Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Byeonsan Beach, Jeollabukdo

The weather here is getting rapidly cooler, but while it was still hot we paid a visit to one of the beaches just outside of Buan. Byeonsan is one of Jeollabukdo's most popular beaches and it's about half an hour away from Buan by bus. After several weeks of dying in the heat it seemed like a damned good idea to take advantage of the buses and head to the beach for the day.

However, catching a bus was the most difficult part of getting there (and back) - we can barely read Korean and often the timetables just don't make sense. The three of us - Lauren, Tom and I - were hovering around the bus shelter looking confused when we were approached by a Korean man who spoke English and was taking the same trip! He told us that he'd lived in Australia for a year and then in New Zealand for a few months, and he also showed us how to pay the fare and where to disembark. He was pretty awesome.

The beach is lined with pine trees and a few shops, and under the trees there are a few wooden benches and tarpaulins to keep out the sun. Korean women are crazy about avoiding getting sunburnt - on sunny days it's not uncommon to see umbrellas up and faces covered. It was a gorgeous cloudless day and the beach framed by tree-covered mountains was absolutely stunning!

The beach is 'open' from early July to mid-August, and during this time the 2km stretch of white sand has over a million visitors, which is just insane. I thieved this picture from the internet which shows how ridiculously busy Byeonsan can get:

We went in early September and although it was still stinking hot, the beach was practically deserted and we were the only people who ventured into the water for a swim. It seemed strange to me as I'm used to milking summer for all it's worth - beginning with that first freezing swim in October when the sun is warm but the water is like an ice bath, and then reluctantly retiring my togs in March. It was kinda great to have the place almost to ourselves.

I think the three of us caused a bit of a stir getting changed. There's some showers and a few changing rooms but they are probably only open when the beach is in full swing, so we stripped down to our togs in front of the few Koreans wandering around and jumped in. It was absolute bliss! Summer's not really summer for me if I can't just get in the ocean for a bit and float around. 

The water is fairly shallow and reminded me of 90 mile beach - you need to head out a good 50 metres before it starts to get deep. There were fish everywhere, from tiny schools that circled around us to bigger fish that jumped out of the water and scared the crap out of us. The water was a murky brown and when we got out we felt strangely oily and our towels turned green from whatever the hell we were floating around in. Any grossness was a small price to pay for just being at a beach, during summertime, swimming and talking. 

The three of us spent a good hour bobbing around in the waves and discussing our experiences in Korea so far. Lauren told us about the weirdest questions she'd been asked in her first week - 'Why is your head so small and your body so big?' and 'Why are your eyes so googly?' She also told us about a teacher in Gimje whose name is innocuous in English - George - but incredibly offensive in Korean, which explained his students' shocked expressions and reluctant greetings during his first week. I think I spent most of the time just saying 'oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!' over and over again. After several weeks of clinging to the air conditioner in the apartment and breaking into a sweat whilst typing, having a swim was heaven on earth. 

After we were well and truly pruned up we got out and headed home, via the most disgusting public toilets in South Korea. Lauren described them as worse than the Big Day Out. Getting a bus back to Buan was a bit of a challenge as there wasn't an obvious bus stop so we jumped and waved until someone pulled over. Aside from one ajumma and the driver, we were the only ones on the return journey. It was a damn good day.

1 comment:

  1. it's so funny story for me and thank you for good comment on Korea the place you went is my familly's homtown! i hope my contry is more improved soon so you can come to visit again :)