As I’ve mentioned before my aunt loves to swim. While on the island it’s something she really wanted to do so she and my uncle looked up beaches to go to and after looking at pictures settled on Hyeopjae beach 협재해변. We went on our second day and what we experienced was mirrored on our van tour when we stopped at Hamdeok beach 함덕 서우봉해변-함덕해수욕장.
The beach is filled with umbrellas and stands for rent, to use the bathroom or the showers there’s a little stand asking you for money for toiletries and things you might not have brought with you that made us question whether or not actually going into the showers cost money. At Hyeopjae my uncle was tired so he just sat down under an umbrella that seemed free and unbusy and relaxed while my aunt and I headed to the bathrooms to change and head to the water. My aunt had plans to do laps and I, spotting that the majority of people seemed to be floating around, rented an inflatable tube from a stand nearby. It was 10,000 won plus a 5,000 won deposit that I got back at the end. A bit expensive. What I (and my aunt) quickly learned was that the beach was sectioned off. A side for people to play in the water and then an area for water sports/ life guards on boats.
While from a distance it seemed like there was plenty of space to jump in the water and play, in reality everyone was corralled within a limited amount of space. I did what everyone else around me was doing, used the expensive tube to bob around in the water and I had fun people watching. I watched kids with their families playing around, children absolutely delighted any time a wave came crashing (which was often), or couples splashing each other or trying to see who could stay on their inflatable pool toy the longest, or groups of friends just having a great time. I went all the way to the rope and only at the rope, when I was right on it could I no longer feel the sand beneath my feet. The entirety of the roped off section was, in a sense, the shallow section of the beach. Which meant my aunt was doing laps in a crowded bobbing shallow beach. She did her best, ended up getting kicked a couple times and did not have the best experience. Neither did some other non-Korean tourists I saw that had come out with snorkeling gear to try and see what they could find in the water only to find themselves stuck in the “kiddie pool”. I think the best way to enjoy a Korean beach is to not plan to swim. Both beaches we ended up at seemed best to just bob around with something inflatable. It’s pretty great for families who don’t have to worry about their kids off in the deep end, but it’s not great if you want to go for an actual swim.
We didn’t actually go in the water at Hamdeok, instead just wandering around, looking at the water and the beach which was less crowded than Hyeopjae but seeming to follow the same principals. In both cases after our walk I got a snack. At Hyeopjae I found a beach booth selling watermelon and got that as an after swim snack as I tried to dry off using the sun, having not brought a towel.
At Hamdeok we popped into Bronx, a pizza chain where I bought a slice of pizza to tide me over till a late airport dinner. The slice of classic cheese pizza was 4,000 won while a full pizza would’ve been 22,000 won.
I’m also going to note that the area around the beaches is absolute madness. We took a taxi to Hyeopjae and then when we tried to get back struggled to find a taxi. Eventually we were lucky and got one. I’m not sure how easily it would’ve been to get back without our van from our tour but I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to find a place to park.