I only rode 25km today to Yangyang where an annual Mushroom Festival is being held. It is a huge deal. What’s not to love about a festival: even one to celebrate something as random as mushrooms. There’s always good food to be bought including these massive sweet crispy apples that are about the size of a children’s soccer ball. A drag performer and his wife are singing on a stage and I am pushed onto the stage for a photo with them. The military were at the festival doing some public relations work. There were displays of cut open bombs and missiles, artifacts that have been dug up from the war and North Korean military items. Young soldiers made balloon animals for children, painted children’s faces and served military chow. You could even have your picture taken in a real South Korean military uniform. I now have four small polaroid passport sized photos of me exactly like this.
Yangyang is also home to some delightful cycleways that follow the river to the beach. Once at the beach the cycleway split into a boardwalk over the sand and a pathway between the trees.
Locals with rented quad bikes ride on the wide sandy beach. This is part of the playful side of Korea that I have fallen in love with. This ability to just do something for fun with seemingly little concern for what others might think. What tourist location experience would be complete without horse drawn carriages? But here this kitschy experience is taken to a whole new level: the carriages are lit up and play music. What a sight to make me smile. If I was here with friends or someone special I would so take a ride because I would probably not stop smiling.
It’s not all fun and games. Nearby fishermen were working hard mending nets and preparing for their next trips to sea. I ride past the fishing boats and up the short steep hill to Naksansa (temple). A lot of Koreans were also here taking advantage of the public holiday to see the temple. I paid my KRW3,000 ($AU/US3) entry and wandered in. There were peaceful pagodas and amazing ocean views. A massive statue stood in pride of place at the top of a cliffside hill. There is a big story about it but I didn’t really pay attention because I was just soaking up the atmosphere. Temple buildings that had probably seen thousands of visitors just today alone felt tranquil and calm as tourists mingled with the faithful who had come here for prayer.
And so I came to my favourite place in the temple. It wasn’t anywhere special or signed. Just a grassy field between the lake and main building where some small lanterns stood guard. People walked along nearby paths but the lanterns drew my attention away from the crowds and into that place we all find sometimes when everything will be okay.
I find a formal camp ground just a short ride from the festival or a quick walk to seafood restaurants. The fee is KRW30,000 a night for up to four people but I snagged a site for KRW15,000 because I insisted on “what about if only 1 person”. I probably could have gotten away with a free camp in a park by the river but this way I can leave my tent to explore the bright lights of Yangyang: a fabulous town that has made me smile for all the right reasons.