Yi Sun Sin or Lee Soon Shin (whatever the spelling is), was the best naval commander Korean ever had in the history. He can be considered as one of the best naval commanders in the world, as he never been defeated in a sea combat, nor he ever lost his ships during the battle, which is truly amazing. Note that he did not have any naval training nor naval battle experience before becoming a naval commander. So he built his own naval army, making guidelines and trained his own naval armies during the period from scratches.
And, one of the area in South Korea where you can still see and learn on the history of Yi Sun Sin (aside from the big statue in Gwanghwamun area) would be this nearly unexplored port city, Tongyeong. Not only did the great general stayed here for some period of the time, this place is where the general build his naval army and trained his naval army from scratches during the Joseon period. And it has always been since then be the military training base for the Joseon navy. Aside from it’s history, this port city is really famous for it’s seafood, especially oysters. So, if you’d love to have a tour of history and culinary then this port city might be the best destination for you.
From the tourist center, you can buy a boat tickets which will take you to Hansan Island, which located around 25-30 minutes ride from the tourist center. Hansan Island is where Yi Sun Sin stayed for a while during the Japan invasion (under Toyotomi Hideyoshi) through Joseon’s sea. This is when Yi Sun Sin started to build a naval army and his famous turtle ship (you can see a replica of it in the Tongyeong port).
Above pictures is one of the view you can see from Hansan Island, and this calm looking sea were once the spot of a fierce battle which the third campaign of Japanese invasion happen, known as Hansan Island Battle. General Yi Sun Sin led the battle himself and gained victory in the end, where the Japanese loses 59 ships.
The tour in the Hansan Island might take up half day, since the island itself is quite big and took time to explore one by one. If you still manage to get some energy left for a mountain hike, then go to Mireuk-san Cable Car where you can go up to the peak of Mt. Mireuk. The picture above is one of the place where Joseon navy used to observe the Japanese fleets movement during the battle period.
Aside from this historical place, if you every heard of Skyline Luge, which I believe is quite popular in Singapore, then you might want to give it a shot here. YES! They opened one in this port city in the early half of 2017, so this attraction can be considered as quite new here. There’s not much people during weekdays, but you might have to queue up during weekends, but the queue is still bearable. I rode like for 6 times plus and still cannot get enough of it. >.< I think it’s better than the one we had back in Singapore. Lolz!
After a tiring day, now you might want to try and chomp down some delicious food around the city right? Aside from the oysters, there are also some other things which is quite popular around which are Kkul Ppang (traditional bread glazed with sugar and honey), Chungmu Kimbab (a traditional small pieces kimbab or rice roll served with kimchi), Bukeo Guk (puffer fish soup), Da Jji Jib (a drink places which serves a set range of dishes, normally they served cold dishes first and the dishes will get warmer and warmer. Be warn it’s quite pricy), and Grilled Eel. I tried everything out during my trip so I’ll give a brief comment below on what to eat and what not to eat.
Oysters: Without no doubt, this is the best dish in the city. They cook it in several types of cooking style, you can get oyster pancake, oyster soup, oyster rice, oyster mujjim (spicy salad style?), oyster sashimi, and you still get a long list of it. But the oyster in this city was finger lickin good. The autumn season will be the best season to come down and enjoy it. The best restaurant around is Daepung-Gwan.
Kkul Ppang: When you go to the traditional market, you can just anyhow find the place that sells Kkul Ppang, and I must say the taste is so different between one stall to the other stall. So unless you find the right stall, otherwise it’ll taste bad. I tried several stalls and decided the best one is located near the side entrance of tongyeong traditional market, right across the e-mart convenience center.
Chungmu Kimbab: Unless you want to try eating something traditional and you just so curious that you want to take a bite of it, otherwise I don’t recommend you to try this one out. Nothing so special about it, and it’s so plain. The best restaurant which is recommended by the locals is the origin owner of the first Chungmu Kimbab store, located just right across the replica of the turtle ship, I tried it out as well, taste just so so.
Bukeo Guk: or in the other word puffer fish soup. Well, since I’m not a big fan of fish, so this soup really don’t taste anything special to me. You can find this soup was being sell all over along the streets, and they sell it in two styles, original soup or spicy version of the soup.
Da Jji Jib: is a place where the locals love to hangout and have a drink, since they will come out with range of sets menu, which keep coming out until the last menu will be the seafood soup. It’ll start out with the cold dishes, the next one will be a slightly warm food, and the next round you’ll get an even warmer food until your boiling seafood soup is being served. Unless you can drink a lot, don’t even bother to come and try. The price is really pricy (KRW 50,000 – 80,000) per person depends on which restaurant you’re going to. And the dishes served is so bad that you would want to throw up.
Grilled Eel: The second best dish after the oysters would be the grilled eel. Don’t be shocked when you get into the grilled eel restaurant around here, since every place will ask you to order a minimum of 3 servings. >.< If you come with 2-3 peoples then you’ll definitely would have to try out this food. The eel was so fresh that you can see the sliced eel meat is still moving and trembling when it serves and being grilled in front of you. Please note that I’m not a big fan of fish, but to my amusement, I was able to finish up the grilled eel. The skin was so thin that you don’t feel anything you just get a crunchy feeling when you bite down the eel, and the meat was so soft that I feel like eating a cotton candy. Even the boss lady was so proud of herself when she saw me eating so eagerly. (I confessed to her that I don’t like fish and ask her whether I can just order for 1 serving and was being rejected.) Best restaurant around would be Jangeo Maeul as per shown in the picture above.