The first weekend in May included Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday making it a four day respite from teaching. We had originally planned to travel to an offshore island, but friends of ours invited us on a camping/jjimjilbang trip to the east coast in a rental car and we jumped at the chance of a bit of added freedom. So Friday night saw us piling into a car with Lianne and Adam heading to Daegu for the first leg of our trip.
We arrived close to midnight and settled in at the paradise jjimjilbang for the remainder of the night. This was Blake’s first experience staying the night at a jjimjilbang and it was somewhat interesting. Mere minutes after Adam turned off the TV soap opera in the common area where people were trying to sleep, an older lady not only turned it back on, but turned the volume WAY up. This necessitated a move into an adjacent room which was being used as a noraebang by the single older man stretched out in it. Getting to sleep was a little tough. Staying asleep in the early hours of the morning was just as tough, as some of us were awakened to what sounded like the birth of ET – but was really just said gentleman snoring.
Despite the difficulties, we did manage to get in a few hours of sleep before morning. Once of the great things about sleeping in a jjimjilbang is that the day starts with hot baths and some sauna time to get you in the right frame of mind for the day. Refreshed, we headed to a nearby rooftop cafe to enjoy breakfast looking out over a little urban lake.
Looking out from our breakfast table.
Post breakfast photos with Adam and Lianne.
After a few navigation errors, we managed to locate Herb Hillz, where we were joined by four others for the remainder of the trip. Herb Hillz is an eco-park that in some ways resembles a much nicer, forested fair ground with a variety of rides, games, etc. for all ages.
There were stuffed super heroes all over the place.
Great picnic areas.
Lots of nice shady trails.
You could get into these giant bubbles and try to run around in a pool of water. Looked pretty fun.
What actually drew us there was the eco adventure part. This involved a suspended obstacle course running through the trees all around the park. It was awesome! We paid 20,000 each at the gate and that included the King Kong course, which is the longest one in the park. We definitely recommend this place to anyone with a little time to spare around Daegu.
We wrapped up our day at the park with a late picnic lunch before heading further eastward for some beach camping. Being a long weekend, there was often a fair bit of traffic, but for the most part things moved along pretty well. Our destination was Chilpo Beach, just north of Pohang and we washed up there in just over two hours (we inadvertently took a slightly creative route).
It was heading towards dark at the time, so we threw up our tent (borrowed from Lianne) in a stand of trees back from the beach. Once camp was up we went for a short wander. There is a hotel nearby that has a pricey Chinese restaurant in it, a small mart, and a set of (filthy) public washrooms. At the time there was no running water (in the taps), but we have been told that once summer officially arrives in Korea they open the facilities and maintain the beaches. Apparently 25 degrees is not beach weather.
Our little half moon of tents. For lack of another option, ours had an… innovative rain cover: Tamara’s rain jacket.
Either way, by the time we got back, some of our fellow travellers had dinner on the go. By the time everything was cooked, eaten, and cleaned up we were more than ready to crash.
A note about Korean camping: it’s nothing like western camping. The complete lack of personal space extends to camping. People would wander through our cluster of tents and around our cooking area with no concerns or apologies. There is just no space. When we got up on the second day, a Korean couple were in the midst of setting up their tent only a few feet from ours; right in the middle of our little group’s camp.
This is not a great photo, but you can sort of see the hodgepodge of tents with no real defined boundaries.
Dawn gave us a chance for a little bit more exploration and one discovery was that our party had grown by two (up to ten) the night before. Two guys who are physical therapists in Daegu had driven down to join us. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal we wandered out to the shoreline, tossed a frisbee for a bit, then settled in to watch the waves. Sadly, the beach was in sorry shape. The amount of broken glass made us more than a little hesitant to even chase the disc without keeping one eye on the ground.
The water is just out of the frame to the right. We were camped in the stand of pines along the left side.
Before leaving the beach we had a little painting party on the shoreline. Several of the people we were travelling with paint regularly and had brought the necessary materials. It was pretty fun, stretching out on a mat by the sea and painting. A great way to relax for the afternoon.
During the painting sessions, the Pohang horse club was out running their horses up and down the beach. Kinda interesting to watch.
Given the state of the beach, we decided to head into Pohang for lunch, shopping, and sauna time before relocating farther up the coast. Tamara certainly had a memorable sauna experience. Not only was there a toilet in the corner of the ladies’ public bath area (no walls, no curtain, just porcelain), but a well-meaning ajumma in leopard print undies also grabbed the loofah out of Tamara’s hand and proceeded to wash her back for her! Again, western notions of personal space and boundaries just don’t fit here in Korea.
Some of our party, Blake included, had a hankering for burgers so we headed to Mr. Big family restaurant which proved to be just the thing. Four of us followed that up with a trip to a sauna downtown before stocking up on groceries at a nearby mart and hitting the road north again. Sadly, we hit some of the worst traffic yet and it took us nearly two hours to reach our destination.
Mr. Big family restaurant.
We arrived at Hwajin Beach just as it was starting to get dark and found a camping site in one of the clusters of trees. The stand of pines nearest the bathrooms was already full to bursting with Korean campers so we opted for one a few hundred meters down the beach bordered by some sort of strange trench. Once again, setting up camp, cooking dinner, and cleaning up took us pretty well through to bed time. Fortunately, there was running water in the bathrooms at the beach so that made tooth brushing a little easier. However, it had also drawn more campers so the bathrooms were, again, disgusting.
We retreated to our camp and spent some time learning a few Korean games from a Korean couple who were travelling with us. They are actually pretty fun and really hard to keep straight. Especially if you play them (as they were) with shots of soju as punishment for errors. Even our unclouded brains had trouble keeping up. After watching a few rounds we slipped away into our tent to try and catch up on a bit of sleep.