You'll never hear me complaining about a chance to go new places. So when my Korean co-teacher told me that we were heading off to the neighbouring island of Cheonsangdo for a teachers' retreat (or as they call it here, a workshop – without any work), I was intrigued. Why were we going away? What would we do? Why Cheonsangdo?
Let me start with that last question first. Cheongsando makes sense as a getaway from Wando because it's only about 45 minutes away by ferry. You can do a day visit or an overnight visit, as we did, and you'd be able to see pretty much the entire island. The reason for our one-night stay was that it was a bi-annual trip granted to teachers at the end of each semester right before the exam period begins.
When we arrived, I was informed that we'd be staying at a traditional Korean 'pension' which is their version of a guesthouse. That means no beds, no furniture, just two large rooms. You see, in Korean lodgings there is only really one room (or two, if you're lucky), which is used for all manner of activities; eating, sleeping, socialising etc.
The festivities kicked off at supper time with a seafood dinner, then moving to a competitive night of noraebang between the different teams, each separated by homeroom grade. Not content to let the party stop there, the teachers went back to the guesthouse and played traditional Korean games into the early hours of the morning, fueled by copious amounts of mekju.
The next day was when we really got to see the island, leaving for our guided tour at 9.30am. First up was a trip to the set of a famous Korean drama, the name of which I forget. Next, our bus took us to what seemed like the highest peak on the island, with panoramic views all around. Our final stop on our tour was to the Stone Village and tea plantations.
The island is, for lack of a better word, quaint. But, to be very honest, this is not really the type of island you should be visiting if you're short on time in Jeollanamdo. It's worth noting that the island is designated as a 'Slow City' or Cittaslow Town, a movement inspired by slow food and whose goals include improving the quality of life by slowing down its overall pace.
There are better places to visit though – you could soak up sun on the beaches of Shinji or head to Jindo for a more novel experience.