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Samyang Black Sand Beach is a wonderful gift for Jeju and its people[Slideshow] A first-person account by The Weekly’s Chinese editor Lu Jianwen
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승인 2012.08.09  10:24:14
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Photos by Lu Jianwen

After a series of gloomy days when a tropical storm swept over Jeju Island, the hottest temperatures in a decade came knocking on our door. Looking out my window, golden sunlight reflected on the floor and made me dizzy. When I walked down the street, the sweltering heat made me think I was stuck in a sauna. I looked up in the sky, it was clear without a speck of cloud; it was clear blue. The heat made me crave a summer nap and I could think of only one thing. I was craving the cool breeze and scenes from the beach. These were the only things that vividly filled my head.

There are dozens of beaches around Jeju Island and many of them host their own annual festivals under various themes. Some are held for two to three days while others last several weeks. Since you can meet local residents after just a few steps on the beach, this kind of festival is one big party where everyone comes to have fun in the water.

From July 27 to 28, the 11th Black Sand Beach Festival was held at Samyang, which is just to the east of Jeju City. Samyang Black Sand Beach got its name from the color of its beach sand. Jeju is a volcanic island and the black sand beach is the masterpiece of volcanic action. It is not just its jet-black color, but rather it reflects the sunshine. The black sand beach is very popular, especially between the middle of July and the end of September. Many islanders visit the beach at Samyang to take a sand bath. When one’s entire body is covered by the sand and exposed to the sunlight for a long time, the sand heats up and promotes healthy circulation.

What attracts tourists to the black sand beach is not only its special sand but also its mineral water. After taking a sand bath, people usually dive into the seawater to cool down, but especially around Samyang, people can dive into mineral water which is cooler than the normal sea water in summer. Jeju Island consists of porous basalt rock and rainwater trickles down into the ground. When water pressure increases, ground water gushes out to the surface again, this time in the form of mineral water. For geographical reasons, mineral water gushes from everywhere, from the seashore, hills, and Mt. Halla. Ninety percent of the mineral water flows around the coastline. A long time ago, Jeju residents used this mineral water for drinking, cooking, laundry, and bathing. Now it has become another sort of playground for children.

Samyang Black Sand Beach is a wonderful gift for Jeju and its people. Walking slowly under the glow of a spreading sunset, the ebony hues underfoot are calming. In summer, night on Jeju falls around 8 p.m. At the beginning of the evening, the sun settles into the sea, but the sand stays warm. While I walked barefoot along the coastline, the soft feel of the sand tickled the soles of my feet, making me happy not to be wearing shoes.

I strolled down the coastline from west to east, gazing at the blue of the sky and the beautiful scenery. People, some under tents or others seated on mats, were admiring the scenery in their own way. I came to the bustling festival, which was just getting underway, and saw as yet unfinished sand sculptures. Some of the kids on the beach seemed to have unlimited energy, and were unafraid as they tried to catch sea animals in the surf. There was a solid black sand fortress, and some of the children were trying to bury themselves under large sand dunes, and some were running towards the water wearing life vests. They giggled freely and the laughter seemed like it could be heard as far away as the boats on the surging waves.

I roamed around the beach just following my own footsteps. I felt the landscape surrounding me. Unconsciously, I grabbed a handful of sand and felt it trickle through my fingers. A thought suddenly hit me that if I cannot hold onto the sand then it is better to let it drop to the shore. I opened my hand to let the sand return.

(Translated from Chinese by The Weekly’s intern Kim Hyo Jeong)

▲ Photo by Lu Jianwen
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