South Korea is a pretty small country — it’s almost 7 times smaller than Texas, even though it’s the home of over 50 million people. Because of this, Korea is generally very efficient with making a small space fit a lot of people. A very good example of this would be Haeundae (해운대) Beach in Busan, which is considered one of the most popular/crowded beaches in Korea.
At this beach you are given the opportunity to purchase an umbrella with a blanket, chairs, towels, and other various comforts that make a trip to the beach more enjoyable. I was part of a group of 4, and together we splurged on an umbrella/blanket as well as two towels, since we hadn’t packed any ourselves.
Warning: don’t purchase a towel at Haeundae beach if you’re actually planning on drying yourself with it or, heaven forbid, using it as a makeshift beach chair. The towels are not actually beach towels — instead, they are about the size of a hand towel. I believe that vendors on the surrounding streets did have true beach towels for sale, though.
We were led to our little square blanket and umbrella, which was part of a sea of hundreds of other sectioned-off squares lined along the beach. Sitting on our towel, we were within an arm’s reach of our nearest neighbor on each side–a very tight squeeze, requiring us to climb over other people’s stuff while trying to get to our square. This is a prime example of Korea’s space efficiency, although it isn’t necessarily the most cozy, private experience. My mother would have hated it.
It was okay for the four of us, though, since we were there to have fun, not just sit on our towel all day! We spent the first hour or two playing in the water, and we and our other friends from the ISA group were some of the only people on the beach actually wearing swimsuits. A lot of other people, especially girls, were just playing around in the water wearing everyday clothing. On the flip side, there were also quite a few speedo-clad men wandering around. Quite the divide–either fully clothed or barely clothed, which not much in between.
Because the waves were pretty rough, there were a lot of lifeguards in the water preventing people from going further than about fifteen feet from the shore. This meant that we couldn’t go more than waist deep, but we still had fun.
We found a surprisingly empty fried chicken restaurant for lunch. We had originally planned on ordering delivery (gotta love Korea, where chicken restaurants deliver to the beach), but we forgot that none of us had Korean phone plans, and we didn’t want to waste money on making a phone call.
After lunch we didn’t go back into the water, but instead wandered along the beach to air-dry before our train ride home to Seoul. A lot of my friends commented on it being the busiest beach they’d ever visited. In hindsight, as the afternoon progressed it did get fairly crowded, but when we were in the water it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t think it was that crowded, but maybe during my short stay in Seoul I’ve just adjusted to there being lots of people everywhere.
Thankfully the weather was a lot nicer than Saturday. There wasn’t a hint of rain to be seen, and despite the blue skies it didn’t get too hot either, so we were able to walk along the beach without feeling all hot and gross. All in all, it was a lovely day at the beach.