As previously mentioned Taean is a small peninsula off the main South Korean peninsula. It is unusual because, whereas on many of the Eastern coastlines the sand is shipped in, on Taean there are miles and miles of natural sandy beaches.
Taean is also a great example of how Korean people can come together in disaster. In 2007 there was an oil spill off the coast. The government declared a state of disaster and the Korean people came to the rescue. I was in Korea at this point, having arrived in August 2007 for my first year of teaching. For me at the time I was hardly aware of it, I was fostering 6 kittens and watching Korean TV wasn’t high on the agenda, but even then I was struck by the response.
Korean people from across the country flocked to Taean to clean up the beach. People took time off work (practically unheard of, most Koreans rarely take their full holiday allowance) they paid to go over and volunteer. They donned white outfits and big rubber gloves and got stuck in. Fishermen took people out on their boats to rescue birds and animals at sea. This was a nationwide effort, and they were rewarded in full.
Less than two years later, here I was on the beach and you would never know the disaster had happened. If I dug my feet deep into the sand there was black several layers down, but other than that just stunningly clean beaches.
One end of the longest five mile stretch of beach the sand is littered with tiny crabs which spend their days emptying the sand from their underground holes while the tide is out.
Just past the crabs I noticed on that very first visit what looked like a house. Something more at home in America than Korea, it sat on the other side of the main road but looking right out to sea. I wondered at the time who lived there and if you could pay to stay there.
In the middle of the beach there is a river and some dunes, and at the far end some jutting rocks. Along the dunes there is a board walk which takes you through the trees and over rivers and is a lovely change from the beach, especially if it is still hot.
Looking out across the Yellow Sea there are a multitude of tiny Korean islands on the horizon. It is possible to take a tourist boat or even a ferry out to and around these islands, and in some cases there are motels you can stay in. The view of the sunset on this beach is captivating. I spent several evenings just watching the sun dip behind the horizon, much to Luna’s dismay! She couldn’t understand why we were hanging around for so long.
This five mile beach is not the only one on the peninsula. Interrupted by coves and an isolated golf course almost the entire coast has beaches. At the very tip of the peninsula the beach has been replaced by empty shells. This is where many of the fisherman come to shore, or live, and often the women will spend the day preparing shellfish for market in Seoul or restaurants.
Luna and I spent three delightful days walking along these beaches. We were just about the only people I ever saw there and certainly Luna was the only dog. At this point recall was just about her favourite game and playing it on the beach was no different. She would wander off, sniffing and chasing seagulls and I would whistle her back. After a few moments registering where I was she would take off across the beach to reach me.
It was so satisfying watching her come tearing across the beach with a big grin on her face, knowing that she was happy to be there, and happy to be there with me.
In the video on the home page you can see her coming back after chasing a seagull, who I’m sure was considering her for lunch. The beach had pot holes in it but these were hard to see with the naked eye, her size makes this journey particularly funny. At this point she didn’t seem particularly bothered by getting wet, although she was still unsure of the ever encroaching waves, but later in her life she developed quite an opinion about getting wet feet and walking on beaches.
Taean was my first proper Korean holiday and the peace and quiet was very much appreciated. It became a yearly sojourn for us both, and many years later Luna and I would stay at that little hotel, right on the beach for several years in a row.