I suppose the title is a bit misleading. You can camp all sorts of places in Korea for absolutely free. As an American, this one definitely surprised me. I’m used to fees, restrictions, and liabilities like you couldn’t believe.
However, a few weeks ago, I was randomly asked on a camping trip by a friend. What? Where? How random!
It was suggested that we go to some island called Taean-gun, as Korea is a peninsula with all these tiny islands surrounding it. Would getting here be a nightmare? I had no idea what to expect.
Getting to Taean-gun was easy enough. I just hopped on the subway to Nambu Bus Terminal. The kiosk had an English option, but I was still stuck playing Korean charades (an embarrassing game for me and a hilarious one for you to watch!). Turns out there was only a one way option at 8,000 won. Not bad! I decided that I would take it. I had nothing to lose on my mystery island weekend. In the true worst case scenario, I had a large backup battery charger, my kindle, and a cab would set me back about $150? I was ready for the magic to unfold.
I arrive to the Taean-gun bus station and award myself with some rather delicious 4,000 won bus station Naengmyeon. Getting a return ticket to Seoul was doable, but now I was off to the final destination: Kkotji Beach. An additional 4,000 won, more Korean charades, lots of stares at super waygooky me (probably only one in a handful they’ve seen all year), and off I went.
I’m sure you can surmise that I’m glad I did this.
This place is underrated, but it has a lot of strengths.
I think going towards the end of a warm September during a pandemic certainly helped. It was the perfect day for walking in the sand and just people watching. I arrived too late to see the people digging for clams, but I was lucky enough to view it the next morning.
In typical Korean fashion, there’s always some cafe abound, and it was nice to have a coffee and feel the warm breeze. I have to be honest, though, there wasn’t much around. Eat plenty before meandering about to find a campsite (or just have it fit in your perfect window for intermittent fasting ha).
I can’t tell you for sure where we ended up, but we followed a variety of random trails for a few kilometers. This was perfect for me because I love getting (semi) lost, my backpack wasn’t too heavy so it didn’t hurt, and it was still all on flat land. I loved the not knowing part the best. What was this little place?
Towards the beach, there seemed to be all these motel and pension remnants, either on break or discarded completely due to lack of travel this year with COVID. For a country that is just covered in people and stuff and things, this was truly a weekend “away from it all”.
It was interesting to see what we would find. We would find little makeshift campgrounds here and there, some even halfway official. Some were nicer than others, but they were either too crowded or didn’t give the true “camping” vibe. What’s the point of camping if you’re surrounded by 500 other people? Isn’t the point to get away?
And so we trekked. It was the perfect day to, with a gentle breeze, and a much needed bathing in Vitamin D. We finally found ourselves a little parking area makeshift campground. There was a sea of people either to enjoy the last nice weekend, clamming, or possibly even both. It was swarmed with cars, tents, and fancy camping gadgets that would only make sense to you if you lived here. Behind was a pension, but it was behind the grit of all the campers on top of each other. I guess I didn’t quite get the aesthetic of why you would want to spend money at a pension there.
There were no showers, but we also didn’t really get sweaty. We were just that lucky. There was a bathroom with running water so good enough I suppose. There were no restaurants, but the corner store shed made do until a large lunch in town the following afternoon. But the view? Fantastic.
The sunset was absolutely perfect. How many incredible ones have I seen here in Korea before? It was as if the universe itself wanted us to have the best spot imaginable, on a little hill, with a nice flat surface, secluded from all the other campers, in plain view of a perfect Korean sunset.
Will I ever get so lucky with a campsite again? And for free? I’m really not sure. The night sky was perfect and filled with stars, another rarity coming from Seoul. I woke up refreshed, and it was probably the best sleep I had in weeks. We made the journey back to Kkotji beach with quite the appetite.
It was finally my turn to see everyone dig for clams and walk across during low tide. The tiny elderly woman sitting in her sunhat, selling little seashells, made my day.
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