| Sinji Myeongsasimni Beach|
Although I didn't blog much about Korea during the winter months, I've still been thoroughly enjoying my time here despite the cold and all the bluster coming from the north. I feel that during the winter, especially January and February, I really settled into some routines and didn't keep up with the blog as I did in the fall. As I head into the final quarter of my contract, however, I hope to go beyond the routine more often and write about it on here once in a while.
The weekend after the Strawberry Festival Lucy and Rufus again invited me to join them for another Saturday outing. This time the outlook for the weather was bright and sunny, and it seemed a trip to the beach was in order. They did a great job of finding a spot and planning it out. Basically all I had to say was "Sure" and they led me from there.
We met at USquare Saturday morning and bought bus tickets for Wando. The ride took about two hours, including a stop in Haenam. From the Wando bus terminal we took a local bus to Sinji, which dropped us off in front of a huge sign for Myeongsasimni Beach, our destination. I've heard the beaches of Wando recommended on numerous occasions, but last fall I'd been wary of wandering down there without a clear idea of how to navigate from the Wando bus terminal to the beaches. It turned out to be pretty simple, and I can see myself making several return trips this summer.
From the bus stop it was a short walk across a small parking lot to the boardwalk and the beach. Granted, I haven't actually visited many beaches in Korea, but I could immediately tell this was the best one I'd seen so far.
It really was pristine-looking, and the fact that I hadn't seen the ocean since being in Taiwan on New Year's Eve added to the impression. The sand was soft and strewn with colorful shells, many intact. While we set up our spot on the sand some other groups wandered down toward the water, looking out over the tide and the distant seaweed farms toward the islands ringed around the horizon.
Eager to test the waters, we dropped our bags and shoes and headed for the edge. The water, as we expected, was frigid. Yet it felt great to be standing in the ocean again, even if I didn't have it in me to go in more than a few inches up my legs. Within a few minutes the sting of the cold was gone, but a numbness was setting in, so I went back up toward the dry sand to sit and take in some of the beautiful unblocked sunshine. After having been burned on the first day of our ski trip, I was well-prepared with a bottle of sunscreen this time, and I carefully covered my face and neck. Even the faint smell of sunblock led me to fondly recall being on the beaches of Florida and North Carolina last summer, and I excitedly imagined future, warmer beach outings this summer.
Shortly thereafter our appetites roused us from the comfort of our sandy seats to seek out a culinary establishment. We followed the boardwalk toward a row of shops, and we hesitated in front of one to examine the specimens in its fishtanks outside the front door. Some people inside called out to us in English, welcoming us in. A couple of tables were occupied by groups of cheerily conversing Koreans, and we sat on the floor around our own table in the middle of the restaurant. Our lunch was abundant and delectable.
Back out on the beach we again reveled in the return of such warm weather, though like the Koreans around us we did remain fully dressed. It wasn't quite hot enough yet to push the boundaries by bringing out the swimming trunks yet. I reclined on the sand and read some of Graham Greene's The Quiet American before going back out to the water to feel the tide rushing in.
I didn't go any further than this. I had rolled up my jeans above the knee and the water was starting to get to them when it splashed against my legs. I wore my hoodie the whole time as well, feeling comfortable with the temperature and in concert with some of the locals who walked along the beach in winter coats. With my feet again becoming numb from the cold water, I waded back to the shore, picking up some shells along the way.
I had noticed this in the sand on my way out into the water:
By the time I got back to that spot some slightly stronger waves had washed it mostly away. Best of luck to those two anyway.
The others had some obligations back in Gwangju in the evening, so we gathered our things and made our way back up the boardwalk toward the bus stop. Before going back through the thin line of pine trees I pulled out my camera for a few more pictures.
In the next few months I hope to visit more beaches around Korea, especially here in the southwest. Even so, I think it will be worth revisiting Sinji Myeongsasimni at least one more time, during the real beach season, which begins next month. Then my pictures will probably include many more people. From a quick glance at the regional map of Wando we saw at the bus terminal, there are also many other beaches that could be worth exploring in the area.
I noted my surroundings in anticipation of a return in the near future as we rode the bus back to the Wando terminal. From there it was a relaxing two-hour ride back to Gwangju as the day faded into evening.