Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Incheon Islands Part One: Muuido

The waters around Incheon are dotted with islands which make the perfect weekend escape from the city. This is the first in a series of posts covering the area.
Muuido is one of the closer islands to the mainland, with the loading of the ferry across taking longer than the ride itself. After taking a twenty minute bus ride from Incheon Airport (bus number 222) head into the ticket office perched on the edge of the dock and pay 3000 won for a return trip to the island. The boat shuttles back and forth regularly, so the wait is rarely a long one. On the other side, buses wait to take visitors to one of the two beaches on the island-Hanagae or Silmi. The buses are packed on sunny weekends and the trip down the winding roads of the island can be a hair-raising one.
On our most recent trip to Hanagae beach, we found that the island had become a lot more popular with locals and foreigners alike. The wide, sandy beach was dotted with families splashing around in the water to wash off the grime of the city. The entrance to the beach (there’s a 2000 won admission fee) is surrounded by numerous seafood restaurants and a small general store, selling all the beach weekend essentials such as roman candles, snacks and beer. On the beach itself, a small cluster of restaurants at one end offers some non-fishy choices like bibimbap and samgyeopsal.

Sunset at Hanagae Beach
Whilst Muuido can be done as an easy day trip from Seoul (and this seemed to be a popular option, with the island becoming notably quieter in the late afternoon) it pays to stay over to enjoy a few beers over the picturesque sunset. Right on the beach, Muuido’s ‘bungalows’ are basically small huts perched on stilts over the sand. They’re basic but clean and sleep three people comfortably, four if you’re willing to squeeze a little closer! At 30,000 a night, they’re a bargain sleeping option. For an extra 10,000 a night you can rent one of the cabins with an attached bathroom (bungalow guests can use the bathroom facilities on the beach which include open air showers and clean, western style toilets) and fridge, although these are further back in the parking lot and therefore lack the views of the bungalows. There are also a number of pensions scattered around the area.
Bungalows on the beach
Whilst many come to Muuido simply to relax and sunbathe on the sand, there are also a few more active options available. There are a number of hiking trails, including one starting at the entrance to Hanagae beach which leads up a small mountain for gorgeous views of the area. It is also possible to walk out to Silmido, a small uninhabited island, when the tides are right-ask beach staff for details. If you do choose to remain on Hanagae beach, digging for your dinner of clams and other seafood in the mudflats which appear when the tide recedes ( it goes out extremely far) is a fun activity.
Weekend evenings often see a bonfire or two being made on the beach and the atmosphere is friendly but a bit less hedonistic than that of some of the other islands such as Deokjeokdo. It’s the relaxed ambience of Muuido which makes it the ideal weekend getaway for those seeking a sun and sand filled escape from the city.

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