“All of the other colours are just colours, but purple seems to have a soul — when you look back at it, it’s looking back at you.” — Uniek Swain
Painting cities in colourful shades has long existed in the tradition of many countries. South Korea is no exception to that!
Korea has a ton of colourful towns on its peninsula that have been renovated and transformed by the local community in order to attract more visitors to keep their small villages alive.
This is something for purple lovers — Banwol Island, also known as Half-Moon Island. It has only existed for a couple of years or so and was magically transformed by the 150 local residents that live there.
How It All Started
The residents originally got their money from farming, but they decided to start The Purple Project to transform their island by painting it different shades of purple with the help of the government aside from the area’s own residents.
The Purple Project all started during the pandemic. People couldn’t leave the country and were becoming restless. They needed more destinations that felt different. They needed newer places to tour during this time. It’s a small country, after all. Koreans love to take photos. With this in mind, the locals of Banwol Island got hard at work when they came up with this brilliant idea to boost domestic tourism.
They made it their goal to become a nice destination to visit within the borders. Now that the world is looking at a brighter place in light of the recent evens, this attracts tourists from all over the world!
All of the farming residents are elderly, so they love to see young people visit the town. Their decision to do this was refreshing in their eyes.
Although there’s a touristy aspect, there’s also a sprinkle of local aspects while you interact with these elders that are proud of the work they did on the island (as they should be, it looks so pretty!). I always enjoy the local aspect of travelling.
You might be thinking, why purple? To pay homage to the purple bellflowers (also known as the campanula flowers) that are native to the area.
Everything from buildings (about 400), roads, bridges, rooftops, cars, shops, and even the hard boiled egg on top of my bibimbap (Korean mixed rice dish) were all purple.
Although I had missed it, a few weeks earlier (about the end of April) if you had visited, there’s also a giant field filled with purple flowers.
I also haven’t been to the island at night, but I heard that it’s also magnificent at night because they light it all up. The word around is that those lights make the sunset look purple.
Here’s a map of the island:
Things to Do
There are plenty of things to do on the island and for you to make it a full day trip including the following:
- Explore by Foot: Walk all around the 3 islands as well as the two long bridges that connect the 3 islands. It’s about 6.2km total.
2. Visit the Cafes: There are a few different types of cafes along the way. Some have Korean style snacks such as ramen and chips, some have coffee to quench your thirst after all the walking, while some have purple sweet potato ice-cream!
3. Cycle: You can rent a purple bike to explore what the island has to offer. It’s around 5,000 won an hour for adults, and 3,000 per hour for children. The bikes won’t be available for a super windy day as it is dangerous, but in the summer time, they are most likely always available.
4. Have Photoshoots: There are plenty of places all around to have photoshoots, but the most loved place there is the lavender field. Another one is the Cheonsa Bridge (Angel Bridge) that connects Banwol and Bakji island.
5. Do a Homestay: Want to stay a night with a local? And you guessed it right — the rooftop is purple! It’s about 50,000 won per night. You can book the homestay or accommodation on their website here.
6. Hike a Mountain: For nature lovers. If you want an aerial view of the purple islands and the best views of the towns and the purple scenery, hike Mount Eoggae. Try to get to the highest peak! It’s called Uhkkae (shoulder) since the island looks like one.
7. Eat Some Tasty Food: There are a few restaurants around the islands that offer traditional Korean food that make you feel like a local at heart.
8. Experience BTS Fan Moments: On the bridges, there are benches that say “I Purple You” which my friend who enjoys BTS explained is an Army thing, a popular saying that was started by V meaning ‘I will trust and love you for a long time’. There’s also a large “I Purple You” sign you can take pictures in front of.
It’s quite breezy, so bring a sweater or light coat! I wasn’t expecting that. It’s especially windy on the bridges and you spend quite a few minutes on them as you walk between the 3 islands!
9. Visit the Forest: Go to Banwol Village Dang Forest. The Indongjang clan live together here. About 600 years ago, they planned trees there that have now become a forest. This was for the dream they had about the prosperity of their village. On a side note, there are a lot of cicadas there, so if you’re not a big fan of them, skip this one in the summer!
10. See the Park: Visit the Stone Tower Park. It was created by a local elderly resident there named Sang Soon Jang. He did so wishing for good health in his mind. There are both small and large piles of stone towers to see.
11. Go to Another Small Island: Who doesn’t love an island off of an island? Visit Noroo Island. The entire area is a bunch of islands, really. Ask the locals about it. They’ll point you in the right direction.
12. Pay Homage to the Clan: Do you like history? There are 3–4 Indongjang clan monuments you can visit that date back hundreds of years ago.
13. Check Out an Abandoned Elementary School: If you’re curious about a small old Korean school with the traditional sliding doors and hallways, pop on by! It’s small, and its rooftop is painted purple.
14. Ride the Purple Electric Shuttle: Don’t want to explore the island by foot? Hop onto one of the shuttles.
15. Visit the Lavender Field: Korea loves its flowers. They have tons and tons of flower fields in the spring and summer. Purple Island has a pretty lavender one to boost the purple branding.
There is a small fee to get in, but it’s very affordable:
Adults: 3,000 won
Teens: 2,000 won
Children: 1,000 won
However, if you’re wearing a notable purple colour or accessory, they let you in for free!
All in all, since it’s fairly new to tourism in Korea, there hasn’t been too much development here yet, but it’s worth a visit if you’re nearby the south-western coast of Korea.
If you do go, make sure you wear a matching outfit and bring your camera to capture the stunning scenery. Oh, and don’t forget to stop by the souvenir shop at the end to remember your experience!
This reinventing project for the local farmers on the islands was a risky one, but one that beautifully paid off.
“Don’t worry, be purple!” — Unknown
If you’d like more information about The Purple Islands, visit their website.
To learn even more about the compelling culture of Korea and to start planning a trip over, go to the Visit Korea website.
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