February 13, 2013
South Korea recently celebrated Seollal (설날), aka Korean Lunar New Year, and I actually wound up with a few days away from work! With time of work being not a common occurrence, in keeping with my before-I-leave-Korea resolution, I planned a three-day trip to the peninsula’s southern coast, recruited my friend Dana (Gil Dong was with family in Goheung), and then took a bus bound for Suncheon. Our first day’s mission? Exploring Suncheon Bay.
Suncheon Bay (순천만, Suncheonman) ended up blowing both me and Dana away. A wetland area of Korea, I expected it to be like a slightly less spectacular version of Korea’s largest wetlands, Uponeup. However while there were definitely some similarities, Suncheon Bay has a character all of its own.
Situated in the very south of Korea, Suncheon Bay is easy enough to get to – take any bus heading for Suncheon, get off at the main bus terminal, cross the road, head left, turn right at the end of the street, and then you’re at the bus stop (do NOT cross to the bus stop on the other side of the road!). Hop on the number 67 bus, and the journey should be about twenty minutes.
OK, now that you know how to get there, well, what is there to actually see at Suncheon Bay? The answer is simple – nature. And lots of it. Now, I’m not really a nature boy, and despite Korean cities often being a little too similar for my liking, give me an urban area over the countryside any day of the week. Yet, there’s something about the Korean wetlands that makes me just instantly fall in love with them.
The landscape is unlike anything else in Korea, and you feel like you’re in a completely foreign country. Even though Suncheon is the third largest city in Jeollanamdo province (after Gwangju and Yeosu), the city has a small town feel to it, not to mention super friendly people who smile and greet you for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Suncheon Bay’s close proximity to the city is possibly one of the reasons for all the smiles – I mean, wouldn’t you be happy if you lived close to somewhere so beautiful?
The stroll through the reeds at the beginning of our trip to Suncheon Bay made me think that Dana and I were just walking into Uponeup round two, but we kept going and once we walked up an uphill area called Yongsan (용산), we were treated with some breathtaking views of Suncheon Bay and a seemingly never-ending expanse of water stretching out onto the horizon.
We could’ve sat and stared at the view forever, but alas our stomachs were grumbling, so after a couple of hours at Suncheon Bay, we headed back into the city and indulged our stomachs with some Korean dalkgalbi before climbing on board an intercity bus heading to Yeosu, determined to slither into the Year of the Snake in style.
So there you have it, folks! Now, I want to hear from you! Does Suncheon Bay look like the kind of place you’d love? Have you ever been there before? Did you do anything special for Lunar New Year? Let us know in the comments below, or shout out on Facebook or Twitter.