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Brave the Crowds of Haeundae Beach

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South Korea’s most popular beach is Haeundae, found on the northeastern end of the city. Famous across the country as a place to see and be seen, Haeundae explodes into life during the summer when the entire beach is covered in both parasols and people who are less interested in swimming than looking good.

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Unfortunately, this has been a very wet summer, and there haven’t been a lot of weekends conducive to beach time. But the clouds momentarily lifted on one Saturday afternoon, and we went to check out the scene. Haeundae has the world record for most number of parasols on a beach (yes, there’s a “record” for that), and the atmosphere is claustrophobic and chaotic.

We walked up and down the sand — the water was awfully cold (perhaps we’ve been weakened by summers on the southern coast of Spain), so we had to content ourselves with people-watching. Luckily, the people-watching is excellent. There are girls walking around on the sand with high heels, guys carrying fluffy dogs with dyed-red ears, groups of foreigners playing volleyball and thousands of parasols, almost all occupied. Haeundae is a hot-spot for the wealthy youth of Seoul, who come to Busan in droves for the weekend.

There is some structure to the chaos of Haeundae. You can rent the umbrellas at automatic machines, as well as big yellow inner tubes for the water. If you get hungry while sunbathing, just pick up the phone — pizza companies will deliver to the beach. And despite the rigid organization, there are less rules here than at many beaches; you can drink, play ball, and bring dogs.

It’s not exactly the kind of beach experience we normally go for, but clearly appeals to a lot of people. A day on Haeundae is perhaps not relaxing, but it’s certainly entertaining.

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July 17, 2012 at 9:02 am Comments (2)

The Hike to Songjeong Beach

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At the far northeastern end of Busan, Songjeong Beach is a more beautiful and far less popular stretch of sand than the city beaches of Haeundae or Gwangalli. Although you can get there with bus or taxi, the best way to arrive is over a gorgeous three-kilometer hike through the woods.

Busan Beaches

The hike begins near the Jangsan metro station and, like all walking trails in Korea, is well-marked and easy to follow. There’s some workout equipment along the way, but the real reason to tackle the hike is for the amazing views over the sea and the forest valley.

Halfway through, the peaceful silence we’d been enjoying was interrupted by an outlandishly loud alarm coming from somewhere down the coast. After it had sounded for a few minutes, a woman came on the loudspeaker, saying something in Korean. We waited hopefully for an English translation, but it never appeared. And then, the alarm again for at least five minutes. We were all alone in the woods, unable to judge the reactions of others. Were people in the city running in panic for the nearest bunker? Had North Korea pressed the big red button? Had the woman provided instructions on surviving the imminent nuclear holocaust?

Eventually, we saw a family hiking on the trail, at a calm, un-panicked pace. The Korean government tests the alarm system about once a month, bringing all traffic to a standstill, and this must have one such time.

Songjeong Beach awaited us at the end of our hike. Unlike the city beaches, there were no other foreigners here, just big groups of college-age kids playing organized games, and throwing girls into the water — with somewhat more brutality than we Westerners employ. We watched them for awhile, waving off their attempts to get us to join in, and walked to the end of the beach.

A small, wooded peninsula called Jukdo Park caps the beach, providing a shaded relaxation area and a pavilion for views which stretch out over the sea and back towards the beach. There’s less development here than at Busan’s other beaches, and the result is a much prettier panorama. So far, this is one of our favorite spots in the city, and definitely worth the effort of reaching. And if you’re not feeling up to the short hike, a taxi from Jangsan costs about $2.50.

Location of the Hike’s Start
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June 25, 2012 at 12:23 am Comments (0)
Brave the Crowds of Haeundae Beach South Korea's most popular beach is Haeundae, found on the northeastern end of the city. Famous across the country as a place to see and be seen, Haeundae explodes into life during the summer when the entire beach is covered in both parasols and people who are less interested in swimming than looking good.
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