* This post is written by Hallie Bradley, one of the Korea Blog’s Worldwide Korea Bloggers 2013.
When summer hits Seoul, it sometimes seems that the population in the city doubles with the arrival. People that had hidden inside from the cold are out and about and places that seemed like hidden gems are swarming with people. All of the hubbub can be overwhelming and too noisy for this girl so a quick trip away to reboot and breathe some fresh salty air is usually what’s on my mind. This week a friend and I headed to Gangneung (강릉), Korea to find a beach, eat some salt water tofu and learn about gramophones.
Gangneung offers something for everyone with beaches, lakes, a long history, a national park and delicious food and since it’s easily accessible from Express Bus Terminal, it’s really a must visit. We got up early and caught a bus to Gangneung Intercity Bus Terminal and three hours later we’d arrived. Outside of the terminal, we jumped right onto bus 202 got off at the last stop and the next thing we knew we were standing on the beach. Gyeongpo Beach stretches six kilometers and is formed between the ocean and Gyeongpo Lake (경포 호수). This makes it an especially appealing vacation spot as the lake is surrounded by a lovely bike path and marshy walking trails, two great options for days that are too overcast to enjoy the sea.
The white sand beach is backed by a wall of pine trees (Editor’s note : the pines prevent the sands from travelling too far into mainland and expanding the sand banks) with a wooden plank path that winds down the coast. The water is a mix of beautiful shades of blue that was clear all the way down to our feet on the ocean floor. Though the water was still a bit chilly, we dove in and splashed around. We weren’t the only ones in the water, university students that have finished up their semester were also in groups along the beach renting tubes, riding banana boats and speeding by on jet skis. Groups of students came for beach fun by day and sparkler fun by night, but also in the mix were numerous couples hand in hand or riding tandem bikes in the area known as a romantic destination. In the spring the lake is surrounded by cherry blossoms and the saying goes “you can see the moon five times here, in the sky, in the sea, in the lake, in your glass and in the eyes of your lover.” Gyeongpo certainly has something for everyone.
We spent the first day at the beach and ended it by eating shellfish and grilled shrimp at one of the numerous beachfront restaurants lining the strip. As it’s not yet high season, it seemed that our restaurant servers were in eager spirits and not only paid quite a bit of attention to our grill, slicing and dicing our fishy goods when needed, they also provided us with an extra service of shrimp and shellfish on the house. With bellies full we hopped into a local convenience store to buy some fireworks because a day at the beach would not be complete in Korea without some sparkly lights in the night sky. Again surprised with local friendliness, the shopkeeper loaned us her lighter instead of making us buy one and gave us two noisy fireworks for free. It was a perfect ending to a day on the beach away from the ruckus of city streets.
Directions from Seoul: Get a bus from Express Bus Terminal to Gangneung Intercity Bus Terminal (~W20,000). From Gangneun Terminal, catch bus 202 (~W1,200) outside and take it to Gyeongpodae (경포대).
*Editor’s note : Gyeongpo beach is more commonly known as Gyeongpodae to Koreans, which is a historic pavillion overlooking the lake. This beach is often the beach Seoulites in TV drama series, drive off to when in need of a fresh breath of air in the middle of the night and arrive at dawn. An approximate three hour drive away from Seoul, it offers deep blue waters in contrast with white sands and dark green pines. The refreshing sounds of crashing waves and swaying trees are it’s traits unlike the beaches in the west coast (Yellow Sea) and the ones in the south like Haeundae.
Gangneung City Tourism Website : http://www.gntour.go.kr/eng/main.jsp
Korea Tourism Organization Webpage on Gangneung : http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264253
Wikipedia on Gangneung : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangneung