Daecheon is famous as being the setting for the Boryeong Mud Festival in mid-July every year. Before this event made the town internationally famous, it has been called by Lonely Planet as ‘the Las Vegas’ of Korea, and with the exception of the many brightly lit motels clustered around the southern end of the beach, one wonders where this notion came from.
Not trying to take away from the location, but in fairness, this comparison leaves a lot for the small densely motelled resort to live up to. But, if you haven’t looked at Lonely Planet then Daecheon is probably a very dazzling experience.
One thing that Daecheon has in common with Las Vegas is the location, right in the middle of nowhere! The drive into Daecheon is surrounded by green rice paddies (provided you arriving in the summer, I image mid February is a different experience), and there are little to no signs that ahead is a bustling coastal resort.
On arrival the town starts with a few large ‘Condo’ resorts that offer wide views and all kinds of activities to keep parenting to a minimum with busy children locked in games rooms, noraebang, at the nearby funfair, or swimming in the pool or water park (not to mention the sea which is a five minute walk away).
Once you’ve passed these huge developments that would look more at home in the centre of Seoul than in the small town is a densely built up town which has ample motels and shellfish and sashimi restaurants all brightly lit up. If you’re lucky enough you can catch the smell of the grill working its magic.
However, this was our problem. We weren’t lucky enough to catch these smells as the high season ended probably a week ago when the majority of kids went back to school. The crowds which this town are obviously well prepared for may come back tomorrow, a Saturday, but our midweek trip met a town eerily quiet with the occasional group of leftover holiday makers tumbling out of a restaurant, their shouts echoing especially loudly in the empty streets.
Where we stayed, Hanwha Resort, was actually very full but mostly with young families who I assume had cleverly waited until the end of August to come and enjoy their holidays as opposed to joining the other thirty million or so people who generally take their holiday period at the same time. There were also several buses full of high and middle school students who had come down on school trips. But aside from these, there really weren’t the lively crowds that you could expect during mid August, and especially during the Mud Festival.
Anyway, not that all impressed with the town, we took a drive out to a place called Jukdo and then down to another small beach whose name evades me at the moment. Here are some photos of that:
The next day we left Daecheon early and took a drive out into the mountains for a look around, where I learned that Korea, back in the day, had quite the thriving coal industry which there was, needless to say, a museum to celebrate this once common occupation. According to an interactive map, Chuncheongnamdo now has only two or three coal mines, the majority now remain in Gangwon-do. It was a nice museum with lots of old pictures showing the coal industry through the years and apparent delay that technology had in reaching the mines. Jin Won told me as we walked towards the car that for people who had lost everything and had nowhere else to go in life, coal mining was the employment of choice. I could only contrast this with the stories that are told of the family traditions of cold mining in places like Wales and the north of England. It’s one of these things here, that regardless of how useful your job is, if it is something that may look undesirable (and coal-mining is not a job I would go rushing into); I wish that I could describe it better, but it is looked down on and left for people who have lost their place in society.
Daecheon Beach is the contrast to this; a modern electricity fuelled activity paradise where people with time and money to blow crowd onto one strip of sand and expect quality sea food from a town which can hardly sustain it, all while the people of the town with open arms allow wave after wave, year after year, to come and spend money.