Charlotte and I went to the Japanese island of Tsushima for Chuseok. We were a little disappointed because I really wanted to go to Jeju but the flights were booked out 3 months in advance for Chuseok. I really wanted to go to Japan and Tsushima seemed a bit of a cop out.
We got the ferry from Busan (booked with aferry.com) to Hikatsu. As soon as I arrived I knew I loved the place.
Korea disappointed me in its lack of wildlife. We arrived in December and Korea is a barren wasteland during the winter, waiting to bloom in the spring. In the mountains and the forests you can hear birds and insects, but, in just everyday life it’s not like Britain with our gardens. In Tsushima, the sky was filled with buzzards and there were always huge butterflies, helicopter-like dragonflies or killer hornets about.
It felt like Jurassic Park.
We set up camp at the Miuda Campsite. It was a 30 minute walk from the port but I recommend taking a taxi, it costs between 900 and 1000 Yen. The campsite is great. You’re right next to the beach, the spa is a 30 second walk away, there are foreign toilets (not just squatters) and powerful outside showers. The indoor showers were closed when we were there because the campsite is only officially open in the summer. The spa is fantastic, it costs just 500 Yen and after around 6pm it was dead. I had the whole place to myself three days on the trot.
The bins and toilets were cleaned everyday despite the campsite being closed. There was new toilet roll put in every day. I think this is because of the dozens of Korean tourists that make a 10 minute photo stop at the beach as part of organised tour groups. As the campsite was closed we didn’t have to pay anything!
When we arrived the immigration guy was surprised that we were staying so long so I worried that we were going to be bored but it wasn’t the case.
On our first day we explored the little town of Hikatsu. To explore the north Tsushima more we took out electric bicycles. They were fantastic and made short work of the mountains! I was so glad we hired them instead of mere peddle ones.
We hired them from a really friendly place. The lady who owns the shop waits in a funny looking van by the port when the Kobee arrives. She will take you to her shop and then when you’re done with the bikes she’ll drive you to your hotel/campsite. You can also book bikes for the following day and she’ll collect you from your hotel/campsite. Plus, you get a small gift at the end. It’s fantastic! They cost 1500 Yen for the day (they must be returned by 6pm).
I highly recommend you go to her. The shop is opposite the small Value supermarket and there are bikes outside the shop.
In Hikatsu, you can get pretty much all you want from the Value supermarket. Closer the the port as you’re walking into Hikatsu there is a shop on the right, it’s called something like Watazuki. Black sign with white letters. You can get BBQs there, fishing gear and Tsushima sake (1000 Yen). Next door to the shop is a small souvenir shop, they’re very friendly in there too.
On the second day our friends arrived. We decided to go to the Tsushima Leapord Cat Conservation Centre. We took the bus there (1000 Yen for a day ticket) and got off at the closest stop Sago. Whilst it was the closest stop it still meant we had a 6.5km hike; which we didn’t know about. It was tough going but the scenery was fantastic. 3 hours later we arrived at the conservation centre.
It wasn’t worth the 3 hour hike. It’s probably worth the drive there to have a 15 minute look around but not a 1 hour bus ride and then a 3 hour walk. We sat down in the lobby drawing with wax crayons not wanting to think about having to walk back when Claire asked if anyone would drive us to the bus stop, where we’d need to wait 2 hours for the return bus. A young friendly Japanese couple from Hiroshima offered to take us all the way to the campsite. We were so relieved!
They spoke little English but they drove all the way and took us along the amazing coastal roads. We saw a Golden Marten along the way. To be honest, I think it would have been a pretty shit day if they hadn’t rescued us. They saved the day.
We got back and night fell. We saw something in the dark. It was only a supposedly endangered Tsushima Leopard Cat. The one we’d just hiked 3 hours in the stifling heat to see. It was quite happy watching us and sat there for a while. It came back the next day.
Our other brush with nature came with a 6 inch long centipede crawled up Charlotte’s shorts and she had to pull it out!
Our third day was the best day. We went on an amazing bike (electric) ride around the whole of the north of Tsushima. We went to the Toyo fortress ruins which are worth seeing just as a point to cycle too. We also stopped off at the Korea Observatory Point, although we couldn’t see Busan. At the bottom of the road to Toyo’s former fortress is an incredible little restaurant by the sea. Go to it! The two ladies that run it are so friendly. The food was amazing, I had the grilled fish.
On our fourth and last day we hung around the campsite, sad to go. We had one last swim in the lovely warm Muida bay water and another go in the spa.
I do recommend you hire a car. You can get one without an international drivers license, some hire car companies around the dock will hire you one. Their reps are in the terminal usually. Our friends got one out the day we left and didn’t have any trouble by not having an international drivers license. It costs 8000 Yen for a small car and 12000 for a minibus.
A word of warning. Charlotte and I were planning to go back for the weekend and get a car. But, on the day we left an English teacher from Busan was arrested for not having an international drivers license. He wasn’t allowed to leave the island for three weeks! We don’t know if it’s because of something else but it’s put us off getting a car without an international drivers license.
But without a car you can enjoy the north of the Island easily by bicycle.
Photography wise, I didn’t manage to get many good pictures. I was looking at the amazing scenery too much!
My only gripe with Tsushima was that the Muida beach had lots of rubbish and crap washed up from the ocean. Why they don’t keep it clean and tidy I can not fathom.
Tsushima is an amazing place, my favourite place I’ve ever been too. The people are the friendliest I’ve ever met, the scenery is great and the pace of life makes you slow down. If you live in Busan you must be crackers not go to Tsushima. I’d go at least 4 times a year, once for every season. Our friend who was with us said it was better than Jeju.
There’s loads of great information on the Tsushima Facebook page. Here is my Tsushima google map.