I've made friends with one of the admin staff at one of my small schools. He's a really nice guy and speaks better English than most of my co-teachers. Last week after school he took me hiking on 신시도 (Romanised Sinsido, but pronounced "shin-shee-doh"), which is an island off the coast of Buan. "Do" means island, so it's Sinsi-do or Sinsi Island, never "Sinsido Island".
Conveniently Sinsido is connected to the mainland by the massive Saemangeum seawall, the world's longest at 33 Kilometres. It's Buan's biggest and longest tourist attraction (that's what she said). There's a road along the wall from Buan to Sinsido, and all the way to Gunsan, a medium sized city to the north.When the seawall is finished it will also include a bridge to Seonyudo, an island near Sinsi-do where we did an excellent bike tour in our first couple of months here.
I'm not sure how I feel about all this development - yes, the extra farming land will be very useful, but the huge hotels and resorts planned for both Sinsido and Seonyudo will ruin them. They are small quaint islands with very few people, roads too narrow for cars and picturesque little villages. Getting the ferry to Seonyudo is a pain but what good is having a road there if everything worth seeing is destroyed in the process?
Fortunately for me this is all in the future and Sinsido is currently free of ugly concrete resorts and rich in natural beauty and awesome views. The island is dominated by several tall mountains, with small patches of flat land in between occupied by rice fields, cows, and a small village, all bordered by narrow, rocky beaches. We climbed one very steep mountain for some stunning views from the seawall, across Sinsido and out to Seonyudo.
Then we walked across the main flat area and found the only cows I've seen in Korea that don't live in sheds. These ones were tied to posts and made circular patterns by eating only the parts of the field that their ropes would let them reach. There was even a young calf running around freely. We crossed this field to a small beach made of incredibly smooth stones. Next was another mountain, this one so steep we had to pull our selves up with ropes. From the top we got a great view over the village.
These flat rocks are often found in river beds, and building towers with them is supposed to bring good luck.
We headed down the other side and into the village, which was surprisingly big. There were several shops, a small harbour with a few fishing boats, and maybe fifty houses. On the other side of the village was a peculiarly Korean style of bridge, really more like a wall with a road on top of it. These are commonly used as routes across the rice fields, but this one led across the sea to a small island, and from there to an even smaller one. There was nothing on these islands so I don't really know why they needed road access, but we did get a good view out to Seonyudo, which can't have been more than a couple of hundred metres away. We could also see the huge new bridge taking shape, and on the way back we saw the pillars for the new road that will curl around Sinsido's rugged coastline.