This past weekend, I went on my first big Korean adventure(besides the whole moving thing). My co teacher invited me to tag along with her and a friend to the Southern beach town of Tongyeong. I’m so glad I accepted! We visited the beach, rode a gondola up to an island mountain, and saw lots of great street art.
Tongyeong is a two hour drive from Daegu. That’s one thing I really love about Korea-you can visit any part of the country in a day. Not that I could travel to every town in a year, but I can dream. China and Japan are also temptingly close, but there’s plenty to see around here for now.
After the long drive, we arrived at the beach. It’s so small and quiet there. An old world fishing village vibe permeates the area. In fact, for the first hour or so the only boats in sight were fishing boats. While my co teacher and her friend went swimming, I took some pictures of the ocean. Seagulls floated above us, but no other wildlife was in sight. Just the ocean and the town.
The ocean smells less salty there than along the west coast. On a cold morning in Southern California, you can almost taste the salt. Rocks dotted along the beach, and fishing boats floated by. The only ferry looked commercial, and only a handful of tourists played in the water.
An old woman added sticks to a cooking fire nearby. The fumes reminded me of incense. Her sign was rolled up, but I think she had a small food stall. The only open restaurant is a chicken and beer place. If you are a hungry tourist, and you don’t like chicken, you are out of luck.
Casual fishermen had cast their lines around the pier. Along the stones, I found some dried out starfish. Little starfish legs and pieces of seaweed scattered along the tiles. Dirty take out dishes were stacked in a corner by the changing rooms.
There’s no wifi to speak of at the beach. In Korea, that is a big change. Almost every shop I’ve been to has wifi floating around. It was a nice break for the weekend.
When they were finished swimming, we rented bikes, and traveled on the beach. I spotted my first private luxury boat in the area. The people on board looked like they were enjoying the quiet as well. The whole ride only took half an hour, but it was probably my favorite part of the trip. There’s nothing like riding along a beautiful path.
After returning the bikes, we drove a bit more to the gondolas.
Apparently, the Tongyeong gondolas have the longest line in Korea. The ride along the mountain was very enjoyable. You can see all the small pockets of people from up there. At the top of the line, we had a bit of a hike ahead of us. Most of the path is stairs, and it’s an intense workout for someone who is used to walking and jogging. Definitely worth it though. I got to stand on the highest point of the mountain and look out at all of the islands. I kept having to remind myself it was real. I felt like I’d fallen into a movie set.
It was getting dark, and the mosquitoes were coming in, so we decided to grab some dinner. I had never had samgyeopsal, and the other two were kind enough to try out a local place.
It was a very small spot. No employees as far as I could tell. The woman who ran the shop lit the grill(and eventually took over the grilling). She was so sweet! At one point, she took the parilla leaf and meat out of my hand to put together a proper wrap with all of the banchan(side dishes) fixings.
That was just the first day! I can’t believe how much we crammed in.
The next morning, we headed for breakfast. At a local cafe with a view of the ocean, I had a sweet potato and cheese panini, with a black bean latte. It was pretty delicious. I’d expected chunks of sweet potato, but it was more like an apple butter and cheese panini. The latte was a lot less sweet than I’d thought it would be, but very tasty. Really, it was better that way.
We headed out to look at some of the local parks. The first was a nature park with a giant statue of Korea’s greatest hero-Yi Sun Sin.
During the Jeoson era, he defeated the Japanese with about a third of the enemy’s soldiers. That’s your history lesson for the day. Really, the park is great, although very…vertical. The hike up to the park almost had my legs cramping. Any serious hikers will definitely want to visit. It’s a great workout.
I saw my first wild crab too! I’m sure I’ve seen at least one at a zoo, and there’s always the crabs for sale in the supermarket. This one was right there in the woods though. Being a city and desert girl, I’d always thought crabs stuck to the beach and water. Not these ones. They were hiking along the trail with us.
Next was a statue park. After the nature park, it wasn’t as interesting. The hike is part of the fun, and this was more of a meandering path. It’s free though, and worth a look if you are in the area.
For lunch, we headed to the fish market for hweh(raw fish). You just pick a basket of live fish from one of the merchants, pay for it, and they hack it up for you. I really sell it, don’t I! Seriously, it’s pretty good. I actually like the cheaper fish best. I don’t know the name of it, but it’s a large flat fish. Can’t give you more details than that.
They brought us to a series of tents in the middle of the market. No, not camping tents-more like the kind for a large convention. In there, they seat you and bring you the diced up fish. Pretty fancy. And at 20,000, pretty cheap. I think back in the states, something like that would cost at least $40.
We drove back to Daegu after that. The annual Body Painting Festival was taking place in the park near my apartment. We played Monopoly, and watched the contestants parade around the stage, while local stands sold chicken on a stick. Not a bad way to end a trip.
With luck, there will be more Korean adventures in the future!