Thailand – Beach, Airport and Russians, Phuket

Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand, May 2017: To find a clean beach around here takes some effort. After having arrived here a day or 2 ago only to be greeted by the dirtiest beach I’ve seen anywhere in Asia – even the beaches in Sihanoukville, Cambodia are cleaner then here! So after a few hours of exploration here’s how to find a clean beach, close to Nai Yang, on foot and without paying a 200 baht fee.

  1. Just before the pay booth there’s a road between 2 sections of jungle. Take this for about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Take the next track on the right by a gate. It meanders towards the middle section of Nai Yang’s beach, about another 10 minutes.
  3. Head North towards the airport and after 20 minutes the garbage is gone, and so are the tourists.
  4. Another 10 -15 minutes north and the airport runway appears and so do a few tourists, the beach isn’t perfect here but not bad either.
  5. Another 10 minutes and there’s a near perfect spot and populated with plenty of vacationing Russians. A fallen log, a swing seat and a hammock to share between about 20 – but its still better than Nai Yang’s dirty beach. A lunch time the place empties and one has that dessert island feel. Here’s a few pictures….

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So with some effort, there is a clean beach, not that far from Nai Yang and if one likes aeroplanes then here it’s the perfect combination. Bring supplies since the beach sellers are somewhat unreliable, in short supply. and are really only limited to coconuts and instant noodles. Personally, I fill up at breakfast time – easy for me because I’m non-alcoholic thus no hangovers ūüôā .

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South Korea – The Last Post from Haeundae, Busan.

Haeundae, Busan, May 2017: ¬†As this visit to Haeundae draws to a close, here’s a selection of photos that really didn’t fit within the main flow of jottings. So then the last jottings from Haeundae, Busan.

The old Haeundae Station:¬†Opened mid-thirties and closed around 2013-2014 when a new station was built on the edge of town. Shame because this station has character and is just a short walk from the beach. What remains is the ghostly appearance of an old station house, boarded up windows and weeds vigorously taking hold. The railway lines are being excavated, turned into a cycle path down-track towards Busan, while the pressure of development encroaches ever closer up-track towards Songjeong. The long concrete platforms are still intact for now at least, still with the familiar yellow do not cross lines now fading. All that’s left is a small section of track right outside the station house as though a dedication to the millions of Koreans that must have pounded the concrete since 1934.

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Fast Food, Slow Food, Food for Dogs:¬†The food culture here is quite an experience for the uninitiated average white tourist! From the indescribable, such as those pink slugs to the downright bizarre – cows blood soup. I have to say I’m not that adventurous or never that hungry that I need to try ‘Cow Blood Soup’. I got to liking ‘Kimbap’ – essentially rice wrapped in a seaweed leaf and crab stick vegetables through the middle. Once the crab-stick is removed its quite a tasty dish. So, for about 4500 KRW about ¬£3 I settled on noodle soup and Kimbap. So, first sightings outside the UK for me are the Macdonald’s home delivery mopeds, a Starbucks drive through and a dog cafe where one can indulge the poodle with, well, Cow Blood Soup of course!

Here’s a look at Haeundae before the advent of skyscrapers. These were fixed to the compound walls of a construction sight and gives one a little insight into the story of mass development.

And to finish with lets enjoy the Haeundae Sunset…

Next stop – back to Seoul.

South Korea – Haeundae, Songjeong

Haeundae, Busan, South Korea, May 2017:¬†A cold fresh morning here on Haeundae Beach. The wind is strong, the waves are big with sea spray making distant views rather hazy. Its my penultimate day here, and I need something to occupy it with. Having seen everything that’s worth seeing I think a return visit to Songjeong will just about hit the spot! First lets go and look at those big waves crashing violently on the shore line. Plenty of folk up early, braving a dip in the ocean. Its the weekend and a public holiday so the place I daresay will be packed later.

Last time I hiked to Songjeong (Read about that here) the route followed a disused railway line. This time I’ll take the official road, elevated and next to the pine forest. About 25 minutes and one leaves behind the bustle of Haeundae to arrive at peace and quiet, broken only by the occasional kids squeal. Diversions are frequently encountered – I mean hiking trails. Yes, what seems to be a Korean tradition to ensure ones health, trails and paths exist with well signed arrow heads pointing up and down into the pine forests. Me, well i’m going to stick to the black top road, hopefully get some nice ocean views. Quite often one frequently encounters a pagoda, and here’s one now. 720 steps up but the view will be nice according to the sign!

Leaving behind the metropolis and arriving into peace and quiet….

And the views from that pagoda, 720 steps up…

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A little bit misty for clear views but still pretty good from here. Now though time to get back to the road and continue on to Songjeong and it’s wonderful beach. The road is still elevated and around this next corner I should hopefully see Songjeong, the town and that nice big beach. Yes, there it is. Plenty going on by the looks of things, not far now then. Looking down here, there’s a little area of allotments making for a nice photo, just by the little fishing hamlet described an earlier visit. (Read here)

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And so back again on Songjeong Beach. The advantage over Haeundae is the ability to have lunch and drink coffee while still just a stones throw from the ocean. In Haeundae, its all miles away and expensive too. A rough sea, plus holiday weekend brings out hundreds of surfers and this time some pretty decent waves to ride in on. Fun to watch while sipping coffee and nibbling on some indescribable food. This is nice, relaxing in the warm sunshine – I’ll stay here for a while.

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Heading back, on the bus since I’ve done quite enough stomping around for today. The 181 rolls up along the main street, 1200 KRW, and its about 25 minutes to Haeundae Beach and base camp.

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 Рmuch 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 Рno 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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Philippines – El Nido, Golden Hour at Corong-Corong

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines, May 2016. El Nido’s West facing coast means only one thing – sunsets, and good ones too. With those islands turning to shadows against the golden hue of sunset, well, what can one say other than awesome. And once the suns down, up comes the boom boom base for a night of debauchery. Sex on the beach is quite popular around here I gather – I mean the cocktail.

As the sunsets in the Philippines… Which is your favorite image?

 

 

Philippines – Puerto Princesa, A Deserted Beach

Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines, May 2016.¬†There are a couple of beach options within stomping distance of the city according to google maps: Kalayaan Beach by the airport runway and Hartman Beach 1/2 a mile further North. As Kalayaan is the closest i’ll head¬†there first and see how the beach shapes up. Its another hot day, actually its getting a little too hot I have to admit, but the thought of a cooling sea breeze later keeps the stomping spirit going full force!

That stomping spirit i mentioned earlier is beginning to wain. Google maps is out of date – the road I need has a new airport being built across it. A detour then leads to a military gatehouse where the guard kindly explains that Kalayaan Beach is a ‘No Go’ area – period. I didn’t argue and somewhat frustrated stomped off in quite a bad mood, I will admit. Oh well, a little more stomping required to find the next beach – hopefully!

Quite a nice walk as it happens along stony ¬†little lanes in a rather picturesque little village called ‘San Miguel’. Wooden houses, palm thatched dotted among the coconut trees. Splendid villas with a distinct continental design and numerous grocery shops along the main street where kids are running around playing games – yes, even in this heat. A look at Filipino village life, the real Philippines I suspect.

Hartman Beach isn’t going to win best Asian beach award, that’s pretty obvious with washed up garbage littering the place. There’s also a carpet of brown weed type vegetation – but underneath it all there is actually white sand! Hike away from the village and the place becomes more sand and less weeds and its deserted, surprising given the place is so close to the city! not a tourist in sight, not even a shack or a beach seller. With the shallow waters reflecting blues and greens, with the coconut palms swaying in the breeze and with the little boats sitting peacefully in the calm its a truly tropical scene. Well worth the long hard hike to get here. Solitude – its just me and the beach, oh and some local kids who want to say hi and pose for photos.

The real Philippines – turquoise sea, beach with some garbage, coconut palms and fishing boats. Oh, and kids playing with their homemade toys, Hartman Beach, San Miguel, Philippines. Google Map.

 

Taiwan – Hualien, When The Sun Shines

Hualien, Taiwan, April, 2016.When the sun shines over Hualien its a cause for celebration. There’s a whole new perspective across the city today, a sparkle that uplifts the soul. When that happens, well I just have to get on the cycle and ride until I can’t ride anymore.

Fraylin, my Airbnb host has kindly provided me with a cycle, not some broken down wreck but a pretty good mountain bike with plenty of gears! And while the sun shines, so does the bike and we’ll head in the direction of the beach, keeping an eye out for breakfast en-route.

Turning left on 2 wheels is a precarious business around here Рfirst veer right into a waiting box, and that road you wanted to turn left into is now straight ahead. When the light is green, go like the wind!

The beach actually lies next to Hualien airbase which I quite like – planes provide something else to look at, and air force jets especially can be exciting as a good view across the airfield can be gained from a viewing platform next to the cliffs. Look the other way and there is the Pacific Ocean in various shades of blue. And look in another direction to see the mountains towering above. Yes, a very scenic spot just 30 minutes bike ride from the city. The area is undeveloped, quiet on the whole with a couple of rundown looking hotels and a backpackers lodge. Yes, it pretty quiet around here and it looks like finding lunch might be a struggle.

The beach, well its not going to win any awards that’s for sure. A volcanic beach with black sand and boulders with plenty of garbage littering the fringes. But at least its a beach the those tones of Pacific Ocean blue are quite mesmerizing. Here’s a few photos. Oh and apparently the place is a decent surfing spot.