▲ Windsurfers find smooth sailing at Iho Tewoo Beach during the Tewoo Boat Festival. Photo by Jonathan Starr
Despite the misty rain coating the beach balls and benches with moisture and the familiar Jeju wind stirring the sand and occasionally sending an umbrella rolling across the shore, people from all over the island gathered to enjoy the first Iho Tewoo beach festival, which ran Aug 7-9, undeterred by the intermittent sun and persistent rain clouds. There was plenty on offer to make tolerating the weather more than worthwhile, starting with the opening ceremony on Friday evening where visitors were welcomed to the newly renamed Iho Tewoo beach.
This was followed by an impressive parade of yachts and after the sun had set, a truly awesome firework display that had the young children in the crowd laughing with delight. Saturday saw the festival’s main attraction come to life with the sailing of the traditional log boat, the Tewoo. Sailed by men in authentic persimmon clothing and maneuvered with nothing more than the aid of an oar and a rope, it proved an extraordinary sight among the more contemporary aspects of Jeju life.
As skilled windsurfers swerved across the water with their colorful sails and speedboats skipped across the surface with banana boats in tow, the Tewoo, made from Japanese cedar trees bound together braved the waves clinging to the surf as visitors-turned-sailors waved to their friends and families waiting on the shore.
▲ Fireworks over Iho Tewoo Beach capped off a day of festivities. Photo curtesy, Iho-dong Community Service Center
Eight newly built Tewoo were on display at Iho this weekend, most taking part in the activities which included a rowing competition and Tewoo fishing opportunity. One Tewoo, a regular feature of Iho beach, was draped in lights and displayed on shore offering children the irresistible opportunity to play as pirates or fishermen.
In the evening festival-goers enjoyed drinks and fireworks from the shelter of the well-lit tents and watched the cultural performances taking place on the main stage.
The celebration of the Tewoo continued long into Sunday with a Tewoo tug-of-war, with sea-hardy participants braving the rain once more, and many more singing performances before the closing ceremony. Beach officials thanked everyone who had come to share in the revival of one of the island’s most precious cultural treasures.
The Tewoo, used as the sole method of boat fishing many hundreds of years ago, is a sturdy vessel, built like a raft with a raised platform where fishermen could rest without getting too wet. In modern times it is rarely used for fishing, although there are some small coastal villages that still employ it, and instead provides an insight into Jeju’s past; instilling a pride in the hearts of those whose families are descendant from Tewoo fishing folk. Iho beach was renamed this year to incorporate the Tewoo as it plays a vital part in not only the beach’s cultural identity but that of many nearby coastal villages also.
▲ A group of Iho Tewoo visitors brave their first try on a Tewoo boat. Photo by Jonathan Starr
This, coupled with the designation of Iho Tewoo beach as not only Jeju’s but possibly Korea’s first beach open at night, has ensured one of the most successful starts to the beach season on record.
Every night of the week Iho is open for visitors, to swim under the stars, play in the sand or share a meal under one of the many restaurant tents. For foreigners, it is especially worth noting that the last restaurant before the pavilion at the eastern end of the beach has a full English menu and a friendly owner who speaks English well. Prices range from 5,000 won for stew, rice and noodle dishes to 30,000 for exquisite sashimi dishes.
Just as festival-goers enjoyed the attractions at Iho Tewoo beach despite the wet weather, visitors will be well rewarded by visiting Iho in the evenings, even during rainy season. Sharing a drink and a meal with friends is made even more memorable by the dramatic sight of summer storm clouds gathering over the ocean and the drum-like sound of the raindrops pattering on the tent roof overhead.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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