Jeonju Hanok Village If you’re looking for good food, hustle and bustle and some traditional Korea, Jeonju is the place to find it.Tucked into the city is a traditional Hanok village that seems to be the tourist hot spot of Korea. It has a wide river running along one side with traditional Korean bridges dotted across the water. With no cars being allowed in during certain times, it really gives you the feeling you’re in old town Korea.
A long weekend in June, thanks to Memorial Day gave us the perfect time to do some beach camping! A little bit of research and a reluctance to spend too many hours in traffic led us to Pohang. A slightly obscure blog post mentioned a secluded beach, next door to Pohang’s main beach Chilpo, where camping was possible away from the crowds. Kayley’s navigation and investigation skills eventually led us there. Initially it didn’t look too promising as the roads went through a very industrial area that wasn’t too inviting. It did, however, lead to a small fishing village with a lovely little beach that we ended up staying on for 2 nights/3days. At first, we had just headed straight into the village and spotted some cars that were parked very close to where we wanted to camp but there were no roads from the village. We backtracked a bit and found an access road right down to the beach. Guerilla camping heaven.
A few Korean families were set up well back from the beach on a grassy area, so we proceeded to set up right on the beach near a few small cliffs that provided a nice shelter from the wind, some privacy and a handy “camping loo”. We set up our tent, did a bit of beach clean up and collected some firewood. There was also lots of ocean debris around that we ended up using to make a lounge area and outdoor kitchen around our camp fire. We ended up having a very comfortable set up.
Relaxation and Fun
When we arrived, the weather wasn’t the best, but it was pleasant enough to be beach camping and we even got some sun on Sunday (with a bit of wind). We woke up on Monday morning to a beautiful sunrise and the rain held off until Monday afternoon while we were packing up. We spent the days lounging around enjoying the outdoors, reading, fishing and learning some Gaelic football moves. I also did a bit of fishing off the rocks and managed to catch a few strange looking fish. We had a big bonfire each night, as well as our delicious samgyupsal (pork belly) and lamb chops dinners. We spent the evenings sitting around the fire swapping stories with our friends John and Neeta. Fortunately firewood was plentiful.
Facilities and Entertainment
The main beach (Chilpo-Ri) was very close to where we camped and there was a small shop for ice/beer/water etc as well as large public bathrooms if you were really desperate. The ocean was cold but good enough for a quick rinse if you felt the need. The beach was soft sand. It was really very picturesque with the little fishing village and harbour in the distance.
The Sunday evening was a lot busier and quite a few Korean families set up to do some beach camping, but it never got crowded. The entertainment for the evening was a Korean man who had probably had a few too many drinks and tried to show off to his friends by driving along the beach. He proceeded to get stuck in the very soft sand and it took an hour, two other off-road vehicles and a four-wheeler to eventually get him off the beach.
After packing up, Kayley and I took the “scenic” route back home. We meandered along the coast line up to the Homigot (Hand of Harmony). Pohang is very well know for this giant hand statue in the ocean that apparently sees the first sunrise of the Korean New Year. If you time it right, you can snap a picture of the sun resting in the hand. Of course this means there are hordes of people trying to capture the perfect selfie and making weird poses (we did the same…) Lots of small Korean restaurants in the area to grab a bite. There are also a few coffee shops if you’re looking for something a bit more western. The drive along the coastal road is a bit tedious and time-consuming though!
Guerilla camping (and beach camping) has been the best thing we’ve done in Korea. It allows us to escape the city and get some reasonably fresh air and enjoy a bit of nature. Being able to camp just about anywhere has made it a lot of fun to explore the countryside.
Have you tried camping in Korea? Have any favourite spots?
Yongdam Dam is a massive man made reservoir in a valley between the mountains and right at the outflow of the reservoir where it turns to almost natural river again is a big, commercial, “camp on top of your neighbours and make sure to bring your projector” traditional Korean camp site called 섬바위캠핑장. But lucky for us, just behind this camp site there is a convenient little access road where you can get right onto the river bank and set up camp next to your car. Of course this means no electricity, shower or ablutions, but we are okay with that. We definitely don’t mind being unplugged for a while. Guerilla camping at its best.
There were only a few other people set up on the river bank, but they were quite far away from us. Firewood was plentiful, as well as lots of rocks around to make a fire pit. We had chosen a good spot though and the fire pit was already made! The nights were still quite cool at this time of the year so a campfire is a must. Of course, it adds to the ambience too! Who wants to camp without a fire?? The views up and down the valley were quite magnificent, Korea really is blessed with some incredible natural landscapes and being able to take advantage of this, now that we have a car, has made our second year in Korea much easier.
I, of course, was immediately attracted to the river to see if any fish were to be found! The river proved to be quite full of life with schools of small fish all over the place, they did not seem interested in any of the flies I was chucking their way though. There were a few other guys around set up for catching carp/babel but I didn’t seem them catch anything. One old man came and fished next to our camp spot for about an hour in the Korean style of at least 3 rods in the water and he managed to catch one small chub. Lots of people were on their hands and knees in the river searching for fresh water muscles/clams and possibly crabs or snails. In Korea most living things are considered food!
It was towards the late afternoon that I spotted a few bass darting around and a local fisherman also said there were Sogari in the river. Sogari is a hugely popular eating fish in Korea and shares the same habitat as bass so their numbers have dwindled. I eventually found a bass sitting on a spawning site and tried for about an hour to get it to take a swipe at every lure in my bag before giving up. The next morning I woke up early and decided to give it another shot and finally manged to get it to bite. It was safely released back into the water and went straight back to its bed.
Most of the day was spent lazing around in the sun, sipping beers. Some birthday cake and an afternoon nap were much enjoyed, too! Kayley loves reading her book whilst watching me tramp up and down the river bank. We spent the evening around the fire enjoying the peace and quiet of the great out doors and a South African braai of lamb chops and potatoes done in the coals. Delicious!
We only spent one night there but would definitely recommend it to anybody looking for an escape from the city and doesn’t mind roughing it a bit with no facilities.
Spring finally brought int the warmer weather and we decided to enjoy the fresh air and outdoors with a camping trip. It was a long weekend for Buddha’s birthday (Happy birthday Buddha!) and it also happened to be my birthday too! We wanted to head up into the area surrounding Muju to a small town called Gucheondong. We had beautiful weather and great spots, but this proved to be one of our more frustrating starts to a camping trip.
The town is situated at the entrance to Deogyusan National Park. As it was a long weekend the small town was packed with people strolling up and down, parked all over and trying to get into the park. The river running through the town was quite beautiful and was the main aim of our trip. I was in search of the fabled Cherry Trout that finds it most southern distribution to be in Korea. This area is known for actually having Cherry Trout. We spent a few hours (!!!) hunting for the ideal spot along the river to set up camp and eventually settled on an abandoned camping ground on the edge of town.
This turned out to be quite a nice setting as we were up on the river bank, hidden away from the road and in between a few trees. It wasn’t long until we had set up camp, collected firewood and I was off to the river to search for some fish. I must admit Kayley did most of the setting up as I was itching to get to the water! I spent about an hour up and down the river looking for some nice pools to fish in. Conditions were great and there were a few fish rising but no Cherry Trout unfortunately. Most of what I saw were a species of chub or minnow I think. (Not too savvy on Korean fish species.) The rest of the evening was spent chilling around the fire chatting and having some drinks. For dinner we had a Korean style barbecue of samgyupsal (grilled pork belly), kimchi and mushrooms in lettuce wraps and just enjoyed being outdoors!
The next morning Kayley woke me up singing “happy birthday”. After having another quick cast into the river, I arrived back at the tent to coffee and a very special gift – an Apple watch. Isn’t my girl the best?? Although it was some kind of sick joke not being able to play with it for the next two days due to no electricity or wifi! After enjoying our breakfast of oats and yogurt we packed up (basically just chucked everything into our teeny car) and headed to Jinan for another night of camping.
Living in Korea has really made me more aware of seasons! The summer is so humid, and the winter is SO cold. Spring and Autumn are just beautiful. And because they are so short, they have that extra special feeling about them! So after my first long, hard, cold winter, I was ever so excited for Spring and all the beauty (cherry blossoms) it was to bring!
Famous for Cherry Blossoms
April brings in the famous Cherry Blossom Festival. Our town, Jinhae, is known for its Cherry Blossoms. It is not the only place that they grow but each town seems to have its own thing they are famous for, and this is ours. Each year they have a cherry blossom festival which is the talk of the town and people literally come from all over the country to this festival. As much as we tried to avoid the crowds and the chaos this year, we just got sucked into it. The blossoms are just too beautiful and spectacular and it’s such a buzz to see them and be in awe of them because, before you know it, they just come raining down a few days later.
This year, we took bicycles (from our local bike share system) down to the “romance bridge” over Yeojwa stream, where the main part of the festival takes place. We got going early in the morning, yet there were still tons of people! In our first year we went to check out the cherry blossoms with Marks co-workers the week before the festival actually started. We were a bit early for the blossoms as they only bloom in April. All the things were being set up and a few trees had started to blossom so it was still a bit festive. We also popped in one evening during the festival and it was chaotic, but pretty with all the lights up! The stream is decorated with light up bicycles, fancy lanterns and brightly coloured umbrellas.
We took our pictures and marveled at the beauty before catching a taxi to Gyeonghwa Station, only to find even more people. These railway tracks are the sight of many scenes from the Korean dramas on TV (as is the romance bridge) and is a popular place for young (and old) couples to take their couple photos with their selfie sticks and tripods. The town gets really jam packed, buses change their routes and things can really get chaotic. Thankfully, we live really close by so we have the luxury of choosing the best time to go.
Alternative Blossom Spots
If you’re not a fan of crowds or just want to see some unspoiled cherry blossoms in abundance, another beautiful place to see them is in Ungcheon, a small rural town just outside Jinhae. Ungcheon Dam is one of the first places Mark started fishing at, and is on the bus route between our houses. It is probably more beautiful than the festival itself, as these trees have been growing here for years and flower so beautiful and fully. It also doesn’t attract as many people so you’re able to get some great pictures and really just enjoy the beauty. We ended up packing a picnic (and the fishing rods) and spending the afternooon there. I highly recommend this spot for avoiding the crowds and taking some pictures, but you’ll, of course, miss out on the festival vibes and that excitement (or frustration).
Other festivities occur around town during this time as part and parcel of the festival. There are cultural dances at the Rotary almost every day, as well as an annual fireworks display that takes place on Jinhae-ru, the promenade that runs along the water. It’s a pretty extravagant show (I’m such a sucker for fireworks) that we love to go watch with a picnic dinner and a bottle of wine. During the festival period, the U.S Military base is also open to the public. We have always been curious to see inside the base, but it only opens at 11 for visitors. Because of our early start we didn’t get the chance to be Nosey Parkers like we wanted to!
Blossoms, Blossoms, Everywhere!
The trees are all over Jinhae (not just at the festival location) so we did get to experience the beauty (in Marks case- allergies) of the blossoms a few weeks later! Here’s a map for you to see how far apart the festival locations are for your perusal. If you’re traveling from other cities in Korea, please remember how crazy festival traffic can get. This year cars were not permitted to drive into Jinhae without a residents’ sticker and were made to park in an allocated lot and take a bus closer into the town.
Cherry blossoms are not isolated only to Jinhae, but all over Korea. Do you have a favourite spot near you where you like to enjoy the flowers?
Here, I will try to share my experiences fishing in South Korea. I have done mostly bass fishing with the odd trip to the ocean and a few attempts at catching some species on fly. Most of the dams I have fished are irrigation dams which means their water levels can fluctuate dramatically as the seasons change.
I found fishing in Korea to be quite difficult in the beginning as my forays were hampered by public transport and by very heavy fishing pressure in most areas. I will share locations I have found, baits I have been successful with as well as photos and videos when they are available.
I have been quite fortunate in that we bought a car towards the end of 2015 and my reachable fishing venues and times increased quite a bit. Another good thing was running into a local Korean fisherman who speaks some English. We have since become good friends and he has taken me to many fishing spots around the area we live and introduced me to a few new methods/lures etc to catch some bass.
Most Korean fishermen of the “old school” variety who like to set themselves up in one spot for the day, put up to 15 rods in the water and sit and wait in the hopes of catching a fish. They fish mostly for crucian carp. They tend to frown on bass fishermen disturbing their peace and also kill any bass they get as by catches. Also, fishing in Korea is not regulated in most of the country so they take whatever they want out of the water, regardless of size,species,time of year or fishing method.
Bass and bluegill can be found in most bodies of water in Korea as they were introduced as a food source in the 1960’s and have spread quite prolifically. They are both hardy species and have put heavy pressure on native fish populations fighting for the same food sources.
Feel free to post any questions or comments below.
I’m a bit late on this bandwagon, but here is an overview of our first camping trip. The lead up to it went something like this:
1. Bought tent and a few other necessary camping supplies from some friends who were leaving Korea.
2. Found friends online
3. Bought samgyupsal and s’mores supplies
4. Decided on a location along a lovely big river bank
5. Met said friends (for the first time) and camped with them!
Spring Camping Season
This was such a great start to the spring (still winter really) camping season and we had such a wonderful time. This is probably still one of my favourite locations that we have camped at here in Korea and I still really hope to go back and enjoy it further. But, as our time comes to an end here in Korea, I’m not sure we will have the opportunity to. We had to park up on the road (and managed to fit our little cars in a little nook next to a walking and cycling path – maybe not 100% legit) and cart our gear down a concrete retaining wall slope which wasn’t the most ideal. We enjoyed feeling like we were away from civilisation all the way down there so it was a small price to pay!
There was a plum blossom festival going on nearby, so we had quite a lot of traffic as we got into Hadong. We were far enough away from the festival though. Make sure you go through the small town (instead of the main road along the river) if you’re coming from the East, especially if there’s a festival going on. Our friends coming from the other side (west) didn’t hit any traffic and settled in an hour or so before us! There are a few camping sites along the river too, but they are often full, or not very inspiring (for us anyway) as they generally just have a flat, concrete spot for you to camp on with many other people! But if you don’t mind that, the option is there!
경남 하동군 화개면 부춘리 1165
Springtime in Korea is beautiful and I get so excited at all the new signs of life and greenery! We were spoiled with some of the first cherry blossoms on our walk along the river, as well as the cutest little tea plantations right under our noses! We had a rather pleasant walk in the late afternoon sunshine, before starting our fire and getting dinner started.
Besides the great location along an awesome stretch of river bank, we met some wonderful people who we have had the privilege of calling our friends since! We are sad that most of them have since left, but glad we still have the memories! Thanks, Huttons, Hedgers and soon-to-be Herders for our introduction to Camping in Korea (and more-so, “Guerilla Camping”)
You can read about the Herders and Huttons experience of this weekend getaway, by clicking on their names!
Namhae is one of the many beautiful islands that litter the Korean coast line. It has a number of sandy beaches, miles of coastline to drive along and rice paddies everywhere. We have camped and stayed in a pension on Namhae and enjoyed it each time. A rather surprising find was a German Village nestled in the hills overlooking the rice paddies with the ocean in the distance. Or at least the Korean version of a German village. Well, on the outside it looks German, sort of…
Europe in Korea
Whitewashed houses with red roofs and a cobblestone walkway that runs up the middle of the village to a town square at the top of the hill. Both sides of the road are lined with cafes, pubs, restaurants and shops. The village was built to lure back South Korean nurses and miners who had moved to Germany in the 1960’s and 70’s. They had gone to Germany on a work exchange program that was beneficial to both countries. The village was built to provide a place for these individuals (and their new German spouses) to return to, that would feel like Germany, in Korea.
Enough history though! Once a year this quaint little village hosts a German-style Oktoberfest, with a Korean twist to it. It usually runs at the end of September/beginning of October. The whole village participates with beer available on every street corner along with German/Korean foods. Lots of Korean breweries are also involved and offer beer on tap. When we were there-there were about 10 different companies all offering at least 2 different beers. You will definitely find something to suit your taste. The beers were also reasonably priced with most being 5000 won.
They also set up lots of activities you can partake in as well as a stage for K-Pop performance and a DJ later in the evening. During the afternoon there is a traditional German parade that makes it way up the hill and into the main square, all the participants are dressed up – quite a sight to see. Most of the pubs and cafes along the way also have live music during the festival which makes walking through the town very entertaining. The main square is filled with long trestle tables to give it that beerhall feel. When you’re sitting at these tables they also have a roaming camera that will pick out random people to have a down-down contest with each other. Throughout the evening they also do lots of crowd interaction activities on the stage, boat races, down-down competitions etc. Further afield they also had beer pong set up with an organised competition. you would think that the festival would attract mainly a foreign crowd but this was not the case. There were loads of Koreans sampling the brews and enjoying the festive atmosphere. Such an immersion of culture, with the Korean girls, dressed up in their cute little “dirndl”, the traditional Austrian/Bavarian women’s dress.
The village boasts a few German style restaurants that offer some really good food and beer on tap. During the festival, it is very difficult to get into these so plan ahead! Two that stood out in particular where Crunch Ro cafe. They served very good beer on tap as well as traditional German fare like sausages and pretzels filled with cream cheese. It is easily located as it has a huge windmill attached to the building. The other was Bayreuth, up in the main square, where we had a really tasty eisbein during the Oktoberfest.
We went to the festival with Enjoy Korea which worked out wonderfully as we didn’t have to worry about parking or transport etc on the night. The village gets really busy (especially during the festival) and all the roads are blocked off so you’ll have to walk quite a distance!
We’ve since been back to the village two more times and each time the place has been packed so if you do go I would suggest going early in the morning to avoid the crowds or get a taxi. As far as festivals in Korea are concerned, this was definitely the best one we’ve attended. There is also a museum dedicated to the history of the Korean workers who had gone to Germany, as well as a beautiful garden park called “House ‘n Garden”.
If you’re on Namhae for a weekend and are just looking for a way to spend the day go check out this fun little place – it’s like a free international trip!
Here’s a video of our fun trip here with Enjoy Korea in 2015
Hooray for public holidays and Buddha and his birthday… especially when you want to go somewhere far away in Korea and use public transport to get there! This day off in May was welcomed with open arms as it gave us the opportunity to make the seemingly endless bus trip from Busan to Sokcho on a Saturday morning. Giving us almost two full days in this seaside town.
Things started off a bit rocky though as we couldn’t book tickets for an overnight bus online while using the English website only to figure out too late that we needed to use the Korean site to make payments, by this time all the tickets were sold out. When we eventually got to Sokcho and wanted to check into our ‘confirmed’ guesthouse, only pay when you arrive no deposit needed, we were told our room had been given away as it was a long weekend and he had called our friend who made the booking and she hadn’t answered. We did eventually find a motel who agreed to house all 5 of us in single room with 4 beds. Was a bit squashed but manageable. (the owner/manager was also really friendly and gave us rice cakes)
Dinner that evening consisted of the famous, dakgangjeong (sweet and sour chicken). As for most famous things in Korea, this involved lining up in a queue at one of the many stores in the market, all selling the same style chicken! It was pretty damn good, though! This was followed by production line sandwich making for our hiking trip in the morning. We planned for an early start in the morning to head out to Seoraksan National Park (SNP).
The day started with a local bus to the park gates, we got there at about 7am. Surprisingly enough there were already lots of people!! We had scanned blogs, websites and brochures and decided on a hike up to Ulsanbawi rock for the morning. The 4km hike up takes roughly two hours to reach the peak. You can see a large amount of the park as well as all the way to the coast and the seaside town of Sokcho if it’s clear enough. This was quite a strenuous hike to the top and there were loads of stairs to climb up the rock face. The views at the top and the sense of achievement were well worth it though. This was also our first ‘real’ hike in Korea and we were very surprised at the amount of walkways, stairs and bathrooms along the way. As well as the beer/drinks/snacks for sale at the Buddhist temple halfway up and right at the top! Hiking in South Africa is very different.
After we made our way back down we needed some ice cream to recuperate and sort out the jelly legs!! Suitably refreshed we decided we hadn’t had enough for one day so we would attempt another hike, to Biryong Falls. A much less strenuous hike, but still scenic. It was quite an easy walk along a river running through the park and up to two waterfalls and back down again along the same route. Of course at the top we joined the rest of the hikers in taking off our shoes and socks and dipping our feet in the somewhat freezing pools. The scenery along the way was beautiful and I was constantly stopping to peer into the pools along the way to see how many fish I could spot.
After this we went and waited for our bus back to Sokcho and headed to the beach for a swim, the water was freezing though and we didn’t last very long even though the day had turned out quite warm. That evening we went for Shabu Shabu, which we felt we deserved after all the strenuous hiking. This was also our first introduction to SoMek (beer and soju mixed) which went down rather well.
Our bus back to Busan the next day was only in the afternoon so Kayley and I rented bicycles and rode around the Yeongnangho Lake for an hour or so. This is a naturally formed lake, with bicycle paths, walking bridges, sculptures, foot baths etc running just about all the way around the 7km perimeter. We were quite surprised to be stopped along the way by a Korean family who then handed us some juicy tomatoes to snack on. Since then we’ve experienced this kind of hospitality on countless occasions and find it to be a very endearing cultural trait!
The furtherest we had been away from “home” in Korea at this point. But what a great trip. WE have a little policy about not visiting a place more than once (only because there is just soooo much to see in this beautiful world) but we couldn’t get Seoraksan out of our heads, and had to try it again in the fall.
How do you feel about returning to places you’ve already been?