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A stroll along Ilsan Beach and through Daewangam Park

Ilsan Beach (일산 해변)

I have found leaving the house sometimes difficult since moving. I get really comfortable in our cosy, two bedroom apartment. I have routines, patterns. Before moving here I didn’t think I would struggle with exploring. When we go on holidays I am the first person to plan a day out to see and do and feel and eat and experience everything I can. Since moving to Ulsan I can tend to have this slight dread at going to new places. I am telling myself this is expat cultural shock and it will dissipate.

Out of sheer force last weekend, I suggested we go see Ilsan beach. I thought if I just committed I would eventually feel it- and I am so happy that paid off. Exploring Ilsan Beach and Daewangam Park turned into a really beautiful day and one that will stand as a marker for the start of our lives in Ulsan.

Ilsan Beach is located in Ilsan-dong. We took a bus from UNIST and all up the trip took about an hour. It is impossible to miss as the bus stop is literally called “Ilsan Beach.” I don’t mind a bus ride- it is precious, unjustified time to catch up on reading or podcasts. The beach is about half a kilometre in length. Visiting in October meant the breeze was sharp but we still saw people jet skiing on the water. The beach was closed and from what I have read people don’t tend to swim until the start of the beach season. We walked the southern end of the beach and enjoyed the smells of different food stands, and sounds from the open air arcades. The northern end of the beach hosts the live fish and seafood market and some of Hyundai’s heavy industries. I am excited to go back when the weather warms up and spend some time relaxing by the shore.

A walk in Daewangam Park (대왕암 공원)

The entrance to Daewangam Park marks the southern most end of the beach. There is an open area to watch the ocean to the left of the stair case. Close by a group of people were cleaning litter from the water and beach. Dozens of bags sat filled with rubbish that had been hauled from the ocean.

From the bottom the staircase can be a little intimidating. I found the stairs a little easier as they are wider and not as high.. of course i was comparing to Merewether beach and ANZAC stairs from home. We battled the stairs, trying to hide how out of breath we were at the top. I was glad we packed water. To the left hand side there is a picnic area where you can see views of the ocean. I may have taken an excessive amount of photos, not realising the views only improved as the walked progressed.

We continued on the path, following the “Park trail” signs. This trail takes you through the main park land (interestingly, the park has over 15,000 evergreen trees), and to a number of picturesque stop offs along the legendary rock road.  There were a lot of stairs, some uneven and awkward. My OT brain immediately noted how inaccessible this trail could be to a lot of people- especially the path way made entirely of rocks. I felt better knowing there was a more accessible, direct entrance closer to the Ulgi Lighthouse. All up I think we walked about 4 km. 

At the end of our walk we were rewarded with views of the Daewanggyo Bridge, connecting Daewangam to the main land. The bridge was apparently built and donated by Hyundai in 1995. 

The walk across the bridge and to the peak of Daewangam was crowded. What I noticed though was even though it was crowded with people wanting to enjoy a sunny, Autumn day, everyone was orderly. No one was pushing or shoving. Someone had left a pile of their day bags at the entrance to the bridge walk. Just pushed to the side of the walkway. I don’t think that is something I would see any tourist being brave enough to do in Australia, let alone any other country I have visited. 

Daewangam has a legend attached to it: 

“King Munmu, the 30th king of the Silla Dynasty, used to express his desire to become a dragon after his death so that he would protect his kingdom from enemies. 

When the King passed away, he was buried under a great rock in the East sea in accordance with his will and became the guardian dragon of the kingdom. 

People, therefore, call the rock “Daewangam,” which means “The rock of the great King” and is located in Yangbuk-myun, Gyeongju. 

Furthermore, the Queen became a guardian dragon of the kingdom after she passed away, since she would honour her husband’s noble will. Later, the dragon flew to Ulsan and submerged herself under his rock right here to protect the East Sea.” 

From Daewangam, we trekked back to the tourist centre. There are lots of food and coffee options next to the children’s playground. I enjoyed a croffle (a mix between a croissant and a waffle) and it was glorious. 

I cannot wait to go back in Winter and Summer to see the differences the seasons bring.

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