Where? Geoje-do. Geoje-do is an island located off the south coast of south-east South Korea. It is the second largest Korean island, after Jeju. Geoje is located near to the cities of Tongyeong and Busan.
(By the way, the suffix -do in Korean means island, which is why Geoje can be written just Geoje, or Geoje-do a.k.a. Geoje Island).
When and why? I lived and worked in Okpo, Geoje-do from May 2013 to May 2014. Page last updated October 2015.
There will always be a piece of my heart in Geoje. I love Geoje-do and I am so happy and proud that I got to live there for a little while. Geoje-do is gorgeous. It’s a wild island of mountains, bays and beaches. It’s a beautiful place to live, and, to me, the best place in South Korea. Life in Geoje-do is much more relaxed than in the conurbations further up north. There’s not so much of the balli-balli (fast-fast) culture here. Kids play outside rather than spending all of their time in schools and hogwans studying. Houses have gardens. People walk and take the time to relax; take the time to smell the camellias and the azaleas.
What I also love about Geoje is that it has one of the largest international communities in South Korea. Hundreds of employees from all over the world have moved to Geoje to work at the DSME and Samsung shipyards, often bringing their families with them; and international services, shops and schools have opened up to cater to this huge influx of foreigners. Okpo and Gohyeon are not Itaewon, which is the most Western place in South Korea (see the Seoul page for more info), but they do have a huge number of foreigners living here, and the services and community groups to cater to them. In Okpo, we had two foreign marts (one of which sold Vegemite), lots of western restaurants, two foreigner clubs and lots of western style bars too.
To me, Geoje is friendly people, sparkling seas, deep bays, cherry blossom trees, lush green mountains and beautiful scenery. Whenever I drove over one of the bridges my heart lifted to be on the island again, and when I came over the pass into Okpo, I knew that I was home.
For Koreans, Geoje-do is known as a holiday destination, due to its temperate climate, yellow beaches, touristy islands and stunning natural beauty. Korean people always seemed to be surprised and delighted when I told them where I lived.
Sadly, for me, I have had to move on, but there will always be a little piece of my heart here and hopefully one day I will be back. Geoje is an easy place to love, and I believe it is the best place in South Korea.
Geoje is located about an hour’s drive from Busan. It used to be that you had to get a ferry to the island, but now you can get here on the stunning Geo-Ga bridge and tunnel. The Geo-Ga road is an engineering marvel. It runs in a tunnel under the sea, before making a hop, skip and a jump over to Geoje, on bridges connecting a chain of small islands (see above).
There is also a bridge that connects Geoje to the mainland by Tongyeong. Although not as stunning as the Geo-Ga Bridge, this bridge does have the pleasure of passing through the Tongyeong Marine National Park; through some of the most stunning, maritime scenery in Korea. I loved going over the Tongyeong bridge and looking at all the tiny, toy-like islands; watching the people working on and around the sea.
There is currently no train line to Geoje, but it is well connected to the mainland by buses. The intercity bus station in Gohyeon is located next to the local bus station. Buses run from here to most major cities in Korea. I’ve listed some of the key intercity routes below:
Geoje to Seoul
Buses run between Gohyeon Intercity Bus Terminal and Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal. Buses depart every half an hour. Tickets cost ₩36,000 (about £20) and the journey time is about four and a half hours. The buses on this route are lovely limousine style buses, with large reclining chairs, only three across each row. The buses usually stop for a comfort break about half way through the journey.
Geoje to Busan
There are a number of options to travel from Geoje to Busan:
Gohyeon Intercity Bus Station – Busan Seobu Intercity Bus Station
This bus departs about every half an hour. The buses travel either via Gimhae International Airport or Sinpyeong subway station (Orange, Line 1). These buses cost ₩6,300 (£4)(April 2014).
Seobu Bus Station is in Sasang, to the west of the city. Sasang subway station is on the purple and green subway lines.
Jangsungpo/ Okpo – Busan Seobu Bus Terminal
This bus stops in Okpo by the international food markets. The shop next to the bus stop sells tickets and has a timetable in the window. Buses depart approximately every half an hour. As with the Gohyeon bus, once an hour the bus travels via Gimhae International Airport, and once an hour they travel via Sinpyeong subway station).
These buses can get sold out at busy times, especially on a Sunday afternoon. Sometimes they will let you stand, but you have to have a ticket if you board at Seobu bus terminal.
Bus 2000: Yoncho/ Okpo/ Deokpo – Hadan Subway Station
Bus 2000 is a local city bus which travels from Yoncho (a village inbetween Gohyeon and Okpo) to Hadan, a suburb to the west of Busan. Hadan subway station is on the Orange Line, Line 1.
The bus travels around the coastal villages between Okpo and Geo-Ga bridge. This bus can sometimes take slightly longer than the main intercity bus, but it is cheaper (₩4,500/£2.50) and more relaxed. They also let you stand on the bus, so this bus doesn’t get sold out.
Geoje – Tongyong
An intercity bus runs from Jangsungpo, Okpo and Gohyeon to Tongyong. If ever the intercity bus from Seoul to Geoje sells out, travelling via Tongyeong is a good alternative way to get back to the island.
Geoje – Jinju and Masan
There is an intercity bus which travels from Jangsungpo/Okpo/Goehyeon to Jinju and Masan.
There are buses to many other destinations across Korea, but the above are the most useful. These other intercity buses depart from Gohyeon Intercity Bus Station.
You can book intercity bus tickets online at www.busterminal.or.kr, though this is in Korean only.
The nearest airport to Geoje is Busan Gimhae Airport. There are direct buses between the airport and Okpo, Jangsungpo or Gohyeon. Find out more about Gimhae International Airport on the Busan page.
The nearest KTX stations are at Gupo and Busan Station in Busan.
The only way to get around Geoje is by private car or public bus. Geoje has a pretty good local bus service, most of which run from/to the terminal in Gohyeon. The key buses are:
● 10/11 – Gohyeon bus station to Jangseungpo, via Okpo.
● 16 – Gohyeon bus station to Aju, via Okpo.
● 22/23 – Gohyeon bus station to Gujora, via Okpo, Jangseungpo, Jisepo and Wahyeon.
● 55 – Gohyeon bus station to Hakdong and Haegeumgang.
If the bus has a -1 after the number, then this travels through Okpo town centre. We liked these buses as they stopped outside our house and saved us a steep walk uphill.
Obviously, there’s lots more buses on the island, but these are the ones we used the most. You can find timetables and route information on the Geoje government website. It is in Korean, but you can select bus numbers from the drop down menu on the left hand side of the page and this will give you a route map of that bus and a timetable of departure times from the primary departure point.
What to do
The best beach by far is Gujora. This is located on the east coast, towards the south of the island. Gujora Beach is just a really nice curve of golden sand in a sheltered bay, with an island just off shore. The water is clean and there are great views from the beach. There are two toilet/shower blocks and you can camp on the beach or in the car park.
To get to Gujora, take bus 22 or 23 to the harbour car park in Gujora. (There’s some public loos in the shape of a ship in the car park).Take the small road opposite the car park and you will come to the beach in about five minutes. There are some small convenience stores in the village if you need supplies, and a couple of fish restaurants.
We camped on Gujora Beach on Buddha’s birthday 2013, with a huge ex-pat crowd having a beach party. There was a bonfire, and an extremely hairy man. It was fun. It was also free. We camped on the sand at the far end of the beach.
Most times I have visited Gujora it has been pretty quiet. Some friends of ours went in beach season though and they said it was pretty crazy, with TV crews, inflatables and rides etc.
Find out more about visiting Gujora at the Visit Korea website.
If you catch the bus to the south, just before Gujora is Wahyeon. Wahyeon has a nice beach that is more sheltered and less busy than Gujora. To get to Wahyeon Beach, you take bus 22 or 23 and jump off at the top of the hill by the huge, blue Wahyeon Beach sign. Walk down the hill and the beach is at the end of the road. It takes about ten minutes to walk there, 20 to walk back (it’s a steep hill). Again, there are a few convenience stores in Wahyeon if you need supplies.
Another famous beach on Geoje is Hakdong Pebble Beach. I’ve been told that Korean people like pebble beaches as they believe that the stones are good for reflexology on your feet.
Finally, our nearest beach was Deokpo (see above). (Please note, Deokpo is not not Dok-do – that’s the island fought over with the Japanese). Deokpo beach is a nice, small, village beach which has zip wires running across it. The annual penguin swim takes place at Deokpo.
Deokpo beach is located in the same bay as the Okpo shipyard, and so sometime could be a little dirty, though most times I visited the water and the sand were pretty clean. I used to go to Deokpo after school, for a relax and a cool down. I loved Deokpo Beach as it was just such a chilled out spot. It was very quiet and mostly just used by locals. It could also be quite a romantic spot, and I always wanted to take Jeff there for a sun-set beach picnic.
The beach is located in the centre of Deokpo village. There’s a great coffee shop on the promenade and a couple of convenience stores and restaurants. There’s a small campsite just back from the beach.
You can get to Deokpo from Okpo on bus 35 or the 2000 Busan bus.
Visit Visit Korea for more information.
There are a few more beaches in the north-east of the island, towards Geo-Ga Bridge. As these are located in more isolated communities, not accessed by public transport, we didn’t manage to get to them, though if we go back I will have to check them out.
Windy Hill and Haegeumgang
At the south of Geoje there is a pretty tourist area called Windy Hill. Here there’s a windmill on a rocky headland. It is a very pretty spot overlooking the bays of the south of the island and some of the garden islands.
Next to the headland is the harbour village of Dojangpo Maeul. Here there are toilets shaped like the Sydney Opera House, a gallery shaped like a ship and a Theme Museum (I’m not actually sure what that is).
The bus stop and the car park for Windy Hill are next to the Theme Museum, and you can walk from here out to the windmill in about ten minutes, or you can access the headland from the village.
Haegeumgang is a rocky island at the southern point of Geoje, just past Windy Hill. Many of the ferries to Oedo (see below) sail around Haegeumgang, or you can take a boat trip there from Haegeumgang Harbour. You can get to Haegeumgang harbour, which is on the southern tip of the island, by bus or car (or walk down the road from Windy Hill like I did).
The Garden Islands
(Oedo, Jisimdo and Jangsado Sea Park)
Most visitors who come to Geoje come to visit one of the garden islands: Oedo, Jisimdo and Jangsado. Oedo is the most famous island.
Oedo is a small island located off the south coast of Geoje. It is a formal garden island; a laid out garden with lots of pretty trees, flowers, statues and views etc. It’s a very pretty spot, but also quite fake. It reminded me of Port Mairion in Wales.
There is a walk laid out around the gardens that you can follow so that you get to see all of the grounds and the views. The walk takes about two hours. It’s quite a steep walk around the island, though the paths are good.
You can catch a ferry to Oedo from Gajura harbour, Wahyeon and Jangseungpo. Some of the ferries also visit the rock formations at Hageumgang.
Each boat to Oedo has a set island pick-up time and when you get off the boat, they should tell you when they’ll be back to collect you.
I visited Oedo in late summer 2013 and it was really pretty. There were lots of colourful butterflies and birds fluttering about, sparkly seas, bright flowers and great views of Geoje. I had a nice two hours wandering around, looking at and photographing things and enjoying the sunshine. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon, though I did get a little bit annoyed with the crowds, posing in front of every single thing on the island.
The ferry ticket plus entry to Oedo was ₩8,000 (about £5). You can find out more information, including information on how to get to the island, at the Visit Korea website.
Jisimdo means Camellia Island in Korean. Jisimdo is called Jisimdo as it is a Korean island famous for its Camellia flowers. We visited Jisimdo with our friends Crystal and Robert in Spring 2014. Winters in Korea are looooong, and so when spring starts to arrive you can be desperate to see signs of life – which is why we went to the island. In Korea, natural events are often celebrated, and visitors will go to see a set natural thing at a set time of year. It just so happened that when we went to Jisimdo, it was Camellia visiting time (we know this as we saw it on the national news the day before).
Like Oedo Island, Jisimdo is quite steep. It’s less designed than Oedo though, and more forested. The tracks are rougher and the cliffs more wild. Again, we spent about two hours wandering around the island, admiring the flowers, enjoying the brighter weather, looking at viewpoints etc. There were lots of open cafes serving dong-dong ju (a kind of rice wine) and pajeon (a seafood pancake), and though we didn’t stop at any of them, they were very tempting.
We caught the boat to Jisimdo from Jangseungpo. We were originally booked on for a ferry at 3p.m., but they let us get an earlier boat and when they had no-shows. The boat ride was fresh and pretty, we were able to stand at the back, and it took us about 20 minutes to get to the island.
Ferry and entry to Jisimdo cost us ₩12,000 each (about £8). You can get up to date prices and ferry time information from the Jisimdo website. It is in Korean but there is some English on the site and it’s pretty easy to navigate the important information. You can also find out more about visiting Jisimdo at the Visit Korea website.
Jisimdo can also be spelled as Jishimdo when translated to English.
Finally, I didn’t know Jangsa-do existed until I went there on a school trip. Jangsa-do is another garden-island, and I think it’s the prettiest of the three.
Like Oedo, Jangsado has very steep sides, and a designed and planted plateaux. From the top there are stunning views of the Tongyeong Marine National Park. Jangsado has lots of interesting art and sculptures dotted around the island, a small animal section, a theatre, some green houses and cafes.
We visited Jangsado on a supremely sunny, late-spring day, in cherry blossom season, and the light was just perfect. The light had this sparkle and clarity about it that seemed to make everything shine. I have an amazing photo of the glittery sea, knife cut through by the trails of boats. The other mountains were lost off in the blue mists, whilst the long shadows near to us accentuated flowers, rocks and the budding trees, just coming to life again after the winter. It was gorgeous. The photo at the top of the page of blue, misty islands, was taken at Jangsa-do.
Jangsado is pretty well-known in Korea as this is where a very-famous Korean drama, My Love from the Stars, was filmed.
The passenger ferry to Jangsado departs from Jeogu port. Bus 52 runs from Gohyeon to Jeogu. The ferry journey takes about 20 minutes. As with Oedo and Jisimdo the boat crew will let you know what time they will collect you. Please note, the departure harbour is different to the arrival harbour.
One of the major sights for Korean visitors to Geoje is the POW camp in Gohyeon. During the Korean war, 150,000 North Korean and Chinese soldiers were kept in this camp. Today you can visit the remains and a reconstruction of the camp, and learn a little bit more about life in the camp, the history of the war and the camp uprising of February 1952. There’s also relics from the war, such as tanks and planes, the largest diorama in the world, some crazy photo booth/games things and some funny models of POWs going to the toilet.
I visited the camp on a cold, winters afternoon and it was an interesting way to spend a couple of hours. The camp was surprisingly large and there was a lot to see. The information provided did feel propagandery to me and seemed to be designed for patriotic Korean visitors, but it was interesting to find out more about what took place here. I was fascinated to learn about the post-war repatriation process, when prisoners were given a choice over whether to stay in South Korea or return to the north.
My favourite part of the museum was the roller-coaster, zip-line, where ‘you too can experience what it was like to try to escape from the camp’. This has recently become quite famous and it surprises and delights me to see our little island appearing randomly on my friend’s Facebook feeds:
Also, as a resident of Geoje, it was interesting for me to find out how far the camp spread, and to compare the island then and now.
The museum is located on a hill to the west of Gohyeon. Entry cost me ₩5,000 (about £3). I got slightly annoyed as there was a special price for residents of Geoje, but foreign residents (like me) weren’t eligible for this price.
Geoje is quite mountainous and so there’s lots of good hikes around the island.
Our friends Mallory and Ryan hiked the Geoje Ridgeline Trail over a long-weekend. The trail stretches the whole island, and is about nineteen miles long. Mallory and Ryan hiked the trail over two days and camped at the Geoje Natural Forest Campground. You can read all about their hike and see loads of great pictures, on Mallory’s blog. Michael Eschenbach, who founded the Geoje Ridgeline Trail, has a facebook page for the trail that contains lots of useful information.
If you want to hike with a group, then you may wish to join the Geoje Hash Harriers. You can find out more about them at their facebook page.
I found a lot of useful hiking maps (some from the Geoje Hash Harriers) on the wikiloc website.
Walk around the coast
All around Okpo harbour there is a wooden boardwalk that teeters over the cliffs and sea. One of my favourite things to do was to take a stroll on this boardwalk, to get some fresh sea-air into my lungs and to blow away the cobwebs. The boardwalk is a gentle, level path, so we’d often take visiting friends there for a potter, or I’d wander there for a slow Sunday stroll. There are pagodas with benches at regular intervals along the boardwalk and it also goes over a small, pebbly, dirty beach.
The boardwalk runs around the edge of Okpo Bay, where the DSME shipyard is located. It was fascinating to stand on the boardwalk and watch what was happening in the the shipyard and to see them building the boats. Little tugs dragging huge ships around (including the World’s Largest Ship), cranes sailing around the port picking things up, strange bits of ships floating out in the bay waiting for their turn to be welded onto the boat. I know large industry is supposed to be a blot on the landscape, but I found it fascinating to watch all of the goings on.
If you want to know more about DSME, you can take a guided tour of the shipyard, though you have to book three days in advance. You can find out more at Visit Korea.
What is surprising about Okpo harbour is that it is full of nature. You’d think that being in the same bay as the world’s third largest shipyard that there would be a lot of pollution, but we saw loads of fish, birds and marine life in the bay. When I first moved to the island in May, there were starfish everywhere. I often saw fish jumping, herons and sea-gulls. I think I even saw a dolphin in the harbour once.
The boardwalk path turns into the coastal path and this carries on around the bay to Deokpo Beach. It’s a lovely path, through forests and over rocky bays, around the coast. I did this walk at the start of spring when the days were just starting to heat up and the blossom was emerging, and it was a wonderful way for me to stretch my legs, to breathe some fresh air and to get back to nature.
The coastal footpath passes close by Okpo Commemorative Park which is a memorial to celebrate the victory of General Yi Sin-Shin over the Japanese, which happened here in Okpo harbour. A replica of General Sunshine’s ship sits in Okpo harbour and Okpo hosts an annual festival to celebrate the victory (I think it is in June).
I don’t think there is a huge amount at the commemorative park, just some Joseon relics and a memorial column, but there are some great views of Okpo harbour from here. I personally didn’t actually go in; I just peeked at it over the fence. You can find out more about visiting the park at Visit Korea.
Shopping in Korea can be fun, and both Okpo and Gohyeon have high-streets with lots of franchise and independent stores. One of my favourite things about Okpo was that it had a high street, which is something you don’t often find in Korea.
The best place for shopping is probably D-Cube, the large mall that is on the sea-front in Gohyeon. D-Cube has a department store, containing franchises such as Uniquo. There is a CGV cinema and lots of restaurants on the top floors. In the basement there is a Home Plus supermarket, the Korean version of Tescos.
There’s two supermarkets in Okpo: GS25 and Sun-yup. There are also two international food stores that stock lots of interesting ingredients and international products, including Vegemite. These are located on the main road by the main Okpo bus stop, at the DSME end of town. I know of Westerners who made day-trips to visit those stores.
Ride around in a big plastic duck
There’s a reservoir in the middle of the island, near to Gucheon Ri, and you can ride around on it in a big plastic, pedalo duck. It’s a very pretty spot that gets lots of cherry blossom in spring.
Zip lining and assault course
There’s a zip line at Deokpo beach.
The Bamboo Forest Adventure Park also has zip-wires, and you can also play survival games here. According to my friend Michelle, they run Airsoft Games. Airsoft is like a BB gun, but softer, so you can ‘shoot the s**t out of each other’ (her words, not mine). It costs ₩30,000 each for three games if there are less than 10 of you, ₩25,000 if there are more than ten of you.
The Bamboo Forest Adventure Park has a facebook group in English. They link to a website on the facebook group, but when I looked it wasn’t working, so probably best to contact them through fb. The bamboo forest is located to the north west of the island, in Hacheong-Myeon.
Sadly for us the Sea-Spa was being refurbished for most of our time in Geoje, but I have heard that it is a wonderful spa and it has an outdoor pool on the roof.
The Sea Spa does have a website, but it is all in Korean. However, if you look at the fees page and the location page, they are pretty easy to understand, or you could translate the info through google translate. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an up to date timetable but I will keep an eye out and post it here if I find one.
Whilst the Sea-Spa was being refurbished, we had to be content with visiting jimjilbangs (Korean bath houses). There’s a jimjilbang located in Okpo, down the road from Daiso, and a jimjilbang and gym located near Dominoes in Gohyeon. Otherwise, we would head for one of the spas in Busan.
Ocean Bay Waterpark
In the village of Jisepo (where Jeff taught), there is the Ocean Bay Waterpark at Daemyung Resort. The waterpark has lots of slides and rides, and there’s a jimjilbang/spa area too. This opened whilst we were living on the island. Sadly, we never made it to the waterpark, but some of my students went and they said it was fun. You can find out more about the park (in English) on the Daemyung website, and view up to date prices (in Korean).
There’s a ship building museum in Jisepo. It’s a large building shaped like a huge ship and the museum contains exhibits about how the ships are made etc. As ship building is such a hugely important part of island life, it would be a good place to go to find out more about what happens in the DSME and Samsung shipyards. Sadly, I never made it there, though I would have liked to.
Buses 23 and 24 go to Jisepo.
Although not strictly a tourist attraction, Geo-ga bridge is an engineering marvel that it is worth going to see. Geo-ga Bridge is the bridge that connects Geoje to the mainland. It is actually made up of two bridges and one tunnel. The two bridges link two small islands together and then the tunnel entrance is on the second island. The tunnel is in place so that huge ships can access Busan harbour.
The scenery here is stunning and there are view points and service stations at either end of the bridge if you would like to get out to take photos and to admire the view.
Where to stay
Obviously, as we lived on the island we stayed in our own homes. For a holiday destination, there’s not a huge amount of accommodation on Geoje, though this is starting to change and a number of holiday cottage resorts have opened recently.
There were a cluster of love motels around the harbour in Okpo and around the bus station in Gohyeon. There were also a few pensions in the south of the island, down towards Jisepo and Gajura.
There’s a huge hotel at Jisepo called Daemyung Resort. This has a waterpark attached and is a big, resorty hotel.
You can find Geoje hotels on Hotelscombined.com.
We camped on Gajura beach, and there are a couple of camp grounds around the island, mostly by the beaches. There is also camping at Geoje Recreational Forest, where you can hire a hut or take a tent.
Finally, Jeff stayed in the jimjilbang at his old gym once. Jimjilbangs are Korean bath houses where you can stay the night, sleeping on the floor. They’re not the comfiest places to sleep, but they are cheap and convenient. Jeff’s gym was called Gyerongsan Spa and it was in Gohyeon.
Where to eat and drink
I’ve seen someone describe the international food options in Geoje as a tourist attraction, which seems strange to us as it was just our locals, but it was nice to have access to international food options that are limited in the rest of Korea. Ironically though, although there were lots of Western food options, we found the Korean food options in Geoje to be not so good as in Dongtan, and there were lots of Korean delicacies that we missed (mmmmm dok galbi).
The day that I found out there was a Mapo Galmeigi (see above) on Geoje was one of the best days of my life. Okay, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but I was very, very happy.
Mapo is the best Korean barbecue restaurant in the world. To me, Mapo is the epitome of a Korean barbecue restaurant. They serve great marinated meat, circular eggs and delicious, unlimited sides.
The Mapo on Geoje is in Gohyeon, just down a side street to the right of Olive Young drug store.
Another really nice barbecue restaurant is the Japanese barbecue restaurant that is located up the side street opposite the Spiderman statue. I’m not sure of the name, but it has a fake cow outside. They serve delicious beef to barbecue.
Mammoth is a budget, buffet, barbecue chain. For ₩11,000 (about £7) you can eat as much meat and sides as is humanly possible. The food is not amazing, but it’s a good feed and there’s a friendly, family atmosphere. There’s a Mammoth in Suwol and a Mammoth in Aju.
Michael Jackson’s is a barbecue ribs joint in Okpo. It is called Michael Jackson’s as they give you a white glove to wear, to help you eat the hot ribs. The ribs are nommy. Watch out for the spicy ones though as they are a little hot. Michael Jackson’s is in Okpo, on the road that runs from GSMart to DSME.
Pajeon is a savoury, eggy pancake, usually with sea-food and lots of onions. Macoli is Korean rice wine, which can be flavoured. They are often consumed together. There’s a great little pajeon/macoli restaurant near the crossroads by DSME. They do delicious honey macoli and stay open very, very late.
Mom n Pops is an American style diner in Okpo, run by a Korean-American family. They serve great home-cooked food and amazing cakes. They’re a little on the pricey side but the food is a taste of home, so it’s worth paying the little extra. They also serve huge glasses of wine for ₩4,000 (about £2), which is pretty good for Korea. And the people who own it are really, really lovely.
I used to quite like going to Mom n Pop’s on my own as they have a shelf of Western books and magazines that I could browse whilst eating my BLT with extra avocado. Nom nom nom.
Mom n Pop’s also host Korean conversation classes once a week, so if you’re looking to learn Korean in a relaxed atmosphere, this is a good place to do it.
El Gitano is a Tex-Mex restaurant franchise (well, if two can be a franchise). The original restaurant is in Okpo, the new place is on the sea-front in Gohyeon.
El Gitano served great burritos, tacos, nachos and fajitas with proper Mexican style sides. They also gave us nachos and spicy salsa for free. They were a little bit pricey, but nice for an occasional treat.
The Gohyeon restaurant opened whilst we were living on Geoje, and we felt that the quality of the Okpo restaurant dropped after that. The food was still good, but wasn’t quite as substantial or as delicious as it had been. We still went about once a month though cos it was still the best Mexican food in the south of Korea.
A cheap burrito joint opened just before we left Okpo. I think it was called Hello Burrito, and it was located down the road from El Gitano.
A chain of cheap chips and beer restaurants opened just before we left Okpo, and the one in Okpo became our new local. Bongus served proper french fries and cheap draft beer. I think it was ₩11,000 (about £7) for two pints, a portion of chips and some sausages. The beer was about ₩2,500 (£1.50) per pint. They had a bar outside the window, like a beach bar, which we liked.
The Bongus in Okpo is located up a side street, just by GS Mart (go towards Deokpo and then turn first left after GSMart. There’s a fish restaurant on the corner). In Gohyeon the big Bongus is located just by Dubliners.
Bob’s Burgers serve burgers. It’s on the main road in Okpo and they have a pool hall downstairs.
I love Turkish food, and there are very few Turkish restaurants in South Korea. We were very lucky then to have a Turkish restaurant in Okpo, about five minutes from our house. Turkish House served pretty genuine Turkish style food. They were a little bit expensive, but it was so good to have access to proper shish kebabs and hummus. Turkish House is located up the road from Mom n Pops, just down from the foreign marts.
There’s a couple of good Indian restaurants, including Bombay Brau, an Indian micro-brewery (it’s on the high street in Okpo). www.facebook.com/bombaybrauokpo.
There’s a Quiznos in Okpo and a MacDonalds in Okpo and in D-Cube, Gohyeon. Also in D-Cube there is a Pho Bay, a doncass (pork cutlet) place and a VIPs, amongst others.
There’s loads more restaurants than this, obviously, and like many places in Korea restaurants are openening and closing all of the time. If you are looking for a particular type of food or you just want the latest information, then visit the Geoje Teachers Group on facebook.
There is also a group called the Geoje foodies group, where people discuss food in Geoje.
To be honest with you, because many of the foreign ship workers in Geoje are very rich gentlemen of a certain age, a lot of establishments have opened to cater for these gentlemen – and so there were quite a few bars that I didn’t feel comfortable going into, as they weren’t my cup of tea. Although there were many cool bars, there was also a slightly sleazy side to Okpo and Gohyeon.
If you’re looking for bars, probably the best place to head for is Pub Street in Okpo. Pub Street (that’s not its official name but it’s what we called it) is a back street that runs parallel to the main road, between Mom n Pops and Turkish House. On this street there are quite a few bars and hofs. I’m not going to list all of the bars here because many of them I don’t know their names, and bars open and close all the time in Korea, but I have detailed my favourites below.
Blues Bar has a wall full of CDs and they let us select the music ourselves. They also often had live bands and musicians playing. The drinks were not great value, but it was such a nice ambiance in there that we would often venture in on a night out.
If any pub in Okpo was my local then it was Shamrocks, the Irish pub. As an Irish imitation pub, Shamrocks got it pretty right. They had peanuts in their shells, they served good beer and cider and they always showed the big sporting events. They had long wooden tables that you lean and lounge and chat over, or you could sit at the bar and make friends with the other patrons. It was the sort of bar that I felt comfortable enough to go in on my own, with a good book. We got a little annoyed with Shamrocks towards the end of our year as the service became quite shabby and unfriendly. They started to mis-pour drinks or short-pour pints, so we stopped going there. It was still the most Western pub in Geoje though.
Dubliners is an Irish pub located behind the bus station in Gohyeon. It’s the sister pub to Shamrock in Okpo. It’s very small, but in summer the party spreads to the tables outside. They often have live-music.
Beers Day are a chain of bars that you find across Korea, and there were quite a few in Geoje (one opened up just outside our house, just as we left). Bottle bars are bars that have bottles in fridges, and you just help yourself. You then take your bottles to the cash desk at the end of the night and pay then for all of your drinks. We liked Beer’s Day, and I’m recommending it here, for the huge range of national and international bottled beers and drinks they sold. They also sold food.
In Okpo, Beer’s day was on the road that runs between GS Mart and DSME, and also there was a Beer’s Day under the bowling alley (this was the one by our house).
In Gohyeon, just downstairs from the Spiderman statue, there was a German brew house which makes its own beer. Some of the Geoje Teacher’s Group peeps ran pub quizzes here.
Tong 5 is a chain of bars that opened up about half way through our year. These bars are in shipping-containers and they are nice bottle bars with okay food. Our favourite Tong 5 was quite funky and was located opposite the Japanese barbecue restaurant, just down the lane opposite the Spiderman statue/Lotte cinema, in Gohyeon.
Finally, Mr Park’s is the most famous (infamous?) bar/car park in Geoje (or should it be Mr Park’s bar car park/ bar Park’s?). Sadly, since writing the first draft of this page, Mr Park’s has closed, but it’s so infamous that I just wat to mention it.
Mr Park’s bar was basically a shipping container in a car park in front of D-Cube. Mr Park just set out some tables outside his ‘office’ and sold his home made macoli (rice wine) to people, and it became really popular.
Mr Park is lovely and friendly and very relaxed, and he was a great host. He even let drinkers bring their own barbecues along, so they could grill some meat to go along with their drinks.
Mr Park sold half of his car park so that a sky-scraper could be built on the seafront, in front of D-Cube; so the rumour is that Mr Park is now a $ multi-millionaire (I add the $ as we were all millionaires in Korean won). When we asked him if he was going to close the bar and the rest of the car park though he said no, that he would keep it running until at least 2017 as he enjoys it so much. Looks like he changed his mind though.
When we lived in Dongtan, Mart drinking was a big thing, where people would drink at tables outside the local convenience stores. This doesn’t seem to be such a big thing in Geoje-do, but Mr Park’s had that kind of relaxed atmosphere.
Mr Park’s will be missed.
There’s two cinemas in Gohyeon, Geoje. Most big western films are shown in Korea, in English. The CGV cinema is in D-Cube. You can find cinema times (in English) on the CGV website.
Lotte cinema is in the centre of Gohyeon. It has a spiderman statue outside.
The bowling alley in Okpo was just down the road from our house. If you’re on the high street in Okpo, walk along it in the direction of Gohyeon, go across the cross roads and then the bowling alley is on the right hand side. I never actually made it there, but I’ve heard that it’s good.
Gyms and pools etc
I used to go to Harbour Fitness, which is a gym located up the hill from the foreign marts. It cost me ₩70,000 per month, and it had a nice mix of weights and machines. The owner spoke pretty good English.
A new gym has just opened in Aju, called Crossfit Port.
Jeff used to go to a gym and jimjilbang in Gohyeon called Gyerongsan Spa.
There’s a public swimming pool at Geoje Arts and Sport Centre in Jangseungpo (it’s on the sea front and it looks like a giant, metal armadillo), and a pool at the Sea Spa. You can find out more about Geoje sports facilities on the Okpo International School Sports and Recreation Guide.
There’s noribangs (singing rooms) everywhere in Korea, and I’m loath to recommend one as they open and close so quickly. In Okpo, most of the noribangs are in the area around the DSME offices. Our favourite was M, which had rooms overlooking the harbour and the DSME offices. We had a lovely Christmas Eve there with our friends, singing our little hearts out with our santa hats on.
Living on Geoje
For people moving to the island, there are loads of resources to help you navigate the island and to find the services you need.
One of the key places for foreigners is the Geoje Foreign Residents Association, which is based at the Admiral Hotel in Okpo. They have a great website with lots of useful information about living on the island, message boards, classified ads etc. They also have a club house and a restaurant/bar where you can meet other foreigners in Geoje. Their focus tends to be workers and their families from the ship yards, rather than teachers, which is why we did not engage with them so much, but they are still a great source of information.
There’s also the Geoje International Centre (GIC) in Okpo. They run courses and help to provide support for foreigners in Geoje. Again, I didn’t really engage with them, but I wish I’d got involved with their group a little more as they ran some interesting classes and events. You can find out more about them at the GIC website, or on their facebook group page.
Okpo International School produced a great guide to living on Geoje. Some of the information is slightly out of date, but most of it is still correct. You can download the 133 page expat guide from the school website. It contains all the info you could need, including clothing charts, emergency contact details, where to post a letter, where to borrow books, where to eat, which international companies will deliver etc. It’s an incredibly useful resource that I used a lot before I went to Geoje, and whilst I was there.
On facebook, a good group to join is the Geoje Teachers Group, which is where expat teachers arrange meetings and events, and ask for information about life on Geoje.
There is also the Geoje Flea Market group on facebook, which is a space for people to sell second hand items. If you are moving to the island, check it out as they often have some really interesting stuff on there and some cool bargains. We sold our oven, our tent and our barbecue on here.
Other useful links include:
Please note, some, if not much of this information may not be correct, or may be out of date. All these articles show is how we found these places when we visited and what we personally thought of each place. Where possible I will include links to site which will contain more up-to-date info. All of this is our own work and any opinion expressed is that of the author only.
All photos copyright of J Clemo-Halpenny, unless otherwise stated. If you would like to copy or reproduce any of these images, please email me to ask permission.