South Korea – SongJeong Beach

Haeundae, Busan, May 2017: Having hiked for about 50 minutes along an old railway line heading for Songjeong (Google Map) I’ve  come across a little fishing hamlet with a cute little harbour – an ideal place to take a rest for 1/2 an hour. Now though, time to make a move otherwise I might never get to Songjeong! Back uphill to the old rail track then and hopefully its just a shortish hike to the next beach.

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About 20 minutes of stumbling on those wooden sleepers and Songjeong comes into view and it looks pretty good from here. A nice crescent beach with just a few mini skyscrapers on the skyline. A sudden surge of energy and I’m closer to that beach than I thought!

Not as developed as Haeundae but considerably busier with folk milling around enjoying the afternoon sunshine! Development in progress though as there are a few cranes littering the skyline, nonetheless a very pleasant place to be – Songjeong Beach, South Korea is rapidly becoming one of my favourites. The place has a more traditional seaside feel, something I can’t say about neighbouring Haeundae.  As one comes to expect in Korea, food is everywhere along with a plethora of coffee shops including Starbucks. Predominantly seafood here along the beach front although there are a few vans hawking “Tea and Toast” rather expensively. So, with a concoction of spicy pasta in one hand a coffee in the other, time to pick a spot on the sew wall and scoff while watching a handful of surfers attempting to ride the wavelets rolling in.

Songjeong old station, worth a look while exploring the back streets. Unimposing and hard to imagine how thousands of holiday makers wold be able to cram into this small place. The last train rolled through here 2014 presumably then giving way to big development plans as some of the track has been removed. Plenty of originality still exists though with the station house being part museum and part craft centre.

Well, better get back to base at Haeundae. Bus or Hike? Bus, quite an easy decision since there’s only so much hiking and stomping one can do in a day! I have a feeling i’ll be back before I leave Busan. So while I wait for bus 181 here’s a few more scenes from Songjeong beach.

 

 

South Korea – The Way to Songjeong and a Little Fishing Hamlet

Haeundae, Busan, South Korea, May 2017:  Well, its not the kind of beach I can’t hang around on all day – no rustic shacks with cheap food and drinks here, so a quick glance at Google maps to inspire my next move. A hike to the next town along looks viable. About an hour I’d say, just have to climb the hill and cross the railway line at Mipo.

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Oh that railway line – the line I thought would carry me directly to Haeundae Beach Station. Look right and there are people walking on it, look left and a couple of half built skyscrapers pretty much where the line has been pulled up. Well, since the old railway line is now a hiking route connecting to the next town, I’d better get hiking along. Should be quite a scenic view of Haeundae as the route hugs the coastline, at least for the first 1/2 mile anyway. (Google Map)

Well, this is turning out quite nice, frequently glancing back. The views of Haeundae skyline are nothing short of spectacular. Reminds me of Singapore, Hong Kong and Benidorm (Google Map) all rolled into one!

As the line heads away from Haeundae town so the scenery changes – pine forests on the left with a rugged rocky coastline on the right. An occasional empty lookout tower surrounded by barbed wire suggests a more sinister side to the place – spies, smuggling maybe.

About halfway now according to my friend Google. This hike is taking longer than I thought, about 50 minutes thus far since leaving town and now its decision time- carry on or rest at the little fishing village here, on the right. (Google Map).  “Oh lets rest a while”, says my conscious and who am I to disagree! So as the old railway line intersects the main village street, a right turn down the slope towards the sea and a cute little harbour. The place has no nae, well, no English name anyway so for now lets just say I’m at a little fishing hamlet between Haeundae and Songjeong. About a dozen traditional style houses, a plethora of seafood restaurants and a ton of seaweed drying out by the harbour. Quite picturesque against the backdrop of the pines, very quiet as I sit by the lighthouse recovering, resting in the very cool sea breeze.

Next…Arriving Songjeong.

 

 

 

South Korea – Haeundae Beach Combing

Haeundae, South Korea, May 2017: Sun, sea, sand, skyscrapers and seafood pretty much sums up this place, ascertained within 20 seconds of arriving on the beach. Just a short stomp from the guesthouse, a largely deserted beach mid morning back end  of April – much too cold for a dip in the ocean. But the air is fresh, almost sweet to the taste then suddenly a whiff of fish aroma. Its actually quite refreshing to stomp around on the golden sand in almost complete isolation – no prostitutes, no massage girls and all the rest of it, no, just one big clean crescent shaped beach. End to end about 2 -3 miles and about 1/4 mile wide so plenty of room for the thousands of Koreans that flock here during the summer season. Personally, now is the perfect time to visit this Korean holiday hot spot. Why?, well just look at the photo below.

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Almost Empty!

Some unusual finds along the shore line. A clam, urchin, crazy seaweed and a hermit crab but sadly no gold coins! The beach ends at Mipo where for about £20 one can take a boat ride all the way towards the city during sunset, or observe fisherman mending nets or even faint at the very high price of seafood around here. To its credit, Mipo (Google Map) has the cheapest coffee by far and so with no hesitation time to sample a brew.

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All over Seoul and hopefully, all over Busan too. Americano coffee costs 3 x less than Starbucks!

So, that was a first look at Haeundae, and I have to say despite the plethora of skyscrapers the place has a certain appeal. quite why. well I don’t know as yet – a combination of factors undetermined!

Next… A hike to Beach Boys Town – Songjeong

South Korea – Moving to Haeundae Beach, Busan.

Haeundae, Busan, South Korea, May 2017:  On the move again, this time its the city of Busan. Korea’s 2nd city and just 4 hours South of Andong. Easy enough to get to from the local train station here in Andong – just roll up 30 minutes before departure, buy the ticket with a credit card and jump on one of 3 trains for Busan. It’s a local train, 14,000 Won single ticket leaving at 11.50 arriving in the Busan suburb of Haeundae around 4 PM. So, armed with a tray of Korean chicken for lunch and enough tea to last 4 hours time to settle in, load the Ipod and wake-up in Haeundae.

How to get from Haeundae New Town to Haeundae Beach: Now this is where its all going a little awry as the train approaches Haeundae. Closely following Google Maps, its clear this train isn’t going to the Beach Station but to another station right on the Northern edge of the suburb – somewhat disconcerting since the place is a fair distance from the beach and my accommodation! Thankfully the 3 staff members loitering around the ticket office spend 10 minutes debating the issue then come to a consensus – I need to take a bus! Bus 181 from an obscure location somewhere along an equally obscure street, obscure to the first time visitor of course. So, stomping around between the hi-rises in the hope of locating this bus stand –  armed with the vaguest of instructions, all the ingredients for a pricey taxi ride.

Well, thankfully the bus stand appeared (Google Map) and as if my magic so did bus 181. Now all I’ve got to do is get off at the right stop – oh I wish I could read Korean! About 30 minutes to the Haeundae Beach stop, located next to the Haeundae \Subway which is next to the original train station (now disused) – oh well, got there in the end! (Google Map)

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South Korea – Andong, The End

Andong, South Korea. April 2017: As this visit to Andong draws to a close, here’s a few random sets of photos that didn’t fit within the blog ramblings previously.

A Very Old House: While on a local stomp I discovered this derelict old house. I’m no architectural expert but I’d say this is/was a traditional Korean style house and judging by the iron work on the front door, probably of some historic value.

 

Pensioner Power: Visitors to Korea will surely notice the gangs of pensioners that roam the streets during daylight hours! Here in Andong, from around 11 AM every day they’ll gather outside the town park function rooms and will still be there at 4 PM. Extraordinarily, they all look the same – same height, about 4 ft 8, bow legged and dyed black curly hair styles.

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Poking around the Railway Station: Rolling stock that clearly hasn’t rolled in a while might provide some interest for railways fans with a spare 20 minutes. Andong station is small with no officials to hinder their wanderings into areas not normally frequented by a white tourist.

 

More Old Houses: Clearly a preservation order keeps these very old houses in tip top condition. Essentially it’s a long-house divided into rooms with a courtyard and more very old rooms. A quick poke around here reveals evidence of overnight habitation – no beds, just a thin 1/2 inch mattress on the wooden floor. Situated on the edge of town, almost the last buildings heading out towards the Andong Dam.

 

Here, the final set of images from Andong. A stroll towards the river, a random route taking me under the railway line and across the towns 8 lane boulevard. Very little traffic, zero tourists and generally very quiet on a warm Tuesday afternoon. Nonetheless a parking enforcement car finds a violator to deal with. Any stroll around Andong will see wall art –  it’s everywhere and pretty good too. Nothing like the scribble and garbage we have to endure in the west, no, these seem to be rather more professional murals. They certainly look good and add to the towns character for sure!

And so ends this visit to Andong. I’d say well worth staying here for a week if only to experience the quieter side of Korean culture – ideal for those that need to take some time out from a hectic metropolis.

NEXT STOP: BUSAN

South Korea – Andong Town Centre

CAUTION: This post contains images likely to cause distress to vegetarians, vegans, animal rights/welfare and those who may find cultural differences beyond White lands disturbing.

Andong, South Korea, April 2017: As this short visit to Andong comes to an end, lets take a look around the actual town and hopefully readers to this post will get a flavour and feel of a Korean town as opposed to the giant metropolis of its capital – Seoul.

The town centre is small so small that really anyone could traverse the place in about 20 minutes. Centred opposite the railway station its easy enough to stroll the almost deserted pedestrianized streets. A street dedicated to foodies with little sign of Americanisation, while the next street is a delight for those followers of fashion. Then just further along, a covered street with a kind of market feel, although its not a traditional market in the usual sense, but a few shops with goods spilling into the pavements while in the centre, a host of greasy street food stands. stall after stall of deep fried foods covered is a light batter. Processed frozen foods – sausages, fish. Some of it comes boiled, about £1 per item.

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Korean Fish Cake – freshly frozen, tasteless although there is a soy and chilli sauce one can dip into! nearly as bad as crabsticks….

Shop-a-holics in search of high-end glitzy malls will be sorely disappointed here in the town centre. So far the closest one will get to a mall is the local department store – Home Plus, for everything anyone could ever need and conveniently situated near the station. As with everywhere in South Korea, the place is pricey, although from around 7PM shoppers can pickup the odd food bargain.

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Andong has its traditional market, bit of a stomp west. Not much gong on on a weekday afternoon but as ever an interesting 10-15 minutes look around at the strange, often weird goings on around the stock pots.

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South Korea – An Abandoned Village, Andong

Andong, South Korea, April 2017: Having crossed the river on the wooden Pagoda bridge, ones instincts are to take the left hand path. about 5 minutes of a stroll between the rive, some deep rustic coloured maples and a rather large pine forest cladding the hill. I’m heading towards what looks like a village, a hamlet of straw thatch dwellings extending up the hillside, very similar to those I saw yesterday at the Hahoe folk village.

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Unlike Hahoe, this place feels an element of authenticity. Clearly the village isn’t lived in, used, worked, whatever authenticity might mean here, but I’d say these dwellings were originally in the valley and moved before the place was flooded. Quiet, calm with just a handful of Koreans stomping up the hillside. So, lets take a look around this abandoned village – abandoned to the changing landscape of progress.

So, for a moment transport yourself back a few decades, and imagine the scene here as it might have been 1900’s.

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Its a wonderful view, looking back down the hill over the village and towards the river. further up and more evidence exists of past civilisation around here. A grand set of steps leading onto a plateau – here one can imagine a compound of dwellings for clan leaders, important folk.

Well, that was pretty nice. A few good photo opportunities without thousands of tourists in the way, without getting run down by pensioners electric carts and without those tacky gift shops, expensive restaurants. No this place obviously has been left with as much originality and authenticity as possible – well done to the gate keepers!

Getting here:  About 45 minutes walk from town or bus No. 3 or 3-1 from near Andong railway station  stops at the wooden bridge, 1200 Won fare.

Cost: Nothing. Free to cross the wooden bridge, free to walk around the village.

Eat and drink:  A host of restaurants and coffee shops before crossing the bridge, not cheap though. Nothing near the village.

Where is it? :   Google Map

Verdict: A delightful, non-touristy experience. 5 star recommendation

South Korea – Pagoda Bridge, Andong.

Andong, South Korea, April 2017: Today’s plan, a short hike over to the bridge I spotted a few days ago as the train rolled in. Significant because its wooden and has a pagoda at its centre and means some historic value presumably.. Since the weather is nice, warm and blue sky, now is a good time to go and check it out. Its not far, just along the river about a 30 minute hike I’d say. (Google Map)

Its a pleasant hike beside the Nakdong river sharing the purpose built path with Lycra clad cyclists. A scenic photo opportunity with a green hilly background, the clear blue river and the wooden pagoda bridge.

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Well, its taken longer than I thought, probably because I’ve lingered a little to much admiring the scenery! About 40 minutes to reach a recreational area from where the bridge can be crossed. First though, a quick coffee from one of the plethora of shops, cafes and restaurants around here (Google Map) A very pleasant area where Korean families come to enjoy their Sunday lunch and get a little exercise afterwards by crossing the bridge and back!. And its a pretty nice place to grab some scenic photos too….

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Spotted across the river, halfway up a hill is a traditional type house worthy of closer look and a good enough reason to stomp across this wooden slatted bridge. So, according to the above tourist information below used to be a valley with dwellings until one day a dam was constructed further up. Now what we really have here is a flooded valley and it all happened in recent times, about 1950. Its a long bridge and I suppose the pagoda in the middle is for rest!

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At the bridges end, turning right will take a board walk back to town while heading left takes us to those houses, the old fashioned ones spotted earlier. Well, no contest, lets explore the old houses.

Next, exploring an abandoned village…

South Korea – Hahoe Folk Village, Andong Part 2

Andong, South Korea, April 2017:  Having endured 40 minutes of an hour long Mask Dance show, time to move on. Quite interesting for the first 20 minutes but unless one has a Korean interpreter around then the thing can become somewhat tedious. So its off to the famed Hahoe Folk Village to presumably see the folk! (Google Map)

As the crowds head off through the village I’m heading off to the fields on the edge. The rural landscape with a hilly backdrop makes for a couple of nice photos. Very quiet, peaceful infact as there’s no sign of life at the nearby farmsteads. Now wouldn’t you at least expect some chooks to be running around the yard!

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Moving further along and one stumbles on a little church. Maybe its a preserved relic or perhaps its still used, hard to tell, but it makes for a pretty unusual photo.

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Yes, quite a picturesque scene here, with giant bees buzzing in and out, a few wasps and several butterflies, but no sign of theses folk! Moving on then and its getting just a bit busier as the pathways meander towards the village centre. Squealing kids and a gaggle of pensioners on scooters almost running me down.

IMG_4251 In reality there isn’t a great deal of visibility as most of the properties are obscured by high walls. So, if one is really keen of seeing straw thatched roofs then come here, your in for a treat! Occasionally, one comes across a property that visitors can actually see, well, at least the full frontal, but dare not step over the rope barrier!

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Actually, the guard dog here looks quite placid, part of the deception perhaps. Here’s a few more photos of the Hahoe Village….

Complete with village shop – only this shop isn’t selling commodities and necessaries, instead visitors will find a host of knickknacks and souvenirs. so, right now I’m cutting this visit short and going to head for an earlier than planned bus, because quite frankly I’ve had enough. My earlier skepticism about the place hasn’t diminished any. To label the Hahoe folk village as ‘Authentic’ is perhaps misleading. Certainly evidence of some habitation here but I suspect in the main were looking at preserved relics and some reconstructions from times past, hence 3000 Won to see it all!

Getting here: Bus No.46 from near Andong train station, 1200 Won each way

Cost: 3000 Won to enter.

Food and Drink: Expensive restaurant in the village, other options near the ticket office.

NOTE: The mask dance (read Here) only performs Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in the summer months, then just weekends through the winter.

South Korea – Hahoe Folk Village, Andong Part 1

Andong, South Korea, April 2017:  The Hahoe village is a big thing around here – gets a big splash on the tourist literature and a Google search reveals all good things said about the place. Its billed as an authentic living village and even the United Nations Cultural Department have put their stamp on the place. Personally, I treat these situations with a degree of skepticism as at this moment in time tourist trap alarm bells are sound off, and quite loudly. So, if the United Nations like the place it must be good – right! Well, lets go and see!

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Easy enough getting there. There’s no bus station as such in Andong with all the public transport loitering outside or near the train station. Hop onto bus 46, pay 1200 Won, about £1 and in 50 minutes we should arrive at Hahoe Village.

That sinking feeling tempers my enthusiasm for this trip as the buss rolls up to a giant car park and crowds of people scurrying to board the shuttle bus into the village. 3000 Won to stroll the streets of a village as the queues for tickets grows. Yes, I knew in the back of my mind this might be some kind of a set up! But now I’m here, I’d better make he most of it.

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Well, at least we get a cultural performance thrown in which might me interesting. They call it a ‘Mask Dance’ and is quite a famous tradition attributed to Andong.  So now would be a good time to pitch up in the theater and stake my place since I can see there being some jostling for spots later, especially among some of the bad tempered pensioners shuffling around the place!

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In England, we’d call this a pantomime, but before the performance a preamble. Unfortunately for me it’s all in Korean but one would assume its all about setting the scene and explaining the various masks – ranging from an amusing a-sexual to the downright hideous male. Its an odd story with equally odd antics abound, somewhat concerning at times since there are so many little kids watching. Concerning because we have a cow urinating on the audience, then a character pretending to butcher the cow and if that’s not enough out comes an old hag, squats and urinates while an equally hideous old timer go’s to sniff the said urine. The audience though are delighted with the performance, laughing, clapping merrily. Oh, id better mention the urination scenes were just water – I think! Well, I’ve just about had enough and its time to make a quick exit.

In part 2.. a look around the supposedly authentic living village.