site is a cacophony of tourist restaurants and neon lights. Looks like there is a couple of mid sized amusement parks here. For me, it's getting late and I absolutely want to get back as soon as possible. The next chore I had to carry out is the kilometer or so walk over to metro line 1 guided by my gps and google maps on my phone. What would I do without technology? There is a monorail system that looks like it connects to the metro station, but at this time in the evening it is not operational anymore. I’m not even sure if it is ever working. Can’t really verify it today.

And like clockwork, now inside the metro waiting for 30 something stops before getting back to downtown Seoul. For the final tally, my odometer says I have done just a little more than 100 km, but that had to include the multiple bus ride. Long trip, spent 1 hour maximum at the destination, but still feeling a sense of adventure in the process of finding my way around here. The boat ride into Incheon was the highlight of the day, there was fireworks off a tourist boat moored close to the promenade and just the general feeling of seaside wind blowing for 15 mins or so. It was cold but refreshing at the same time. Looks like a sequel should be coming up soon.

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According to this superimposition of GPS plots and places where I took some pictures, it’s clear that I didn’t take too many pictures at too many different locations today. Most of is just figuring out where to go. But the results were worth it.

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Tranquility

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Watch it!

*end*