Songjeong Beach: A Mini-Vacation and An October Swim

Hey so, we now live in a beach town! I’m so excited about it, because I’ve always loved the beach and never lived near one. Even though we’re working a lot of hours at our hagwon job, we can go to the beach on a weeknight if we want to. It’s a bit like a mini-vacation any day, with free beaches and very cheap treats from the GS25 convenience stores.

But sometimes the most famous beach in Korea (Haeundae Beach) is just too busy. Sometimes Gwangalli is just a little too foreigner-y despite its endearing grungy edge. Songjeong Beach (송정해수욕장) is a quiet alternative that we tried out today as a belated 29th birthday mini-trip.

It’s easy to get there, and very quiet compared to the bigger city beaches downtown. We took the subway and then a city bus, and it took only about 45 minutes from our apartment. Songjeong Beach is clean, very quiet, and friendly. It feels like a real beach town, with a Northern California vibe. The beach is packed with surfing shops and clubs, and people were in the water all day long catching waves and teaching lessons. We will definitely give surfing a try while we live in Busan.

Due to a minor health complication I hadn’t been allowed to swim for a month, so this was the first opportunity for me to go into the sea and not just look at it longingly. We drew some funny looks from the Korean surfers since we weren’t in wet suits, but it wasn’t really needed unless you wanted to take a long swim. To be fair, it is mid-October and the wind was pretty chilly, but the water wasn’t all that cold and it was really nice to take a short dip. Much, much warmer than a summer’s jump into an Icelandic Lake.

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If you come to Busan (and you definitely should, as it kicks arse), you should give a thought to spending a day at Songjeong Beach. You can apparently hike there from Jangsan Station as well, which we will post when we have done.

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I’m so excited to live in a beach town.

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How to get to Songjeong Beach: Take Line 2 (Light Green) to Jangsan Station. Use Exit 9 and take the 139 or 180 city bus. Listen carefully for the stop, since it is all in Korean. It’s the first one after the tunnel. You can also take the 1001 express bus or the 100-1, but as I’m not too sure where the stops are for them I haven’t included instructions here. 

Beach Yesterday, Mountains today

We took our first trip to Haeundae Beach yesterday, one of the most famous in Korea. It was a great beach! We’ll go swimming in a couple weeks after I heal up fully from a minor medical procedure, and definitely go back for more craft beer and seafood.

Today, we took the cablecar up a mountain at Geumgang Park. It goes high above the city and gives you a great view. We could see Gwangalli Beach, Haeundae Beach, our neighbourhood, and many ones that we still need to explore. So excited to live in such a great place.

The Adventures of Raisins, the Icelandic Sheep in Korea

We helped to hand-raise a sheep in Iceland this summer called Raisins. She is a runty sheep, with a funky face and an easily-upset tummy that made us fairly convinced she wouldn’t survive. Despite a run-in with some dumb French Scouts who gave her an unwanted haircut, she made it through the summer and should still be munching grass near camp even as we speak.

Russ found Raisins’ doppleganger in the airport when we were leaving on 27 August. We’ve decided to have a series of posts with Raisins going on adventures in Korea. Tonight, our trip to Haeundae Beach.

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Here’s the real Raisins for reference:

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She’s the small, runty one. 

Reykjavik Weekend: Pretending We Live Here

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Some shots from our weekend in Reykjavik. It was nice to have a short break before the scout jamboree!

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Reykjavik is such a cool city. There is art everywhere, for free, on the walls and down alleyways. The Airbnb place we stayed is is a neighborhood with lots of families and was only a 25 minute walk to downtown.

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A pallet-themed art installation and bar (which was closed!) 

Sometimes Reykjavik feels like my childhood. That seems to be a theme of Iceland this summer. The mall’s food court in particular felt a bit like walking into 1996, in such a good nostalgic way.

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I’ll be writing a couple Beer in Situ posts in coming days about the craft beer places we visited in town, but here is a little preview. Skull and Micro Bar as both great, but man are prices steep in Iceland!

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We had our fair share of awesome free things to do as well. The city’s free public beach was a great stop, on the sea and with geothermal pools to dip into. The sea wasn’t even that cold!

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At the beach!

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I spent the last little bit of our time in Reykjavik at the Notte in Mood station, wandering around the supermarket on a quiet Sunday. It took me about 20 minutes to buy two sodas and a bar of chocolate. Why?

I was pretending that I live here.

Maybe someday.

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Sanya: Beach Break

We had a great little holiday for about a week at Sanya, the Southernmost city in China. It’s on the Island of Hainan, and is further south than Hanoi. It’s a beautiful island, and we needed a little sun and sea after a year of working our arses off teaching.

It’s a tropical place, with coconuts everywhere. The food from the island itself is delicious and unique. Sanya4

It was beautiful and so relaxing. We had no worries except what to eat! For the first six days we stayed at Sanya Backpackers, which is a nice hostel. We sweltered in the tropical heat, but on the third day we walked 12km around the city, trying to get to a mountain park ostensibly close by. We eventually found it and had a nice walking tour of some non-touristy areas.

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The beach is great, and despite the constant warnings in Chinese and the signs everywhere saying that swimming is strictly prohibited, very safe. There are occasional riptides (as at most beaches), but it seems that the warnings are more meant for the large numbers of Chinese who are not strong swimmers. People wearing inner tubes and floating along with a clear inability to swim made me a little nervous, but for those who swim well the water is perfectly normal.

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Do listen to the lifeguards, though. They are there to help.

There is a great beachfront bar called Surf Circus, run by several transplanted Italians. The staff are super friendly and the beers are cheap. They also have well-prepared and tasty snack foods like pizza and sandwiches. They rarely seemed to close, so drop by for conversation and fun!

We also went to a ‘Hot Spring’ in the area away from the beach. It is not a natural hot spring, but NanTian was nice anyway. There are more than 40 different pools to try out, and many of the pools have Traditional Chinese medicines in them. My personal favourite was the Lemon Pool, followed closely by the Fish pool. Yes, Fish pool.

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They come over and eat the dead skin off of you! It was so ticklish as to be painful, but really fun.

Beautiful flowers fall from the trees all the time, and I used them in my hair. 1940s-style!

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Hair styled for the heat

At the end of our trip we moved to the Sunshine Intime resort, a Chinese Five-Star hotel down the road nearer to the beach. It is something that we like to do about once or twice a year, to treat ourselves to something we normally couldn’t afford. The room was much bigger and the place was very nice. They even gave us shell keychains as souvenirs with the afternoon turn-down service!

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Shell Keychain

It was a great holiday, and I highly recommend Sanya to anyone in the region. Families are definitely welcome at this beach, too! So man sweet little potato heads running around and having a great beach time.

Have you been to Sanya? Where do you go to relax?