Story by Neil Kirby / Photos by Justin Howard
Try cheap travels in Eurwangni, a day trip from Seoul
Let’s get one ugly fact out of the way first. Despite the spectacular offerings of Seoul and its surrounding areas, salaries are stagnant for some people and prices seem to be sneaking slightly higher each year. Yet there are a few things that remain as free as Jesus tissues: the sun and the sand, and cool, clean water.
Did I say clean? Don’t be too picky. Aside from a few spent fireworks, there’s not much trash or pollution—you’ll still be able to have children if you take a dip, don’t worry.
And there wasn’t much sun when I was there, either. But by the time you read this the rainy season will be over and you’ll likely be able to make the most of Eurwangni Beach, which is about an hour from western Seoul on Yeongjongdo. (If you’ve never heard of Yeongjongdo, you may have been on it without realizing—that’s the island where Incheon International Airport is located. Eurwangni’s on the other side.) If you live in Seoul you can get there and back in a day—and leave without wallowing in remorse after realizing how much you’ve spent.
“It’s not as far to go” compared to other beaches, Paul Headley, of Seoul, said. “It’s convenient.”
Headley and Brian Davis, also of Seoul, were sipping beers on the beach, not at all bothered by the sprinkling rain and chilly weather—perhaps one of the few occasions where the local habit of wearing long sleeves at the beach made sense.
“It’s not ideal,” Davis said. “It’s fine. Not spectacular.” The main point? “It’s the nearest to Seoul.”
Another visitor said she thought the beach was better than Haeundae in Busan.
“It’s a great location,” Maddie Touré, of Seoul, said. She thought Eurwangni had good, soft sand—but quickly added that she liked Sokcho better.
Here’s what you should do if you’re short on cash or saving up. Once you arrive, rent an umbrella or throw down a towel or a tent on the sand. (The Yellow Sea rises to high tide here at about 3 p.m., and starts to recede a few hours later, making mid-afternoon a great time to get here.) Order some fried chicken from one of the banners on the beach, which have the phone numbers of a few delivery restaurants listed—and which keep the beach from being littered with menus. If you’re lucky, some restaurants will dispatch a few workers to walk around with crispy chicken already made and ready to hand over, so bring cash. Alternatively, you can stock up at one of several convenience stores and bring your food over to your spot on the sand. The quaint charm of the no-name mart with the three-legged cat was my personal favorite.
If you plan on spending the night, beachfront hotels like The Prince will run you about 130,000 KRW for a Saturday night. The rooms have a strict two person limit, as my wife and I discovered after being scolded by the owner for visiting our friends’ room.
Directly behind The Prince is a hotel shaped like a cruise ship. This is known as The Ray. It will run you 110,000 to 180,000 KRW, the higher prices if you want your balcony outfitted like the bow of a boat.
There are higher end accommodations, like the Golden Sky Resort. Their prices start from 132,000 KRW. That’s business speak for don’t expect to pay 132,000 KRW; it’s going to be more. Best thing to do if you’re traveling on the cheap? Pretend you’re a guest by casually chatting with a friend as you walk in the resort—don’t look around; that’ll give you away. Use their pristine bathrooms, located near the elevators, and take a picture on the roof. Go back to your blanket on the beach having had a taste of the high life.
Farther back is the Mountain Motel, which was given its name despite being located on a slight slope a stone’s throw from the beach. The co-owner, a woman who said she was 90, declined to be interviewed because she was “too old.” When asked how she kept her apparent vitality despite her age, she answered, “the country wind.” Price at this joint? Just 40,000 KRW. Second floor rooms have a little terrace, too. No questions, no hassle.
And don’t throw away your hard-earned won on the clam restaurants unless you’re a connoisseur. You’re looking at around 120,000 KRW for a simple seafood set at these places, with getting your tongue and lips scalded thrown in for service. Avoid these unless you love the stuff.
Yes, it’s true: Busan can still be done on the cheap, but if you’re going there from Seoul you’ll have to spend the night. That’s optional with Eurwangni. And really, how different are beaches, anyway? Most offer the same experience free of charge: gazing out at an expansive sea and marveling at its vastness, wondering about the unique set of circumstances that brought you here and what your next adventure will be.
The people at Eurwangni seem to know how to make the best of things. One young couple sitting on the sand in the rain, no blanket, no umbrella, just a can of Pringles, a beer and a promise. A father and son chasing seagulls. Young people flirting, singing. Dozens of shirtless beachgoers swimming at the break despite the spitting rain, the country wind.
DIRECTIONS: Take the subway to Incheon Airport. Go up to the third floor, where the check-in counters are, but don’t hop on a plane. Go out gate seven and take bus 302 or 306. The Eurwangni stop, about ten minutes from the airport, is marked by an arched sign to your left indicating the road to the beach.