After visiting our first national park back in March, we decided that we wanted to visit all 21 of Korea’s national parks. Taeanhaean National Park was, quite possibly, our favorite thus far, as it required that we spend most of our time lounging on the beach. While the beaches are beautiful now, they weren’t always so. In 2007, an oil tanker anchored off the coast at a nearby port was hit by another ship, causing 10,800 tons of crude oil to spill into the sea. The villages along the coast are mainly small, making their money by fishing and clamming, so you can imagine the devastation of such a large oil spill. We asked a man who lived in one of the villages if they ever received any money, and he told us the villagers received very little for all their troubles from the government and those responsible (probably Samsung). Six years later, after a massive clean-up effort by hordes of officials and civilian volunteers, the beaches are as beautiful as ever.
So, now you know the history of the area. Let’s talk beaches. Getting to one of the main beaches, Mallipo, is quite easy and there are plenty of motels along the beach, so don’t worry about finding a place to stay. Mallipo has everything that you need, from outdoor restaurants to noraebangs. The first day we lounged on the beach with new friends and ate some delicious chogaegwi, or shellfish BBQ. The water is quite warm because the incline to the beach is fairly gradual. Be prepared for the tide to come sweeping in around 5 or 6, though.
At night time, you can ride any number of sketchy carnival rides or shoot off Roman Candles into the ocean (a favorite beach activity for Koreans). We chose the latter and then called it an early night. The next day, we started our next adventure: Taebaegil Hiking Trail. This trail is in the middle of nowhere, so getting there proved to be a bit difficult. We think you can take a bus from Mallipo, but we couldn’t figure it out, so we opted for a cab which took us down some game paths and through fields, making us momentarily fearful that we were being abducted by a rogue cabbie. But we made it. The trail started at Uihang Beach, an extremely secluded stretch of sand by Korean standards. There were minbaks (small huts) for rent all along the beach, but other than that, no hotels.
The trail itself was more like a small road, and cars could drive along it. I don’t think we saw any other hikers the entire time, but we did see several cars. The trail is marked very clearly with maps all along the way pointing out where we were. The hike was about 6.5 km, but you can take other side trails to various different beaches. The trail went along the coast of the peninsula and through a small farming village. The views were extremely beautiful and the beaches were completely secluded. We stopped at several different beaches along the way.
After the hike, we relaxed on Uihang Beach for several hours before catching a bus back to Taean. The bus came by every 1-2 hours, and there was a time schedule posted at the bus stop.
Overall, Taeanhaean National Park is truly a different. The length of the park’s coastline is such that the opportunities for adventure are plentiful. Our experience was unique, but we barely scratched the surface of Taeanhaean. One thing is for sure: away from the noise of Seoul and the crowds of Haeundae Beach in Busan, Taeanhaen National Park seems a world away.
We took a bus from Nambu Bus Terminal in Seoul to Taean, the closest major city. It took about 2.5 hours and cost 9,000 won. From Taean Express Bus Terminal, you can take a bus to Mallipo or grab a cab for around 20,000 won (Buses from Taean to Anmyeondo and many other beaches leave regularly). Look for the group of people holding beach towels and picnic baskets and that will be the line for the bus. Getting to Taebaegil Hiking Course is a bit trickier and information is scarce. A taxi to Uihang Beach from Mallipo will run about 10,000 won. There is definitely a bus between Taean and Uihang and we suspect one from Mallipo, as well, but we couldn’t figure it out. If anyone does manage to get a number or times, please let us know. Good luck.