Sunday, August 05, 2007


Korean Mother phoned yesterday evening and asked if we wanted to join her for night-time exercises - it was ten in the evening. But by the time we'd got ready she'd decided that it would be more fun to go over to the Songdo Bay area where apparently there was a festival going on.

In fact, it seems you don't need the excuse of a festival to go down to the beach on a sultry Korean night. I was told how, in the past Korean Mother and Father - unable to sleep in the summer humidity - used to take a tent down to an area near the sea and camp out for the night. Well, so they claim. But certainly, by the time we reached Songdo Bay, it was clear that a number of people, largely disinterested by any actual events unfolding, had brought tents and were planning to spend the night enjoying the cooler breeze blowing in from the sea. Note that's 'cooler', rather than 'cool'.

While a banner proclaimed this to be the Songdo Sea Festival 2007, aside from a vendor improbably trying to sell proper artwork on the beach, the only activity of note was a large stage at the far end of the bay, where inet - one of the TV channels here - were hosting a typical Saturday-night singing marathon so beloved by ajummas and ajeoshis. For me on the other hand, it's a style of music which seems all-too reminiscent of Guinness-fuelled Irish club singing I remember from the family occasions of my youth, so I'm not sure it will ever sit well with me. There's an awful lot of this type of programme on TV in the evening but fortunately most of it goes on in the 'sub-21' ajumma channel range consisting of dramas, singing and selling (which is also a pretty good summary of life in Korea), so I've learned to start my channel-surfing from 21 upwards.

Whereas a beach like Busan's Haeundae is larger and more internationalised (which means the place is crawling with foreigners - often literally - they tend to drink a lot), Songdo is much more of a place for locals. In fact, despite the considerable number of people there I didn't see another foreigner all night. Which meant I got stared at, a lot, often by people in the way of things I was trying to photograph - as if battling with my camera's tendency to blur shots after dark weren't enough.

Fortunately the ajumma singing was almost over and some sort of presentation was in order for a group of young adults who looked like they belonged somewhere else. We left to walk around the rest of the bay, noting that there were about fifty policemen standing behind the stage, though what trouble they might have been expecting is anyone's guess.

At the far end of the bay is a bridge to a rocky outcrop a short distance into the bay itself. We walked over the bridge, which probably offers some of the best views of Songdo's lights reflected in the sea, which seems worthy of being highlighted by most of the tourism sites about Busan.

The rocky outcrop was lit up like some kind of moonscape. We climbed over it to sit on the dark side, watching the sea angrily pound the rocks feet below us. Well, I watched, Korean Wife and Korean Mother talked for a long time, leaving me lost in my own thoughts as usual. A line of ships was anchored along the horizon, discernible only by their lights against the blackness beyond. As I was watching a tug boat go back and forth from ship to shore, I noticed flashes in the distance. Somewhere far out there a storm was raging, but with no sound of thunder it seemed unlikely to trouble us, even with the wind growing cooler and gaining in strength, bringing a freshness I can't remember experiencing outside for weeks.

It was only when we got home at one in the morning that I realised how late it had been out there and just how many locals really did seem intent on making a night of it.

Korean tags: 바다, 바닷가, 캠핑,


Anonymous said...

Great post and pictures. I really like how you capture so many unique and not well-known nuances of Korean life and culture--like the night-time exercises and people of al ages getting outside of a hot house to spend the night on the beach.

Mike said...

Thanks. On the subject of camping out on the beach, I should have added that some people even had their own portable toilets set up down there so it's quite a serious undertaking.

daeguowl said...

portable toilets? You mean like this:

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