It might not look far from Sang-Ju but it is believe me !
01.08.2009 - 02.08.2009 29 °C
We finally had a weekend free in between English camps and seized it as an opportunity to use the
'voucher' Jessica and Julian (our friends from South Africa in Sang-ju) had given us as a birthday present.
The voucher consisted of a return bus fare to a destination of our choice in the region, a meal for two
and two movie tickets to be used.
After seven hours travelling we finally made it to Daecheong Beach !
The destination we chose was the island of Sapsido off the west coast in the Yellow Sea. The distance
to Sapsido is pretty much the same as that from Sang-ju to Gyeong-Ju which takes four hours maximum
so we figured it would take the same amount of time but boy were we mistaken; it took seven hours to
get there !
Bus trip #1 : Sang-ju to Daejeon (2 hours), bus trip #2 : Daejeon to Gong-Ju (2 hours and 1 hour wait),
bus trip #3: Gon-Ju to Daecheong Bech (2 hours). Total : seven hours !
Fortunately, myself, Barbara and Jessica and Julian are not inclined to gripe and moan so we weathered
the unexpectedly lengthy trip with smiles and laughter. Besides, for me, getting to a destination on a
voyage is just as fun as the destination itself well almost as good !
Lunch at Daecheong Beach
If the weather hadn't been as clement as it was we may well have regretted the voyage but it
wasn't so we made the most of our day and a half there. Indeed, when we set foot on the
sand of Daecheon Beach after our tortuously long trip, I couldn't help but think of Neil Armstrong
and his famous saying "one step for man one giant leap for mankind". If I had had the Union
Jack handy I most probably would have planted it on the shore but I didn't have one so I made
do with a dip in the Yellow Sea. The sea wasn't as I hoped it would be however; it was rather
murky and there were lots of jelly-fish so my dip turned out to be a short one.
Fresh molluscs and crustaceans barbecued for lunch
Daecheon Beach is famous for its mud and its medicinal properties hence the reason why every
year at the end of July thousands of people (mostly westerners) fill the mud flats and roll around
in it like elephants in a mud pool. Personally, rolling around in mud with masses of people pushing
shoving and throwing mud at you is not my scene and I was happy to learn that the Boryeong
Mud Festival had ended a week earlier.
The heat-resistant glove to help handle the heated molluscs
Some other South African friends of ours, Robin and Nawaal, had been to the Mud Festival and
confirmed what we expected; thousands of westerners (very few Koreans attend) get blind drunk
and high and baste themselves in mud for hours on end and most of the time getting drenched in
the process as it takes place in the middle of the monsoon season. The only good side to it I suppose
is it boosts the local economy. Jessica observed that the modern-looking train and bus station there
was no doubt paid for by the revenue generated by the Boryeong Mud Festival. However, it's very
proabable that the reputation of Westerners is given a thorough bashing making us all appear wrongly
to be hedonistic drunks in the minds of Koreans.
Daecheong is not an idyllic beach. It's characterised by a string of gaudy restaurants along the beach
front and it's entire 2km or so surface is filled with people, a visually cacophonic hive of flluorescent
coloured swimming costumes, tents, dinghys, arm bands all of which is complimented by the equally
cacophonic endless stream of announcements made over the loud speakers ! We were glad to see
the back of Daecheong Beach and to rest our travel weary bones in an outside garden restaurant
where we ate the local speciality of roasted oysters and other molluscs all washed down with Hite beer.
One giant mussel eaten and then its shell used as a hot plate
After lunch we needed a place to stay. All the motels and hotels were fully booked so we had to take
a taxi back to Boryeong where we found a cosy motel to sleep in. We took an ondol 'superroom' with
a large floor surface, comfy armchairs, T.V., aircon and refreshments all thrown in. We laid out our
mattresses on the floor in pure Korean fashion threw a blanket over them and they constituted our
beds for the night.
We then went out restaurant hunting and we came across a nice little place with writing on the wall
(random comments made by passing customers) the familiar bright plastic stools and a makeshift
circular BBQ table which we assembled around to tuck into some 'Samgyeopsal' (pork belly slithers)
with banchan (sidedishes) and beer and soju.
The following day we took a pleasant boat trip to Sapsido Island passing pittoresque rocky islets
and other tree covered rocky islands on the way.
Leaving Daecheong harbour
Bye Daecheong ! Sapsido here we come !
Passengers feeding the gulls on the way there !
Barbara and Jessica
Sapsido Island in the distance
Rocky islets seem to float by as we boat our way to Sapsido
Rocky outcrop of Sapsido Island
When we finally reached Sapsido I was struck by the feeling of isolation even abodonment. The quay
which led to one of its eastern beaches was peppered here and there with beach shacks and all sorts
of junk littered around them. By the shore in the shallow waters were what I construed to be oyster
farms and littering the beach were giant jelly-fish all washed ashore.
The first beach we saw on Sapsido
Holiday homes on the beach front
Giant jelly-fish litter the beach
Anchors away !
Our first obstacle along our hour beach trek
Having bravely gotten over our first obstacle we found our second beach
but not much better than the last !
A touch of Sapsido fauna and flora colour !
A Sapsido puppy ! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Barbara finds a perfectly in tact shell to add to our collection.
There aren't any taxis on the island (except for some tractor-driven ones) nor any kind of public transport
but its so small it can be hiked around in about five hours. We had an improvised hike from the eastern
most point of the island to its westernmost point and were struck by the absence of people on the beaches.
We understood why to some extent because the water of these beaches is rather murky, shingly and
Sapsido's sole means of public transport; a tractor taxi !
Despite the shabby look of the place it has its charm. In fact, it feels like a place inhabited solely by
castaways washed ashore who built their homes using the local fauna and flora and the flotsam
washed upon its shores.
To be honest, what we saw during our two hour walk along the shore to the island's westernmost
point turned out ot be an anti-climax. We were hoping for torquoise rocky coves like those found in
Jeju and what we beheld coupled with the fatigue we felt due to the lengthy trip the day before not
forgetting the two hour trek we'd just done it proved all to much for Jessica and Julian who decided
to collapse under a tree and wait there until the boat arrived to take us back.
The third beach we come across is again deserted and for good reason the
water is murky and jelly-fish ridden like the last two ! There has to
be a suitable beach somewhere surely ?
These seagulls were as about as impressed as we were about the beaches !
Yet there are hundreds of Korean holidaymakers on the island ! Where do they all go ?
" Should I stay or should I go now ?"
We could do a spot of fishing I suppose to while away the time !
Lacking a fishing rod I opt for a spot of photography !
Lush green rice fields even on this tiny island !
However, myself and Barbara had still a little energy left in us and we were determined to find a beach
that we had hoped to find so we headed north east and lo and behold as soon as we crossed the
brow of a hill we saw another beach the shape of the crescent moon a kilometre roughly in length
with a few beach shacks and a handful of people !
On our desperate idyllic beach hunt trek north eastwards Barbara was still in high spirits !
YEEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA ! At last a decent beach !
Barbara is of course as pleased as punch as am I !
There were still some jelly fish though but not as many as at the other beaches !
The beach also has a nice rocky part perfect for snorkeling !
What's more it was sandy, not shingly and the water was transparent and warm and there weren't
many jellyfish so we dived in and relished the find. We tried to call Jessica and Julian but couldn't
get through so we were disappointed we couldn't share the find however we took plenty of
photographs so that they could have at least a vicarious expereience of this better part of the island.
The find was a welcome boost to our morale which couldn't have been better timed because it turned
out that once again we had an eight hour trip back to Sang-Ju in store for us !
Good bye Sapsido !