For some reason, Tongyeong doesn't seemed to received as much publicity by KTO compared to other cities. But for those who are acquainted to the historical battles of Yi Sun Shin, the place holds much significance for Koreans, or even enyone who had studied about great wars against Japanese invasions.
I was only acquainted to Tongyeong because my favourite Korean variety show 2D1N has an episode to commemorate the achievements of Yi Sun Shin, in particular the Imjin War. With a keen sense of war warfare psychology and strategic leadership, Admiral Yi dedicated his life to fighting against the Japanese invasions with little resources that he had. He invented the turtle ship, where, his fleet of 13 turtle ships fought and won against 133 Japanese fleets in a series of battles at Tongyeong.
The ingenious design of the turtle ship is one of the instance which showed the brilliance of admiral Yi sun shin. To know more about the design and mechanism of the turtle ship during the Imjin war, you should watch the following video.
Tongyeong's original name was ‘Chungmu’ named after the honorary title of Admiral ‘Yi Sun-sin’. The new name ‘Tongyeong’ means ‘Command post’ because it is believed to have been the major base of operations near Hansan island, of Admiral Yi during the Japanese invasion.
1. Getting there
The best way to Tong Yeong is to take an intercity bus to Tong Yeong bus Terminal.
If you are coming from Seoul
Seoul's Nambu Terminal at Seocho (11 times daily) and the express bus terminal at Gangnam (14 times daily). The ride takes about 4 1/2 hours.
If you are coming from Busan
Buses from Busan's Seobu Terminal run daily from 6:30am to 10:30pm about every 20 minutes. The journey will take around 2 hours, depending on traffic condition. Cost is 9800 won.
If you are coming from other smaller town(s), you will probably need to find out which bus station has buses that goes to Tongyeong. If there is no direct buses, you probably have to change at Jinju, Goseong, or Masan.
If you are travelling South by train, the closest train stations will lead you to Masan station (KTX), where you will still need to catch a short Taxi ride to From Masan's Nambu Terminal- there are daily buses from 5:10am to 9:15pm every 10 minutes.
Use the information below to help you get from Masan KTX station to Masan Nambu Station. There are actually 4 bus stations at Masan, so make sure you get to the correct one. A taxi ride from Masan KTX station to Masan Nambu station takes about 20 min, costs 9000 won.
2. Area Information
There is a tourist information counter and Taxi stand right outside the bus station. At the bus terminal, make sure you drop by the tourist information counter to pick up some maps and directions.
The officer recommended taxi as the most convenient form of transport for tourist- which I agree. If you go around in a taxi, you will be able to cover at least 3 key areas at Tong Yeong within a day. Taxi rides, as with any other non-major cities in Korea are reasonably priced.
If you wish to cover more areas, you would probably need 2 days at Tong Yeong.
Tong Yeong Tourist Map:
Key areas: Yi Sun Shin Park , Jungang Market area , Mount Mireuksan ( Red, blue and purple dot respectively).
There are afew other areas which may ir recommended by tour groups, but I decided to give it a miss. They are:
-- Dongpirang Wall Painting Village. If you are interested in Mural Village, go for Gamcheong Cultural Village at Busan. It is the best.
-- Undersea Tunnel . I will go to check out the place if I have time. You can read more about it here.
Official Website: eng.tongyeong.go.kr
3. Moving around
I picked up a tourist map for Yi Sun Shin Park and the map actually offers more clarity to these locations.
I arrived at Tong Yeong at about 11 am. Here is how I moved around Taxi ride and cover these areas at leisurely pace by 6 pm.
1. Bus terminal to Yi Sun Shin Park - Taxi , 10 min ride.
2. Yi Sun Shin Park to Jungang Market - Walk 30-40 min (There was no taxi stand at the park)
3. Jungang Market to Mt Misen- Taxi, 15 min (Lunch)
4. Mt Mireuksan to Bus Terminal- Taxi, 15-20 min, slight traffic jam at bridge.
Taxi charges as an good estimate comes to about 3000 won for each 5 minutes. While Tong yeong is not a big city, it can be packed with tourists, especially at Jungang Market and during peak hours, so taxi rides time and charges may vary.
3A. Yi Sun Shin Park
The park originally named the Hansan Battle Memorial Park, was later named as Yi Sun Shin Park.
If was a rainy day when we visited the park, but once we were there we understand why the area could have been a strategic location for the navy. The site offers a bird's eye view of numerous islands in the vicinity, which can potentially create hiding areas for the fleet to corner or attack invaders. The picture above was taken on a rainy and cloudy day. But even with lowered visibility, we can still get a 180 view of the islands from far.
You can better appreciate the geographical beauty and historical significance of the park if you know abit more about the history of Yi Sun Shin and the Imjin war, in particular, the war at Hansando Island. Watch the video below for a quick brief of Yi Sun Shin as a military genius and his legacy.
Additional video reference: https://youtu.be/6VU6jI0GLo4
A key feature of the park is a statue of the admiral overlooking the sea of Hansando Islands. The statue also captured another historical icon of the admiral- a 77 inch-12 pound sword. Some have speculated that the sword was too large and heavy to serve its function, and that the sword was more symbolic and was not intended for use during battles. Apparently, there is a display of the swords at a shrine located in Chungchong-namdo (province), South Korea. You can access the picture here.
The park though small was beautifully done, keeping its alignment of bringing out a panaromic view of the islands weather you are on high grounds or not. One of the paths lead to a pavilon on higher grounds which provides a breathtaking view of the islands. We were gratified for the shelter it provides and was grateful that it was constructed on wooden flooring, which provided us with warm flooring, where we can sit and laze around. The rainy weather was inconvenient, but the clouds brought about a dreamy feel to the view.
The park's other walkways brings visitors closer to the lower grounds where you can enjoy the landscape and walk along the (small) pebbled beach.
3B. Tongyeong Jungang Market (통영 중앙시장)
About: TongYeong Jungang market had about 400 years of history. The market is located next to Dongpirang (Mural) Village. In front of the market is Gangguan Port where a turtle ship (geobukseon) and fishing boats are docked. There are also many small eateries where you can get some of the famous TongYeong delicacies. You can probably spend about 2 hours at the market and have enough experience to keep you fruitfully engaged.
Getting There: I will share the journey from Yi Sun Shin Park to Jungang Market.
From the entrance/exit of the park, there is only one road plying alongside the sea with many fishing boats. Follow the main road out since there is no other road available. We took a bit longer to walk out, as we stopped to see fisherman unloading their catch.
When you walk past the fishing boats, there are a few smaller streets on your left. Keep walking until you see the main road, where the local buses ply. Turn left at the main street and follow the map below.
There was unfortunately, no obvious signs to the market. We were fortunate that we followed the main road and ended up in the right place.
The last stretch of road on the walking map before arriving at the market was a really busy road. It is a single lane road in both directions and not built to accommodate tourists. This is however, a common stop for coach tours which includes Dongpirang (Mural) Village, so the traffic is a little jammed up.
As with my other trips to fish market, I always like to look for anchovies from Korea. Between Japan and Korea, I have always liked how the Koreas prepare their dried anchovies. Sweet and not salty. Packaging is simple and does not eat into the cost.
Before I visited Tongyeong, I have always grabbed afew boxes of anchovies from Busan, because to me, they are the best I can find in Korea. Really fresh and good. The ones we saw at Tongyeong was cheaper and we bought afew boxes of anchoives and shrimps as well. Dried shrimps was something I do not see as much in Busan.
As with other fish markets in Korea near the coast, you can see a wide range of fresh fishes in baskets. You can pick whatever you fancy and the stall owner will "process" and do basic clean-ups for you.
We even found a stall selling and processing a live octopus.You can watch the ajumma (Korean word for middle age lady) in action in the video below.
My reaction was like "wow". I can't describe it. But I still love seafood.
Along the main road, you there are 2 delicacies which you must try:
(1) The honey bun
I bought a tray set from a shop near the entrance of the market (See map) because I wanted to try all the 4 flavours. Most shops allowed you to try their honey buns, and this shop's honey buns has fresh and tasty fillings.
You can only keep this for a few days, so if you are travelling with only a few travel buddies, expect to eat this after your next few meals. Another way to go around this is to try all the flavours at the shop and buy a set of 4 of your favourite type. I cannot remember how much it cost though- just that it is not expensive. Competition keeps the price reasonable.
(2) Chungmu's Gimbap (충무 김밥)
You must try this if you drop by Tongyeong.
Chungmu's gimbap (or kimbap) originates from Tongyeong. While the regular gimbap has savouries as fillings, rolled as a rice and sea rolls, chungmu's gimbap serves the savouries not as filling, but as side dish which they eat with rice (only) rolls.
A chungmu meal will also include seaweed soup and a sesame oil dip to go with the rice roll. The sesame oil, to my surprise, has a dash of salt added to it, and it was delightful savoury with just the rice roll.
For those who likes to try Korean food which are not spicy, you will love Korean sesame oil- it is light and super fragrant. I have tried premium sesame oil from Asia/China, Japan and Korea- nothing beats the fragrance of sesame oil and sesames in Korea. I think the savoury effect from the salt only works with Korean Sesame oil. Japan's sesame oil is light, but not so fragrant. Asian/China sesame oils are strong in taste and better suited for cooking rather than dips.
The side dishes are also different, consisting of a radish side and a cooked squid side. I radish is cut by hand, so some pieces I thought was abit too large (and hence salty). The squid though has a really chewy, yet tender texture. It was cooked and if you are a discerning seafood eater, you can taste the sweetness of the squid. Some may find it a tat to spicy, but it not the type of spiciness which burns your tongue, so it should be acceptable for most people.
The shop is located near the honey bun shop, along the stretch of shops facing the sea. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of exterior of the shop, just the interior. The shop only has about 5 tables, and you can peep in to see set up of the shop.
We always look for restaurants which have been visited by the major broadcasting stations in Korea. You can almost be certain the food has quality. That is how we manage to cover local eating places which you seldom find in those printed travel guides or brochures.
3C. Mt Mireuksan 미륵산
You need to take a taxi to Mireuksan. Costs about 7000won one way from Jungang Market, so it is really affordable if you are sharing out the cost.
When we arrived at the cable car station, it was raining. I was a tat disappointed that I will not get a good view from the peak and photography will be tricky. Well, we did not get a good view most of the time, but at the end of the trip, I was ecstatic.
The rain created clusters of dense white clouds which floats through the sky of Tongyeong creating a dreamlike state, which offers an occasional peak of the city view.
The trek from the cablecar station to the peak took about 40 minutes. It may be longer if you stop to enjoy the views or take pictures. We were concerned that the route would be slippery on such as windy and rainy day, but the stairs and walkways at Mireuksan was very well and is safe enough even for kids.
Along one of the 2 routes, you will find some interesting items, such as the slow mail box and a"compass" which shows you the direction to cities in the world.
There is a small cafe selling hot food at the cable car station. But the station closes at around 6pm, so the ajumma tending to the cafe had cleaned up her shop by 5 pm. The rain finally stopped, but it was still wet and windy. The view was still breathtaking, but we couldn't stay long and we were hungry. Fortunately, there were taxis at the cable car station. 35 minutes later and at 9000won, we were back at the bus terminal. The return journey took longer as we hit peak hour and there was a jam on the way back.
If you have time you should grab a seafood dinner at Jungang Market. I did not stay long enough to try out a good seafood meal, but here's some information from another blogger which I was referring to when I plan for my trip.