Paradise Archipelago in East of Indonesia

The archipelago around Sulawesi and Borneo has been described as an ecological 'hot spot'. East of Indonesia Archipelago have much terrain varied, from walls and fringing reef to caverns, big Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas), whitetip, leopard and nurse sharks, schooling barracudas, napoleon wrasses, cuttle fish, spanish mackerel, jacks and batfishes, and ornamentalreef fishes hang out in record densities and diversity.

If the sea has a heart, it lies somewhere in the dynamic mosaic that is the Indonesian archipelago. In this biological hot zone, there are more coral and fish species than anywhere else on Earth. The numbers are staggering: for instance, Indonesia has 83 species of angelfish and butterflyfish, while the whole of the Caribbean supports just seven of each.

This diversity is celebrated in The Sulu-Sulawesi Seas, a new photo-book by German photo-journalist Jürgen Freund. Part of a conservation initiative by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the book focuses on the area around Sulawesi, Borneo and the southern Philippines - the epicentre of the hot zone. This is a world where schools of jacks group into seething tornadoes over reef drop-offs, where tiny porcelain crabs seek refuge among the swaying tentacles of a host anemone. Stray from the reefs into a mangrove swamp and you are just as likely to run into a saltwater crocodile, the mightiest of the reptiles.

This region, referred to often as the 'coral triangle' or the 'East-Indies Triangle', encompasses three nations and an area of complex oceanography. All the islands have narrow continental shelves and many are separated from each other by relatively deep waters. Surface currents flow permanently eastwards along the north coast of Sulawesi and southwards along the west coast. To the south of the island there is a strong east-flowing current during the northeast monsoon, which is reversed during the southeast monsoon.

Conditions are ideal for reef development and there are fringing reefs along the shores of most of the smaller islands, and some continuous stretches running for hundreds of miles along the coastline. It doesn't take an expert to see that this is a special place: if you were to do a dive on a Sulawesi reef, then jet off to anywhere in, say, the tropical western Atlantic, the difference would be immediately noticeable. For years, photographers have said that the reefs of the Caribbean are like English gardens compared with the marine jungles of Southeast Asia.

For divers, it's down to the ease of finding certain exotic creatures. The highly cryptic leaf scorpionfish, for instance, can be found all over the Indo-Pacific, but in most places no one bothers to look over areas of exposed coral (their preferred habitat) for suspiciously leafy objects. When you're in the coral triangle, it's always worthwhile looking around for semi-disguised creatures. And if you're observant enough to find one leaf scorpionfish, there are usually others nearby.

Local dive operators are only too aware of the region's super-abundance of marine species. Log on to any website promoting diving in Borneo or Sulawesi and you will find phrases along the lines of 'located in the middle of the ocean's centre for biodiversity' or 'slap-bang in the middle of the ocean's Eden'. It's a strong selling-point, but can be misleading in terms of understanding the true nature of this magical place.

So, why are there so many different corals, fish and invertebrates in this region? Is it, as the websites suggest, some sort of underwater Eden? This has certainly been a popular theory, that the seas from Java to New Guinea represent an underwater 'cradle of evolution' from which all life in the shallow tropical seas originated. According to this approach, places such as Sulawesi have an abundance of species because it has been an evolutionary production line since since an early point in Earth's history. It's an attractive notion and has an appealing symmetry, not least because of parallel theories about the emergence of humans from Africa.

Unfortunately, the 'marine Eden' theory has a wealth of evidence stacked against it. If it is to be believed, all the coral in the world must have originated in and around Southeast Asia - but fossil research on Acropora corals shows that they originated around North Africa, Spain or even other parts of Europe, but not Indonesia. According to Dr Brian Rosen, a scientific associate in zoology at London's Natural History Museum, simple fossil data clearly shows that Southeast Asia was not a long-term cradle of coral development. 'If you look back 40 million years ago, Europe and the Caribbean were the major centres for coral reef diversity, and research in progress increasingly suggests that many reef organisms originated there,' Rosen explained.

So, between about five and seven million years ago, Europe's reef-building coral died out and the Caribbean's managed to stagger along, but by then Southeast Asia had become the hot zone. Rosen maintains that this was not due to any single cataclysmic event, but a long-term series of events which had made it the most attractive option for marine life.

'When environmental conditions change, organisms will go extinct if they cannot cope with the new conditions, stay where they are if they can cope, or if the change is not too drastic or too quick, they will gradually migrate into other regions where conditions are more suitable for them.' Put simply, if life has time to get out, it will do so while the getting out's good.

Most of the conditions and habitats that are found in present-day Indonesia also occur in the Caribbean - so why are there such differences in biodiversity? Dr Rosen - whose study of the issue amounts to a life's work - points out that if the environments are so similar today, then there must be long-term historical issues behind the development of the East Indies triangle.

So, let's look to history. It has been estimated that biodiversity may have accumulated in this region at the same time that extinctions were occurring in other parts of the world during the Pleistocene period (the time in our Earth's history from approximately 1.8 million years ago until about 10,000 year ago). The region is a labyrinth of volcanoes and deep basins that survived the Ice Ages, possibly providing a refuge for numerous species.

At the same time, the massive fluctuations in sea level may have isolated pockets of reef diversity, allowing evolution to follow different paths. When the species were reunited as sea levels rose, they had changed in many subtle - and not so subtle - ways, further adding to their diversity. The tortuous geography of the area has helped to create what Dr Rosen describes as a 'dynamic mosaic' which acts with variations in sea level to create a sort of 'diversity pump'.

Today, the triangle straddles an area in which two great oceans - the Pacific and the Indian - meet. That species from the two oceans come together and mix here is beyond contention. It is simply another of many factors that promoted diversity in the coral triangle. Ask any diver who has seen the currents ripping through Nusa Tenggara, the islands south of Sulawesi which include the famous Komodo Marine Park. It is here that the Pacific flows into the Indian Ocean, a vast movement of water impeded only by a few volcanic islands, around which some of the fastest currents on Earth occur.

Diverse as they may be, the reefs of the coral triangle face an uncertain future. Some 82 per cent of them are estimated to be threatened by human activities in the recent Reefs at Risk report. Human populations are over-using the resources in many areas, while rapid industrialisation and the continuing destruction of the forests on land are causing massive amounts of sediment and pollution to accumulate on reefs. The other major factor is global warming, widely believed to be underlying cause of coral bleaching.

Marine biologist Dr Alexander Mustard is another prominent diver and underwater photographer who has fallen in love with the coral triangle. He maintains that the preservation of Indonesia's marine environment is crucial not just for the region, but for the entire world. 'Anyone who has dived extensively in Indonesia will have seen the impact of dynamite fishing,' he said. 'If you're underwater and an explosion takes place within a few miles, you will literally feel the impact, despite the fact that dynamite fishing has been illegal in Indonesia since 1985.

'Even with the increasing population, there is more than enough protein in the sea to provide for human needs. But instead of harvesting it in a sustainable manner, they are destroying the very environment that supports the life. It's like being an orange farmer and, instead of picking oranges, you chop down the whole tree.'

Yet Jürgen Freund, whose pictures illustrate this article, feels there is still hope for the coral triangle. 'Some fishing communities now actively protect their fishing grounds and coral reefs, and others have mangrove reforestation programs,' he said. 'Once given a chance, the sea can replenish itself. In the Sulawesi Sea northwest of Manado, fishermen can pull a ton of tuna from the sea in two hours, using only simple bamboo fishing rods and small hooks. They could easily take more, but they have a simple philosophy - why take so much when we can keep some fish in the sea for tomorrow?'



Indonesia, The Exotic Country

Indonesia is a large country and contains rich in cultural diversity with hundreds of different ethnic groups. Each group has a unique tradition, culture and art, making Indonesia the country to attract foreign tourists, scientists, theater, and art. Each tribe also has a tradition and the local language, besides Bahasa Indonesia, official language. Although in one island, like Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Maluku, Papua and others, local language is often different from village to village. Diversity such as language, is very interesting for those interested in linguistics. Linguists interested in historical linguistics, morphology, sociolinguistics, language shift and language attrition will find Indonesia a land that provides them with much material to work with.

Indonesian has the largest Muslim population in any country in the world but also a country of diverse religion. Including Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic and Protestant. In addition there Kaharingan, the Dayak people in Kalimantan has been obtained from law officials. This religious and traditional beliefs, together they provide syncretism interesting for students who study religion.

Indonesia is a developing country with rich natural resources and human resources and economic potential, especially the market that promise, so for the sake of the country, international economists, plant and animal experts, and development workers.

The Indonesian archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, inhabited by two species of flora and fauna of different origin. Especially in the west belongs to the Indo-Malayan realm, while to the east Pacific and Australian realms. Although the country covers only 1.3 percent of Earth's land, but here is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife and extraordinary - both plants and animals. Indonesia also has a high biodiversity: ten percent of the world's flowering plant species, 12 percent of the world's mammal species, 16 percent of all reptile and amphibian species, 17 percent of all 2008 bird species and more than 25 percent of fish species.

Recent research shows that 40 million Indonesians are directly dependent on biodiversity. Of these, 12 million people of native (indigenous) people who live in and around the forest. Environment in the forest for centuries, the community has developed a policy of sustainable exploitation of resources - they acknowledge that the continued existence depends on the availability of food to hunt and gather. Help preserve the culture and their lifestyle is as important as related to the conservation of biodiversity in Indonesia.

Indonesia has experienced remarkable political changes in the last few years, moving toward democracy and greater freedom for the community, including the mass media, so it can become a nation that can become a role model to be learned by other countries in the world.


Dream Holidays in Indonesia

Indonesia is one of the most interesting and intriguing places to visit; many people seek to spend Dream Holidays in Indonesia mostly due to the diverse variety of cultures and the breathtakingly beautiful scenery, which is known to make people return year after year.

Indonesia is the largest archipelago state of the world consisting of five main islands: Sulawesi, the infamous Java and Sumatra, Irian Jaya and Kalimantan; it also includes a small group of archipelagos.

If you go to Indonesia you will come across with an opulent cultural heritage; once there you will have a huge dilemma what to visit, but there are definitely some places which are a must see. The Bali Island is one of them : is it one of the most known islands in the world because of its natural beauty, the endless sandy beaches and the tropical ambience. It’s a place where surfers, nature lovers and savvy scuba divers gather every year, while travelers who want to relax and unwind from the bustling environment of the western cities.

In Borneo, lays the infamous province of Kalimantan, where the largest rainforest in the world is located. Wildlife and dense, lush greenery are celebrated there, attracting thousands of tourists every year, especially those who want to admire a natural phenomenon in person. It is one of the wealthiest resources of Indonesia that is why the authorities do their best to preserve it. Krakatau volcano is also one of the most known attractions in Indonesia due to its catastrophic eruption back in 1883, which was one of the most catastrophic natural events ever recorded in human history. Tourists today can take a daily boat trip to the volcano.

Indonesia is a very rich country in terms of culture, featuring a very unique and picturesque setting and gives endless chances of fun and recreation to its numerous visitors on their dream holidays. The slogan that Indonesians use when referring to their country is ‘Unity in Diversity’ which is actually quite true; Indonesia is a rich hub of civilizations and traditions, which adds to its unique and gripping atmosphere. Indonesia is a country that offers so many attractions of all kinds to its visitors and travelers that it’s quite hard not to fall in love with the place. Everyone agrees that Indonesia is a place one must visit at least once in his life.



The Origin of Toba Lake

World famous is the crater Toba Lake in the Batak highlands; approximately five hours drive from Medan. Toba Lake is the largest lake in South East Asia and also one of the most spectacular, surrounded by tall mountains and with the large island of Samosir in the middle. If we descend from the mountain we see the lake glittering in all its beauty. The Dutch writer Rudy Kousbroek even called Toba Lake, 'the most beautiful place on earth'. Most visitors stay on the peninsula of Tuk Tuk on Samosir, named after the linguist Herman Neubronner van der Tuuk. In general people stay several days on Samosir to discover the island, to visit traditional Batak villages, to swim in the lake and go to the hot springs in Pangururan.

The centerpiece of North Sumatra, Lake Toba's bracing climate and magnificent panoramas clear the mind and soothe the soul. For decades a magnet from regional and foreign visitors alike, Toba has developed into a full-featured highland resort while retaining the rustic charm and relaxed ambiance that define Toba's attraction. Formed by a stupendous prehistoric volcanic explosion, the 100 km long lake is the largest in Southeast Asia and one of the deepest and the highest in the world. The drama of that cataclysmic birth persist in 500 meter cliffs dropping into the blue-green waters, surrounded by steep, pine covered sloped, the climate is fresh and pleasant, with just enough rain to support the lush vegetation.

Toba Lake is a 100kms x 30kms volcanic lake in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Toba Lake has become one of the main tourist attractions for a long time in North Sumatra apart from Bukit Lawang and Nias, visited by both domestic and foreign tourist.

It is estimated that Toba Lake was formed during a volcanic eruption about 73.000-75.000 years ago and which was the most recent super volcano eruption. Bill Rose and Craig Chesner from Michigan Technological University estimated that volcanic materials that were spewed out the mountain totaling 2800km3, with 800km3 ignimbrites rock and 2000km3 volcanic ash that is estimated was blown (wind) to the west for 2 weeks. This incident caused mass death (destruction) and to several species also causes extinction. According to some DNA proof, this eruption also shrinks the humankind population to around thousands back then.

After this eruption, a caldera was formed that was filled by water afterwards and now known as Toba Lake. The pressure from the dormant magma, which has not yet erupted, caused Samosir Island to emerge. The region that now known as Samosir Island originally was a peninsula that attached to the Sumatran mainland. In this peninsula the Netherlands built the water canal 10 m width.

For the first time visitors, going through Medan-Parapat route seeing a lake as big as that made Samosir appear like an amazing grand island. However, the island perspective will certainly faded with the increase in Toba plateau visitor, Nias and the other places in the south, through Medan-Berastagi route. Samosir occupied a central geographical position in the Toba plateau region. With the declaration of the Toba Samosir Regency (the inhabitants 302.000 lives, the area with wide of 3.440 km including the lake) it finally ascend from only a shadow into a Regency. Moreover, the width of Samosir Island exceed Singapore (647 km), in fact Toba Lake almost twice bigger than Singapore. The Samosir image in tourism books as the backpackers location must be changed because this historic place must restore the greatness of its past.



Most Famous Peach Flower Field in Korea

Peach flowers at Yeongdeok

Yeondeok-gun Gyeongsangbuk-do is famous for its large crabs in late autumn and also for its wonderful peach field. Its climate and soil are ideal for peach cultivation. The reason why Yeondeok has become so famous for its peach field is that the area was re-cultivated after it was flooded by Osipcheon dike when the powerful typhoon Sara stormed over Korea in 1959. The farmers in this area had to study how to cultivate their devastated crop fields as they had become covered with sand and pebbles after the fearsome storm. Then the farmers began to plant peach trees in their fields one after another, as peach trees grow well even in desolate areas. The number and produce of peach trees in Yeondeok have increased to the largest amount both in number of trees and quantity of fruits in Korea. Peach fields are centered in Jipum-myeon and Yeongdeok-eup in Yeondeok-gun. Peaches of Yeongdeok are harvested in August with lots of sweet juice with sufficient phosphoric acid.

The Osipcheon River in Yeondeok-gun is composed of 50 smaller streams along its course. Osipchoen originates from the slope of Hwangjangjae, which marks the border line with Cheongsong-gun and flows through Sinancheon, Soseocheon, Daeseocheon, Gwandongcheon and other streams on its way to the East Sea. The Osipcheon River meanders through peach fields, with many peach trees standing alongside its path.

Wonderful Harmony of Peach Tree Blossoms and Pear Blossoms

The national road No. 34 from Andong runs alongside the Osipchoen River toward Yeondeok, passing the Hwanjangjae Pass. This course is pleasant to drive along in springtime in Korea with beautiful flowers blooming on both sides. However, another romantic driving way can be found nearby. The blossom of the peach tree is called Dohwa (peach blossom) or Boksaggot. Peach blossoms sport a light pink or white color on the petals and present splendid natural beauty.

The beautiful Yeondeok peach blossom road runs about 10 kilometers from Jipum-myeon to Yeongdeok-eup and the highlight is found around Samhwa-ri, Ocheon-solbat (pine tree field) at Ocheon-ri and Gumi-ri Yeongdeok-eup. In short, the scenery is fantastic. There are also pear pastures in between the peach fields, and their attractive blossoms welcome you in wonderful harmony with the peach blossoms. That's why this place is referred to as a location where you can simultaneously view the natural blossoms of two different types of trees.

The peach blossoms at Yeongdeok bloom around mid-April and last about ten days. However, if it rains or gets cold, the peach trees sprout their pretty blossoms a little later, and the blossoms easily fall together in clumps if stirred by a cool breeze or the spring rain. A biannual festival of peach tree blossoms held by Yeondeok-gun further inspires the admiration of these natural attractions. This year is not a festival year, so you can have the wonderful opportunity to enjoy the wonderful natural scenic beauty without being jostled by crowds.

Attraction of Sasa Marine Park and Okgye Valley

After enjoying the bliss of peach blossoms, there is more natural scenic beauty at Samsa Marine Park and Okgye Valley. Samsa Marine Park located at Samsa-ri (three thoughts village), Gangu-myeon to the south of Yeongdeok-eup shows off its scenic beauty on the eastern part of village. To the north is Ganggu Port, which is well-known for Yeongdeok crabs, and to the east spreads the vast East Sea with its great wonders and natural marine resources. This port is loved by the early risers for its graceful sunrises. It also has nice restaurants, lodging facilities and other facilities for tourists and travelers from all over the world.

Drive along the national road No. 34 from Jipum toward Yoeondeok and turn to the right at Sinyang-ri. Then cross the Sinyanggyo Bridge and drive along the provincial road No. 69 about 14 kilometers and you will reach Okgye Valley. Okgye Valley is very attractive with its wonderful harmony of mountains and streams. The steep walls of huge rocks and the clear pure streams in the valley present a wonderful vista of natural beauty. This valley is ideal for outings and picnics in spring and autumn and presents a nice resort in summer time.

The descendants of Son Eulseong, who used to live in Gyeongju, wandered about the Korean peninsula and were impressed with the natural beauty of this place and settled here thereafter. Chimsujeong Pavilion, which was built by Son in the first year (1609) of King Gwanghaegun during the Yi dynasty, adds to the natural attraction of this valley.



Natural Beauty in the Bosom of Baekdudaegan

Jungbong Valley

Visiting Jungbongol Valley after a long while, I found the valley quite different from the old days. The old farmhouse where I stayed overnight drinking herb liqueur with an old farmer was deserted and seemed to have collapsed, with lots of spider webs hindering the doors and windows. I was so sorry to see the sad scene that I wandered about the place a while and started toward Teokgol Valley, crossing the Teokgolgyo Bridge to console my mind. This valley is located a short distance away from the main Jungbonggol Valley but it holds more memories for me.

However, at Teokgol Valley I could not find any trace of the old farmhouse where I was once invited to a generous breakfast with a large bowl of natural mountainside honey a few years ago. Instead, there I could only see a new modern style house and a strange small temple was newly built. Even though this valley is not my own home village, I felt as if I had lost my old home village, and I retreated from the valley in a sad and heavy mood.

I returned to Teokgolgyo Bridge and started to climb toward Jungbonggol Valley. Tall trees covered the sky, casting their dark shadows on the trail in the mountain valley. Whenever I visit this trail, I find the way in this forest is frequently deserted and very suitable for walking in contemplation. Close to a nearby mountain stream are spread out sand fields, and the valley provides a nice place for summer vacationers.

To my delight, I found the farmhouses standing the same as before at the Sonae Village where the streams from the Ansonaegol Valley unite. I could hear some people talking in the house. Villagers here live mostly by gathering mountain herbs and wild vegetables and raising honey bees on the mountain. From May and June, when most flowers bloom, until October, some outside residents would come to this village to gather wild honey and herbs. The people in the farmhouse at Sonae Village may have been those outside residents who had come to this village recently.

Uncontaminated Mountain Valley where Others Live

The vehicle road ends in front of the Jungbong Branch Elementary School of the Galjeon Elementary School, which is about 5.8 kilometers off the National Road No.35 connecting Imgye and Taebaek. This branch school was opened in 1966 and brought up 70 graduates until it was closed in February, 1991. Its empty playground used to be very suitable for camping but this school property has been used as a temple since several years ago.

I hear a commotion in the valley in front of the branch school. There are two children and two adults in the valley who seem to be a family. They are all smiles and laughter, having successfully caught a fish in the stream. This valley has been very popular for catching fish in the clear stream. If you put a pot or Kocher in the stream with soybean paste and steamed rice inside the pot, rather big fish soon gather quite easily in the pot.

The streams in Jungbonggol Valley are always rich with clear water all throughout the four seasons of the year. It's because the waters of the streams join together here after coming down from many minor streams in several valleys such as Jeolgol, Hwinjeokgol, Danggol, Haedanggol, Jageundanggol and Ansonaegol--all from the extensive slopes of the Baekdudaegan, the largest mountain chain in Korea.

As those valleys have thick forests and deep streams, their waters never run dry. Sometimes these valleys are called 12-danggol as there used to a pavilion where Simmani (natural mountain ginseng collector) prayed to the mountain god, wishing for their successful search of natural ginseng in the mountain before they departed for their work in the forest. In mid-summer vacationers come from the Samcheok and Taebaek area, but in other seasons these valleys are rather deserted and lonely.

Jungbongol Valley is not splendid but serene. The little cascades that swirl around the attractive rocks along the stream and the crystal clear ponds present modest natural charms of the deep mountain valleys. Residents here take great pride in the serenity of their valley, saying, "These valleys are so clear and uncontaminated that even otters live here!" As there are many broadleaf trees, these valleys sparkle with colorful autumn leaves every fall, but it seems to me that few people have discovered the wonderful beauty of these valleys.

Remote Village Jeolgol almost Completely Isolated from the Outside World

If you cross a valley from the Jungbong Branch Elementary School, a forest road can be found. In most cases, walking along a forest road is usually tedious but the case is quite different here. You become refreshed occasionally when you encounter rushing and sprinkling cascades in the rocky valley, and cool crystal clear ponds here and there. After crossing through seven or eight valleys--when you pass the spot where the streams from Jageundanggol Valley are united--the valley curves to your right toward the northeastern direction. Then you will enter Hwinjeokgol Valley. Your front view of the valley opens widely and you can enjoy the vista of Cheongoksan Mountain far in the distance. As you walk along the mountain trail decorated with wildflowers, the chattering sound of streams in the mountain valley disappear in the sweet whisper of winds in the forest.

Passing the spot where the valley streams from Hwinjeokgol and Jeolgol unite, the forest road rises somewhat steeply toward the northern ridge. This forest road continues for a long while along the slopes and ridges, and disappears when you come down to Jeolgol Village. It takes about 2 and a half hours from the Jungbong Branch Elementary School. Jeolgol Village is a remote village that is almost completely isolated from the outside world. The villagers who used to live here by cultivating crops in patches they made by burning sections of forest left this village in the 1970s. Thereafter, two farmers named Mr. Cheong and Mr. Kim came to this village in 1991 and 1998, respectively, and have settled down in this remote mountain village.

Standing in the middle of a rather wide plateau on the upper part of Jeolgeol Village, which is surrounded by the ridges of the Jungbongsan Mountain-Gojeokdae Peak-Cheongoksan Mountain-Mangjibong Peak, I indulge in the wonderful sounds and beauty of nature. Suddenly, a strong desire to cast off my current mundane chains and live together with nature in this remote mountain village rises up from my heart.


Beautiful Park on the Sea where Angels Played

Seonyudo Island

The bow-shaped beach covered with white sand looks like Myeongsasipri, a well-known 4 kilometer-long beach with its famous white sands. It is the Seonyudo Island beach, which is famous for its clear sea and shallow water. The two giant rocks rising high on the other side of the beach are very impressive. According to legend, a loyal subject who was punished by being banished to this remote island climbed up these rocks and looked toward the northern capital Hanyang, earnestly wishing his king well.

Therefore these huge rocks are called Mangjubong (peak of looking toward one's master).After a shower in summer, the 150 meter-high falls Mangjupokpo shows off its wonderful cascade on a huge rocky cliff.

If you climb the summit of Mangjubong, which is 152 meters above sea level, you will be overwhelmed with an indescribable emotion to see the sublime sunset scene over the horizon, along with many little jewel-like islets dotting the vast sea pigmented yellowish red with the setting sun on the western sky. It is a very impressive sunset scene that is much better than seen on the beach far down below the summit. However, you have to calm down your excitement as you must be very careful when you walk down along the rocky trail in the dim dusk light.

The Seonyudo Island (island of angels' resort) has a legend that angels used to play on this island in the old days, and it is the central island of the Gogunsangundo (group of islands with old mountains) comprising islands such as Yamido, Sinsido, Seonyudo, Jangjado, Daejangdo, Munyeodo, Gotrido, Hoenggyeongdo, Bangchukdo, Myeongdo, Maldo and Biando. These islands used to be far away from the mainland before the Saemangeum land reclamation project was completed. Nowadays these islands are not so far from the mainland any longer.

Enjoyable Bicycle Riding Course through Seonyudo, Jangjado and Munyeodo

To the west of Seonyudo Island is Jangjado Island, and to the south of Seonyudo Island is Munyeodo Island. Between Seonyudo Island and Jangjado Island is the Jangjagyo Bridge, and between Seonyudo Island and Munyeodo Island is the Seonyugyo Bridge. As these three islands are connected with these two bridges, they seem to be a single island. These two bridges are 268 meters long and are not wide enough to drive a car but are a nice course for bicycle riding. Riding a bicycle to see every corner of these islands is very enjoyable. There is a bicycle renting shop in Seonyudo Island and the tandem bicycle is very popular among couples.

Jangjado Island used to function as the central sea port of the Gogunsangundo Islands. Many fishing boats used to harbor around the peaceful sea in front of Jangjado Island, and at night the sea was full of light from those fishing boats. But that spectacular night scene that was once called Jangjaeohwa (fishing lights of Jangjado) has disappeared nowadays.

The 113 meter-long Jangja Suspension Bridge connects Jangjado Island and Daejangdo Island. Therefore people do not differentiate the two islands nowadays and call them by one name, Jangjado Island. On Daejangdo Island there is 'Jangja Halmaebawi,' whose legend was broadcast once in the 'Home Village of Legend' radio program.

Sad legend of Jangja Halmaebawi Rock

During the Goryeo Kingdom a scholar couple lived on Daejangdo Island. The husband scholar left for the mainland to take a government exam for a high-ranking position, and his wife waited for her husband, praying for his success on the exam on top of Jangjabong, the highest peak in the island. For many years her husband did not return. However, the wife watched the horizon every day, carrying her baby on her back and climbing to the top of Jangjabong Peak. Then one day she saw a ship with her husband on board sailing by Hoenggyeongdo Island to the North of Daejangdo Island. What an amazing surprise to her! She saw her husband, and a young attractive woman sitting affectionately by her husband. Her long-awaited and cherished husband was coming back with a new young wife, without having passed the exam. The old wife's happiness to see her husband turned into shocked sadness, and she turned back toward her home in sorrowful tears. At that moment the baby on her back rejected her, turning back by twisting forcibly, and the two turned into rocks on the spot. That may be the reason why the ‘Jangja Halmaebawi (grandma rock)’ looks like a woman carrying a baby on her back. Afterward, when the husband heard of this tragic event, he also turned into a rock that is called 'Halbaebawi (grandpa rock)' on Hoenggyeongdo Island. These legendary rocks can be seen by the sea even today.

The name of Munyeodo (sorceress island) originated from the shape of the mountain that stands in the middle of the island with a shape of dancing female shaman. However, ironically, most inhabitants of this island are Christians. In comparison with other islands at the Gogunsangundo, this island has a wide area of rice paddies that is more than 30,000 pyeong in the area (one pyeong is 3.3 square meters). In addition to these wide rice paddies, this island has hundreds of thousands of pyeong of Bagirak (Tapes philippinarum) shellfish fields and salt fields that enable the residents to enjoy a rich and abundant lifestyle.


Peaceful Island Suitable for Family Resort

Geumildo Island

If you reach Maryanghang Port at Gangin, nearby Gamakseom Island attracts your attention. It's an uninhabited islet where more than 60 kinds of evergreen trees, including magnolia, thrive densely. As this forest was nominated Natural Monument No.172, tourists cannot actually step on to this islet, but just viewing this beautiful islet covered with evergreen forest at distance while waiting for the passenger boat at the port is also enjoyable. It's really wonderful how all those evergreen trees have filled up the little islet so densely and attractively. Even though people did not plant any trees at some places, wild plants spread their seeds and grew naturally, becoming the masters of their land.

While resting on a seaside rock enjoying the nearby scenery of Gamakseom Island, you can see the passenger boat bound for Geumildo Island preparing for sailing. It's a car ferry but I went on board by myself with my car left behind at the parking lot of Maryanghang Port. The car ferry sails among many islands, cruising continuously and carefully not to damage the many sea farms around the islands. It took about one hour and twenty minutes to reach Iljeonghang Port at Geumildo Island.

In the past, people went to Geumildo Island in that way. However, this old maritime traffic situation has changed quite a lot nowadays. This is because the two islands of Maryangdo and Gogeumdo and the two islands of Gogeumdo and Joyakdo were connected by a bridge. By crossing the Gogeumdaegyo Bridge, people can go to Gogeumdo Island, and then by crossing the Yaksandaegyo Bridge people can reach the Dangmokhang Port at Yaksan-myeon Joyakdo Island, where people can sail to Geumildo Island by passenger boat within half an hour.

About 4,000 residents live on Geumildo Island (golden day island), which is 18.9 square kilometers in area. In contrast to many other islands in the South Sea that were occasionally attacked by Japanese pirates, this island was not invaded by any pirates at all. Thus the islanders could live mostly in peace and this island became called Pyeongildo Island (peaceful day island). But recently most people call this island Geumildo Island according to the official name of Geumil-eup.

Scenic Beauty along the Seaside

By local bus it takes about 25 minutes from Iljeonghang Port at Geumildo Island to reach Geumilmyeongsa Beach. This beach has a very wide and attractive sand field that is rarely found on local islands in Korea. The length of beach shaped like a bow is more than 2 kilometers. The "cute little islands such as Sorangdo, Udo and Sodarangdo in front sea of this beach seem to be pounded by the rough waves that surge toward the beach from the limitless vast ocean. The waves along this beach are rather rough in comparison with other beaches in the South Sea.

Shellfishes like large clams and hard-shelled mussels can be found here and there along the beach as they are swept onto the seaside by the raging waves. If you collect various shells on this remote beach by digging in the sand with your hands, hours will pass by before you realize it. During the busy summer vacation period quite a lot of vacationers come to this remote beach but, as its sand fields are so extensive, the beach is never crowded.

The evergreen pine forest at Wolsong-ri near Geumilmyeongsa Beach is composed of more than 2,000 pine trees that are two to three hundreds years old. These huge old pine trees standing in a one-kilometer-long row show off a nice scenic vista. Walking along the trail in this pine forest, you can enjoy the romantic sounds of the waves. However sultry a day it may be in summer, if you sit down or lie down on a mat under the shade of the big pine trees, you can cool off in the summer heat.

The pebble beach at Yonghangri is one of the most secluded places on Geumildo Island and is rather deserted even during the busy summer vacation season. Though the length of the pebble beach is short, the little pebbles and the blue ocean present an attractive scene with a peaceful atmosphere. You may feel like picking up some nice looking pebbles but you should refrain from doing so. The residents may keep a close eye on you because the attractive little pebbles should be preserved here as part of the original natural scenery.

An island well-known for its Citron and Sea Tangle

Yonggul Cavern, another attraction of Geumildo Island, is somewhat difficult to approach. It's because guide maps for tourists published so far contained some mistakes about this cavern. As it is rather complicated to approach this cavern along the seaside from Geumil-eup, it's better to drive along the southern road at the Gudong-ri Crossroads. After driving 850 meters from the crossroads, turn to your left and drive about 1.4 kilometers, and then walk a little while. You will find yourself in front of Yonggul Cavern.

Waves come and go in the mysterious cavern by the sea. Outside the cavern stand steep rocky cliffs showing a wonderful scenic vista. There is a legend that says a dragon that used to live here was on its way to heaven and hit the rocky cliffs with its tail, and the cavern was made in the cliff. Tourists enjoy gathering the shellfish that the waves have rolled up on the seaside. The islanders dry the sea tangle on the pebble beach at the entrance to Yonggul Cavern. Geumildo Island is well-known for its sea tangle.

Sea tangle is a nice diet food as it has low calories and lots of dietary fiber that stimulate bowel movements and prevent constipation and obesity. However, to handle the sea tangle is a very difficult job and there is a joke that says sea farmers would prefer never to handle the sea tangle again. Some people say this humor caused the name of sea tangle to be "Dasima," which in Korean implies "Dasineun-an-hama (I would not do it again)".

Geumildo Island is well-known not only for its sea tangle but also for its citron, due to its mild and warm climate. In late autumn people can smell the sweet fragrance of citron all over the island. There is no one on this island who cannot help but be deeply impressed with the sweet fragrance of citron hovering in the cool and refreshing late autumn air.



God's Palace on the Sea

Baekdo Island at Yeosu Jeonnam

Baekdo is an island in Dadohae National Park and is located at 28 kilometers away from Geomundo Island. Baekdo is considered a counterpart of Hongdo Island and was nominated as the 7th famous place in the South Sea. Baekdo is an uninhabited island featuring sharp cliffs of gorgeous huge rocks that look like a grand palace which no human architect on the earth could ever build.

Baekdo is divided into Sangbaekdo and Habaekdo. There's a rumor that says the name of the island is called Baekdo because it is derived from the Chinese character Baek, which means one hundred in number. Supposedly, the island is composed of 99 islets, just one short of a hundred. But in reality, the rumor is not true. No one can say definitely how many islets form Baekdo, because the number of islets changes according to the ebb and flow of the tide. In encyclopedias, the island is composed of 39 islets, but some people say the number is 24, while others insist the number is 67 when including large and small rocks that appear at low tide. Whatever the right number may be, their total area is as small as 0.62 square kilometers.

During the Japanese colonial days, Japanese people changed the name of Sangbaekdo and Habaekdo, referring to Habaekdo as Sangbaekdo, as it is nearer to Japan where their emperor resides. And this mistake lasted for a long time even after the colonial days. But this mistake was corrected in 1990s due to the continuous request of the residents of nearby Geomundo Island, and many other people including the author of this article.

Mysterious Castle Floating on the Sea

As soon as you see Baekdo, you will be thrilled, as if you were being engulfed into a mysterious castle. The islets seem to have lots of legends, as typical of most famous places. In one legend, a prince of heaven was expelled from heaven to these islets. He fell in love with a princess of the sea and lived a romantic and happy life on the sea. As time passed, the king in heaven missed his son and sent his messengers to bring his son back from the sea. The messengers did not come back to heaven, but chose to remain at sea. The king sent more and more messengers to bring back his son, with the number of messengers eventually reaching a hundred. At last the king became very angry and made all his messengers and his son freeze as rocks, which became the Baekdo islets.

Each islet has its own legend, too. According to the many legends: the king of heaven sent a message to the Naru islet, two heavenly messenger brothers hid themselves at the Brother rock as they were scolded by the king, crops were stored at the Nojeok islet, Tanggeunyeo looks like hat used by a messenger from heaven, an eagle turned into the Eagle islet while it was trying to catch the prince's pet bird. All these legends are concerned with the islets of Sangbaekdo. A lighthouse run by solar energy is installed on the peak of Sangbaekdo, which is 155 meters above sea level. On both sides of the slope of the peak are steps to the lighthouse. It takes about 20 minutes on foot from the sea to the lighthouse, but these step roads have been closed to protect the natural environment.

In Habaekdo, there is Seobang rock, which looks like a phallic symbol. According to the legends, the prince of heaven was punished by turning into this rock, and the princess of the sea was punished by becoming Gaksi rock, which looks like the genitalia of a woman. And there is Jewel rock, which was once the jewel box of the two lovers. Palace rock is the place where the prince used to live with his servants. Dokiyeo is the place where one of the heavenly messengers came from the heaven with an ax. Sinseon rock is the place where heavenly angels used to roam.

Natural Jewel Store with an Ancient Charm of Mystery

Rocks in Baekdo look like human beings or animals. They look different whenever viewed from different angles. People cannot help but be amazed to see the mysterious shapes of the rocks with their fabulous legends that were created by the clever residents of nearby Geomundo Island.

Residents of Geomundo believe in the legend that they will become rich if they pray at Jewel rock. What's more mysterious is the fact that no one has ever experienced a shipwreck at Baekdo. Before any storm comes, a mysterious loud sound comes from the Baekdo as an early warning to fishermen, and once they find shelter at Geomundo the storm would begin to roar without causing harm to any of the fishermen.

More than 350 kinds of subtropical plants such as Neofinetia calcata, Orchis graminifolia, Juniperous Chinensis, day lily and Fatsia japonica thrive among the chasms of sharp cliffs. About 30 kinds of sea birds including the wren, Estern gray wagtail, cormorant, bush warbler, fairy pitt, wood pigeon, black-tailed gull, goldfinch, silvereye, titmouse, and Phylloscopus borealis live there. Baby birds learn how to fly from their parents near the cliffs along the seaside and their nests are placed in the many holes in the cliffs.

Baekdo is famous not only for its natural beauty but also because it is a paradise for animals and plants. All the tourists on tour boats love to view the island again and again on their way back from the wonderful islets. Uncontaminated natural attractions of the islets enchant the tourists for a long time.



The Great Hwangmae

The Second Best Mountain in Hapcheon

Mt. Hwangmae (1,108 meters above sea level) traverses Gahoe-myeon and Daebyeong-myeon Hapcheon-gun Gyeongnam and Chahwang-myeon Sancheong-gun. The first impression of the mountain is that it looks very rough and grandiose. The grotesque cliffs and huge rocks over the Youngam Temple looks oppressive, like a part of Mt. Seorak. However if you take the trail on the mountain you will find the way to be smooth and comfortable. The southeastern slope of the mountain is so flat that it was once used as a pasture.

Following after Mt. Gaya, which features the famous Haein Temple, Mt. Hwangmae is called the "second best mountain in Hapcheon." As the rocks on the peak of the mountain look similar to Halmi flowers (Halmi means "grandmother" in Korean, and its other foreign names are pasqueflower, windflower and Pulsatilla koreana), the name of the mountain used to be 'Mt. Halmi' but was changed to Mt. Hwangmae later. There is a legend that its name was originated from Magohalmi. As Hwangmae Mountain stands conspicuously high above the other mountains nearby, it has many legends about its origin.

On the southeastern slope of Mt. Hwangmae is Youngamsa Temple. Even though the temple is not large in its scale, it is a very attractive temple surrounded by great rocky walls. At the ancient site of Youngamsa Temple are several cultural treasures of national treasure class that reveal that the ancient temple was rather famous in the past. As the temple has no record about its founding, nobody knows when the temple was built, but the remains of old relics suggest the temple was built during the Unified Shilla Kingdom.

The ancient Youngamsa Temple was nominated as historical site No. 131. It houses Geumdang Site, Seogeumdang Site, Jungmun Site and Three Storied Pagoda (Treasure No. 480), Twin Lion Stone Candle Holder (treasure No. 353) and Stone Guibu (Treasure No. 489). Various tile pieces made during the Unified Shilla Kingdom and Goryeo Kingdom and the Standing Golden Statue of Buddha were found there when an excavation was made in 1984.

Red Waves of Royal Azalea Blossoms

After the common azaleas (Jindallae) disappear in early spring, royal azaleas (Cheoljjuk) begin to bloom. The royal azaleas are similar to common azaleas but their petals are thicker and they bloom in greater numbers, covering their boughs before their leaves come out. As royal azaleas have contain poison, the flowers are not edible. Therefore common azaleas, which are edible, are called true flowers while inedible royal azaleas are called dog flowers.

Royal azaleas can be seen on any mountain all over the country but only a few mountains have clusters of royal azaleas covering a wide area. Mt. Hwangmae is one of the few mountains that are famous for sweeping expanses of royal azalea blossoms. Royal azaleas found in the middle part of the Korean peninsula feature a light pink color, but those flowers in the southern part have a strong red color. The royal azaleas on Mt. Hwangmae have a deep red color.

A wide field of royal azalea clusters stretches from the southern part of Dunnaeri pasture in Hwangmaepeyongjeon to the Youngamsa Temple. As you can command a view of the field very easily from the mountain trail, the red waves of royal azalea blossoms look very impressive. You can reach the peak of the mountain after walking about 40 minutes from the pasture, and you can enjoy a mountainous vista of Gyeongnam province that includes Mt. Jiri and many other high mountains. Hapcheon Lake on the northern part of the mountain makes the scenery very attractive with its cool atmosphere.

Wonderful Vista of Hwanggye Fall and Enjoyable Hapcheon Lake Drive

Not far from Mt. Hwangmae can be found in the secret charms of Hwanggye Fall in Hwanggye-ri Yongju-myeon. Hwanggye Fall features a two-stage waterfall, with the stream originating from Mt. Heobyeong (682 meters above sea level). The first fall starts about 20 meters high on a steep cliff and the cascade gushes cool water abundantly into the valley. It then forms another fall 10 meters high on its way down into the valley, forming several smaller cascades along the way. Hwanggye Fall has its own special attraction.

Your spring tour will become much enjoyable if you drive along Hapcheon Lake after looking around Mt. Hwangmae and Hwanggye Fall. Hapcheon Lake is a wide artificial lake that was formed by Haocheon Dam, which was constructed in December 1988. The dam is 96 meters high and 472 meters long.

Forty kilometers long, the Hapcheon Lake drive is not just a simple path around the lake but is a steep course that eventually leads into the mountains, allowing drivers to enjoy the various surrounding attractions.