It was the year that all events got scratched out of my diary. Our travel plans got cancelled, my visit home got put on hold, and all the friends we had planned to catch up with are still waiting. 2020 also, unintentionally, become our year of camping in Korea. Or, the year of camping in our little corner of Korea.
We do try to avoid accumulating too much stuff and try to keep things simple. Simplicity (laziness?) is important to us. So we purchased a simple, pop-up tent. That’s it. We jammed our spare floor mattress and our pillows and blankets straight from our beds into the car and headed off on our first beach camping trip in Korea. Two adults and two kids crammed on a double mattress and a picnic mat on the sand for meals. Before the next trip, we decided to indulge a bit and scoured the second-hand forums for a small wood-fired bbq, a table and four camping chairs.
This set up was perfect for summer camping at Gosapo beach. Even September was warm enough at Namyeol beach. Winter, though, would require right proper real camping equiptment. The camping itch was still niggling though, so caravan it was.
Despite my usual disdain for Korean ‘auto-camping’ with side-by-side vans in an ugly parking lot, it was perfect! The place was practically deserted, and the moody, wintery beach scene was spectacular. The caravan was warm and cozy, with floor heating – thank you, Korea! – and an extra electric heater for good measure. Plenty of pillows and snuggly doonas meant we didn’t even have to lug our bedding along.
The summer crowds have all disappeared, and we had the whole beach to ourselves. This does mean that the beachside shops are all locked up, but it makes for a peaceful afternoon walk. Apparently, due to the massive difference between high and low tide, there is a man-made, sea-water swimming pool at the beach’s southern end. You can walk along the pool wall and watch the waves crashing – just be careful you don’t get swept in! There’s also a long pier for a less risky walk over the water, with safety railing and all.
With the wind picking up and a snowstorm on the horizon, we headed back to the caravan. There’s a little deck with a bbq, picnic table and a plastic tarp to block some of the wind. We cooked dinner on the fire and ate outdoors, but it was too cold and windy to linger by the fire too long. With a snowstorm brewing outside, the van felt extra cozy inside.
I did have a restless sleep filled with strange dreams in which our caravan was blown off the cliffside and floated off into the sea. All the more peculiar because the semi-conscious me knew I was actually in a caravan beside the water that was literally rocking in the wind. I could feel us jolting side to side, so the dreams felt fantastically realistic.
The magical sight when we opened the blinds in the early morning was worth a thousand restless nights. The promised ‘hugely changing tide’ had sucked all the water out of the bay, and left an icy, snowy wonderland. This was my first time on a snowy beach, and it was spectacular. It looked as if you could walk all the way across the icy mudflats to the other side and indeed, a few local men in gumboots were trudging out towards the end of the pier. It seemed as if they were walking on water!
The wind was freezing and blustery, so we were grateful to have enjoyed a walk the previous afternoon, grateful for the kettle and stovetop in the van, and for the view from the window. After a lazy morning with hot coffee and warm floors, we packed up and headed back to Gwangju. Snow-covered rice fields on the way home were the final treat of our wintery beach trip.
The nitty gritty:
Vans sleep up to 5 people, but I would recommend 4 for comfort. They have an ensuite bathroom with toilet and shower and a kitchenette with fridge, microwave and stovetop. All bedding provided. BYO towels.
Address: 전남 함평군 함평읍 주포로 600-29
Book a caravan through this site: http://xn--pq1bl5i8lq75bjhim4hsycdf.net/reserve/online_reg.html
They accept credit card or bank transfer
Current prices (Jan 2021) are 80,000won weekdays and 100,000won weekends.
Check in: 2pm
Check out: 11am
We chose number 10 because it’s not jammed between two other vans and it has direct access to the beach.