Suh Chung Ha's Travel Black Book

Island charm

South Korea's ambassador to Singapore likes Hallyeo Maritime National Park for its natural scenery

Who: Mr Suh Chung Ha, ambassador of the Republic of Korea. He has lived in Singapore for two years.

He is married to housewife Jeong Ki Ae and they have two children, aged 32 and 30.

Favourite destination: Hallyeo Maritime National Park in South Korea.

Why: It encompasses the most beautiful stretch of Korea's south coast from Geoje in Gyeongsangnam-do province to Yeosu in Jeollanam-do province, but my favourite area is the coastal city of Tongyeong and its surrounding countryside.

The sea view from the coast is breathtaking. I still remember my first visit when I was struck by the beauty of the islands and their natural scenery.

There are 360 small islands off the coast, each with its own charm and beautiful seascapes.

Favourite place to stay: There are many holiday cabins (called pensions in Korea) in Tongyeong. Each pension is built in a different style, ranging from European to traditional Korean. I prefer to stay in these pensions because they are cosy and feel like a home.

Those who want to stay in a hotel or resort can visit Kumho Tongyeong Marina Resort (tinyurl.com/jo9cxx5).

As the resort is located on Chungmu Harbour's coastline, it provides great sea views and easy access to maritime tours.

What to eat: Tongyeong Myeongga (74-3, Saeteo-gil, Tongyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea; tel: +82-055-649-0533) serves a variety of seafood, but its classic dish is meonggae (sea squirt) bibimbap.You can also try different seafood menus at reasonable prices ranging from 12,000 to 25,000 won (S$14 to S$30).

About 70 per cent of South Korea's total oyster haul comes from Tongyeong. Oyster dishes, such as boiled rice with oysters and oyster pancake, are best sampled during the winter season.

Anyone who loves kimbap (Korean rice roll) should try chungmu kimbap, which is rice rolls served with radish kimchi and mixed cuttlefish on the side.

You can try all these at affordable prices at Jungang Traditional Market, near the port.

Favourite cultural site: Dongpirang Wall Painting Village was threatened with demolition until a local organisation launched an initiative to decorate the village with murals in 2006.

University students and artists gathered in Tongyeong to paint the shabby walls of village homes. The village was revitalised by the colourful art and has since become a popular tourist attraction with many cafes and houses used by artists.

Not far from Dongpirang Village at Gangguan Fishing Port, people can tour four Turtle Ships (Geobukseon), ironclad warships shaped like a tortoise. They are replicas of the turtle ships that General Lee Sun-Shin used to defeat the Japanese navy in the late 16th century.

Best view: For the best view of the national park, go to Hallyeosudo Viewing Ropeway (cablecar.ttdc.kr/eng) which, at 1,975m-long, is South Korea's longest cable car system. From the top of Mireuksan Mountain, visitors can see the 300 nearby islands and enjoy a bird's-eye view of the national park.

Best day trip: Somaemuldo island is definitely worth a visit. It is a one hour-long ferry ride from Tongyeong Port.

Nearby is Deungdaesum (Lighthouse) Island. The white lighthouse on the hill, green grass and blue sea surrounding it make it romantic.

Best souvenir: Tongyeong is famous for its lacquer arts. Tongyeong Ottchil Art Museum (www.ottchil.org) sells modern lacquer artworks, but they are a bit pricey as they are handmade.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2015, with the headline 'Island charm'. Print Edition | Subscribe