September was a month of stress. I felt the exhaustion beginning the pile up. Six months of 11 hour workdays had my head spinning. Completely idiotic new policies at work and the refusal of my request for two days off to go home for my friend’s wedding had me scouring Kayak for a flight home. For good. I didn’t care about traveling. About writing. I just wanted to see familiar faces in familiar places. I finally cooled down enough to see that quitting wasn’t the right option (I get a hefty sum of money for completing my contract, to be used for traveling and my next set of plans) and booked a trip to Samcheok, on the eastern coast of Korea in the Gangwon-do province as a pick me up.
The Gangwon-do area of Korea is known for its nice, sandy beaches and gorgeous mountains. My friend sent me the link to an organized trip, and although I’m not always a fan of group trips, I was sold. The promise of a weekend filled with beaches, hiking, waterfalls and penis parks (stay tuned) sounded like just what I needed.
We arrived at Mangsang Beach, a little north of Samcheok, on a chilly and overcast Saturday morning. After settling into our pension we started to explore this quaint beach town. It was slightly eerie as the place was almost entirely empty. Koreans really only go to the beach during July and August which left us the place to ourselves. Usually I am a fan of crowds, buildings, and something always happening (obviously, I chose to live in Seoul, didn’t I?) but by getting out of the chaotic energy of the world’s second largest city I finally realized that sometimes it is nice to leave that behind for a while. We walked along the beach without having to jostle anyone, settled down for kimchi fried rice at a diner with a view of the sea, and then walked a mere 500 feet for a coffee.
After lunch we explored more and stumbled upon an abandoned carnival. With faded colors and broken glass, it looked like something straight out a horror film. Being Korea, where anything goes, there were no barricades and nothing stopping us from snooping around or severely injuring ourselves (which definitely happened later in the night).
We then settled on the beach and watched the waves roll in with the few Koreans brave enough to face the weather and wind. The more time I sat there the more it felt like all of my stress was being blown away.
The sun began to set and the makkeoli (rice wine), soju, and beer quickly came out. We joined some people we had met on the trip and sat around a picnic table outside our pension enjoying good conversation and, after a few (too many) drinks we partook in a Korean nighttime beach activity- lighting off fireworks. Every convenience store in a beach town sells them and once the sun sets the beach is peppered with people shooting them off. I’d never lit a firework and was very excited. Luckily, no one was injured. At least during this portion of the night.
This weekend helped me fall in love with Korea again. It helped me find my center and calm down. And get my blogging groove back.