Taean is a sliver of peninsula which stands off the west coast of South Korea, just south of Seoul. As I discovered to my horror several years later, almost year round this area is a mecca for Korean tourists. They come for the beaches and the fish restaurants and they come in droves. I stood, one year, in a queue that stretched from the highway, almost forty miles away, all the way through the nearest town and down onto the peninsula!
But in 2009 I made a lucky discovery. As most Koreans go home for this harvest festival and that means they are not out exploring. Taean was just as quiet as the inner cities.
Luna and I trundled our way there in the Freedom Machine, she sitting in the passenger seat, mostly snoring. When I stopped for a break she would stand up for a quick nosey outside, give a sniff of: that doesn’t look very interesting and curl back up on her cushion.
The thing you notice, driving to Taean from Daegu, is how big the sky is. For most of my time in Korea I was based in land-locked Daegu which is surrounded on all sides by mountains. With 70% of Korea being covered with similar mountains your view of the sky is almost always limited.
Four hours later we arrived at the beach. The sun had set but I just wanted to have a quick wander and let Luna stretch her legs. It was pretty dark but there were lights from nearby motels and fish shops. I took off my shoes and buried my feed in the sand. We wandered a short way along the week and got the wind in our hair before finding ourselves a home for the holidays.
Our home was to be The Titanic, a motel close to the beach and shaped like a boat…not joking, it’s still there! The owners of the motel were bemused and slightly surprised to be interrupted on their special day by a foreigner, they said I could stay and Luna could stay with me, as long as she stayed in the kitchen.
In Korea it is expected that, for the most part, you bring your own food on holiday with you. This is so normal that when you meet a Korean on holiday in Paris or India, ask them what they have been eating… you can almost guarantee that unless they are a seasoned traveller they have avoided the Pakora in the restaurant and instead headed to their room every night for some Kimchi and express noodles that they brought from home.
My front door at the motel opened into a small kitchen with a hotplate and sink, on the right side was the shower room, the same as home this was a wet room with two buckets and a shower head. Past the kitchen and through another door was my bedroom, because I was a foreigner they had automatically given me a room with a bed, you can be sure this was one of only a few, most rooms would have had a traditional ondol, a bed roll on the floor. At this point Korean’s hadn’t discovered sheets so on the bed I had the same bedding as an ondol, two padded duvets and a pillow. Out past the bed was my window which looked out onto the downs and on to the sea.
Luckily I had come prepared, I had packed the car with most of the contents of my kitchen including my cereal, bowl, milk and spoon!
Once we were unpacked Luna and I tucked up in our room for the night. I had brought in her bed, she had recently been upgraded from an orange cushion to a house shaped padded creation in bright pink that I had found in a pet shop. Her favourite pastime was digging in the bed. It sounds mad (she would never have wanted to get her paws dirty with actual digging outside!) but she could go into that bed and dig in the back corner for Australia and come out fifteen minutes later panting and happy.
We curled up on the bed together (the bonus to Shih Tzu’s is they don’t drop fur, so as long as their feet are clean nobody knows if they have been on the furniture or not!), I ate my beans on toast and we watched another rerun of Sex and the City.