Nothing is better than an island getaway with friends, especially when those friends are all excellent photographers. Last week I headed out with some of the best photographers in the area to the tiny island of Somaemuldo. This island is located near Tongyeong but really is isolated from everything. People come to fish (I think??) and just to get away from it all.
There is really nothing much on the island but what is there is quaint and nice. There are no cars and no roads on the island. What is there are a few inns and a couple of restaurants. The biggest asset in my mind was the cafe. On an island of this size and this far away from the city you don’t mind paying inflated prices to have a morning cup of joe.
Once we got to the island we headed off to the Lighthouse on the other side of the island. There is a land bridge that disappears during the high tide and it is something cool to see. We spent most of the evening in search of the stars which were reluctant to come out. However, that did not stop us from spending hours shooting. It was a great time and a hard hike back to the mountain and down the other side to the village.
It was then we realized that the prices here on the island were a tad higher than on the mainland. Rice, ramyeon and a pepsi came out to a grand total of 8,000 won which is about twice the price of what it would be back home. This is a minor point when you realize that past 6 pm your options for food drop to zero. All of the restaurants close around 6 pm. The best tip is to bring your own food as most do. All of the pensions are equipped with kitchens and it seems that most are aware of the high prices and cook for themselves.
One of the best places to grab some refreshments is the only cafe on the island. I firmly and incorrectly thought that this place wouldn’t be anything special given the fact that it is located on a tiny island. I was proven wrong and they also open up early as well. As we walked back to our pension from a sunrise shoot we all stopped to see if they were even open to the idea of making coffee. To my surprise they were! Suffice to say that it made my weekend. Having a place to sit and talk about the morning’s shots over coffee is something awesome.
The price of the island aside, this place is a great spot to shoot some seascapes and island life. There is even an abandoned school where you can get your fix of urban exploration. The biggest thing here is to relax and find your groove. While the view may not send photographers out in droves, it is a great place to spend with some good friends and do some hiking. When you realized that the most important things are the people around you and not necessarily the photograph you are trying to take, it puts your creativity into overdrive.
It took a long time to get to Somaemuldo from Ulsan. The easiest way is to take the bus from Ulsan to Tongyeong and then the ferry to the island. You are looking at about 3 to 4 hours on the bus, then a 15 minute taxi ride to the ferry terminal. The ferry takes about an hour and a half to get to the island and it also makes a short stop in the larger Bijindo.
If staying on the island is not your thing, then affordable accommodation can be near the ferry terminal in Tongyeong. Booking is key to staying on the island because there are only a few pensions. They are also not that cheap either. Rooms start at around 100,000 won a night and most are only the ondol style. To put this into perspective a decent room on jeju island starts at around 50,000 won for a non-dormitory style room. At any rate, this is just something to keep in mind when travelling there.
The other side of the island is best for the morning shots as it faces the sun and the larger island of Maemuldo. The hike there is easy but getting a clear shot is tricky. We found a cliff that fishermen use. It was steep and a little risky but paid off in the end.
If you’d like to visit the area, check out Scott Rotzoll’s article on the islands for more information. He gives some great shots as well as more information and links.