The Taste and Curse of Namhae Island

Trip Start Aug 16, 2013
Trip End Aug 25, 2013

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Saturday, May 18, 2013


Namhae Island on the southern tip of Korea is somewhere I've been having problems trying to get to for the last two years. Last year during the Buddha's Birthday holiday weekend I had arranged with friends to go. However overnight at Suncheon I developed intense pains so had to take a bus back to Daegu while my friends went alone. 

This year returning from Songgwangsa Temple I made it to Suncheon at 12.45 expecting to catch a bus to Tongyeong. The next bus to to Tongyeong was 2.40 taking 90 mins which wouldnt leave me with much time to explore.

There was however a bus leaving for Namhae Island at 1pm so I quickly jumped on that one. This was an impromptu trip to Namhae on a holiday weekend so with no prior plans I didnt know how I would get around the large island which has no buses. 

As we approached Namhae Island we passed over the large red suspension bridge similar to the one in San Francisco. There were also two types of farmland. Flat plains stretching to the coast or rippled terraces alongside mountains. 




I know there is supposed to be a car rental place so I decided to take my chances and see if anything was available when I got to the bus terminal. We passed by two right beside the bus terminal. 

I asked in the first one but they said none were available. They said there was one next door but when I tried nobody was inside. I went back and asked if there were any others. They said there was one behind them but that one was locked. 

I didnt see any motorbike or bicycle rentals so tried to talk to a cab driver which I heard was expensive. He said it would be 20,000w ($18) each way to the German Village. To take me to three places I wanted to go he agreed to 80,000w ($70) which would be the same as renting a car but he said I would be stuck in traffic most of the time due to the holiday which was quite honest of him to turn away the business. 

There was supposed to be a bus to the German Village that takes over an hour but I didnt see any sign of local buses. Instead I decided to walk to the temple in town which is a couple of blocks behind the bus terminal. 


The temple is easy to reach and two monks welcomed me and asked where I was visiting from. Inside the temple on the side wall which normally has a mural it was instead made from gold. 


There were several characters holding swords and an array of other characters. 

Returning back to the bus terminal I was tired so decided to take the bus back to Masan and try back next weekend. It is the schools anniversary so I have another holiday weekend when there will be less crowds and traffic

I was too tired to talk to the car rental agency again which may have been a mistake. After the weekend I got a teacher from my school to call back to make a reservation for this weekend. 

Everything seemed ok and the rate for a small car was 60,000w ($55) flat for the day including mileage/insurance and I would only have to top up petrol. Then there was some confusion about my international drivers permit. 

After assuring him multiple times that I DO have an IDP and that is IS still valid, he then claimed I have to goto a Police Station to get a record of 'No Accidents and Convictions'. Even then he still wasnt sure if he could rent a car on an IDP. This is supposed to be an internationally recognized document and you dont have to get Police clearance again. 

That sounded ridiculous. Either he doesnt know what an IDP is or he is backing out and making excuses not to rent to a foreigner. I registered on the Kumho car rental site which lets you book online and says a valid IDP is sufficient. However, they do not have branches anywhere close to Namhae Island. 

I decided to give up on Namhae Island and make alternate plans for next weekend. I did however report the incident to the Korea Tourism Organization. 

I was looking forward to it as there is a German Village, American Village, coastal plantation terraces used in movies, a mountain top temple in the centre, and several other large temples. 

Namhae Island Tour
German Village

Boriam Hermitage

Yongmunsa Temple

Mangunsa Temple
It seems Namhae has proven to be both elusive and difficult during my stay in Korea so the only way I may be able to go is thru an organized trip. 

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