Within easy reach of Seoul, Chungnam’s coast is a popular place for anyone seeking to escape the capital for a bit of summer fun. Inevitably, the main attractions are the beaches, with the white stretches of Mallipo and Daecheon the most visited; the latter’s annual mud festival is one of the wildest and busiest events on the peninsula. It’s a short ferry trip from the mainland bustle to the more traditional offshore islands, a sleepy crew strung out beyond the horizon and almost entirely dependent on fishing.
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Long, wide and handsome, DAECHEON BEACH (대천 해수욕장) is by far the most popular on Korea’s western coast, hauling in a predominantly young crowd. In the summer this 3km-long stretch of white sand becomes a sea of people, having fun in the water by day, then drinking and letting off fireworks until the early hours. The revelry reaches its crescendo each July with the Boryeong mud festival, a week-long event that seems to rope in (and sully) almost every expat in the country. Mud, mud and more mud – wrestle or slide around in it, throw it at your friends or smear it all over yourself, then take lots and lots of pictures – this is one of the most enjoyable festivals on the calendar (see wwww.mudfestival.or.kr for more details). At other times you can still sample the brown stuff at the Mud House (머드 하우스), the most distinctive building on the beachfront, where mud massages cost from W25,000. Admission gets you entry to an on-site sauna, at which you can bathe in a mud pool or even paint yourself with the stuff; all manner of mud-based cosmetics are on sale at reception, including mud shampoo, soap and body cream. In summer, rent banana boats, jet-skis and large rubber tubes, or even a quad bike to ride up and down the prom.
Nine kilometres south of the beach is Muchangpo (무창포), a settlement that becomes popular for a few days every month when the tides retreat to reveal a path linking the beach with a small nearby island, an event inevitably termed “Moses’ Miracle”; the sight of a line of people seemingly walking across water is quite something. For advice on the tides phone the tourist information line on t041/1330.
West Sea islands
West Sea islands
From Daecheon harbour, a string of tiny islands stretches beyond the horizon into what Koreans term the West Sea, a body of water known internationally as the Yellow Sea. From their distant shores, the mainland is either a lazy murmur on the horizon or altogether out of sight, making this a perfect place to kick back and take it easy. Beaches and seafood restaurants are the main draw, but it’s also a joy to sample the unhurried island lifestyle that remains unaffected by the changes that swept through the mainland on its course to First World status; these islands therefore, provide the truest remnants of pre-industrial Korean life. Fishing boats judder into the docks where the sailors gut and prepare their haul with startling efficiency; it’s sometimes possible to buy fish directly from them. Restaurants on the islands are usually rickety, family-run affairs serving simple Korean staples.