Gaga for Gyeongpodae
Summer in Seoul sucks. A month of monsoon rain, high temperatures and grey skies in July is followed by a month of sometimes sunny skies and 100% humidity, without rain. Yes, it is possible for it to be 100% humidity outside and NOT rain, which translates into damp clothes soaked in sweat the second you leave any manner of air conditioned comfort. I couldn’t believe it either.
To add an extra layer of dampness to an already sweaty situation, Seoul’s population seems to magically double in the summertime. In August, you couldn’t walk 3 paces without rubbing against someone else’s sweaty body in Gangnam. Eww. (Damn you and your damn song, Psy!)
Usually, we get ourselves the hell out of Seoul for a few weeks to cope, but this year, we decided to stick it out. Something about already having traveled around the world for a year…
By the time September rolled around however, we were suffering from cabin fever, at each other’s throats and desperate for some time by the sea. So, we finally gave back in to our travel temptations, filled up our trusty RTW backpack with beachwear, badminton rackets, a volleyball and headed east to the small city of Gangneug on the east coast of Korea. Our final destination for the weekend: Gyeongpo Beach (경포대).
And was it ever a beauty! A quiet, peaceful golden sanded 4km beach, backed by fresh pine trees and facing the massive Pacific Ocean, I felt as though my eyes were deceiving me. The water was such a glorious shade of blue, that I couldn’t quite believe we were still in Korea.
We spent the weekend doing nothing but lounging around on the spotless beach, drinking lattes on Cafe Bene’s balcony overlooking the sea, playing round after round of intense Albanian card games and indulging in haemultang 해물탕 (spicy seafood stew), fresh kalbi 갈비 and samgyeopsal 삼겹살 (beef and pork belly bbq). I could easily have spent a week there, breathing in the fresh sea-soaked air and gazing at the tranquil beach.
Unfortunately responsibility beckoned us back to Seoul too soon. At least we returned blissfully rejuvenated.
Had we known that this absolute gem of a beach existed not 2.5 hours away from the hustle, bustle and densely populated metropolis of Seoul, we would’ve spent many more weekends there. But alas, despite having lived in Korea for the last 4 years, we’d fallen into the classic trap of looking far outside our own backyard for travel opportunities.
In doing so, we’ve had the unforgettable experience of ranging all over Asia – from Thailand to Borneo to China and back again many times, and it’s been nothing short of fantastic. Of course, we’ll never lose the urge to travel far from home and to discover the unknown; it’s in our blood after all; but this past weekend in Gyeongpodae reminded us that there’s still a lot to see in the country in which we live. And we’ve been seriously slacking.
Getting to Gyeongpodae from Seoul
Travel in South Korea is super easy and convenient, even if you can’t speak Korean. Unless it’s a holiday weekend, you can usually just show up at the appropriate bus terminal, get a ticket to your location and board a bus within 30 minutes.
Korean buses are super modern and comfortable, usually with wide business class style seats, air conditioning or heating as appropriate and run exactly on time. The bus will make enough rest stops, so there’s no need to worry about hunger pangs or needing the bathroom.
To get to Gyeongpodae, go to the Dong (East) Seoul Bus Terminal, across the street from Exit 3 of Gangbyeon (강변) subway station on Line 2. Ask for tickets to Gangneung (강릉), which is the closest city to Gyeongpodae. From Gangneung, you can take a 15 minute, 7,000 krw (approximately $7) to the beach, or take public bus #202.
If you get lost or confused, there’s a Tourist Information Centre, just outside of the Gangneung Inter-City Bus Terminal, where you can ask questions.
Our tickets from Seoul to Gangneung cost 14,800 krw, and the ride took 2.5 hours.
Accommodation in Gyeongpodae
We booked a pension in advance, at a cost of 90,000 krw per night, for 4 people. It was clean and comfortable enough, and a pleasant 10 minute walk around the artificial lake to the beach.
Once we arrived however, we realized that we should’ve just shown up and found something on the fly. There’s a line of hotels facing the sea, and given that it was low season and practically deserted on the beach, it would’ve been easy to lay our heads where we could fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves. Not to mention, more blissful.