What is Chuseok?
Chuseok 추석 is explained to foreigners as "Korean Thanksgiving". Like Thanksgiving, it is a harvest festival held around the equinox and like Thanksgiving, families gather to share food. The word Chuseok itself means "autumn evening". Usually Korean people will travel from the cities they live in to their ancestral hometowns so that they can prepare meals together and pay respects to their ancestor's spirits. (Tip: It makes traveling a bit of a headache so if you have holiday plans, try to purchase your transportation as early as possible.)
Songpyeon 송편 is one of the traditional foods prepared for Chuseok. It's made from tteok (rice cake) and stuffed with a variety of different things such as sesame seeds, black beans, cinnamon, honey and walnuts. The little dumpling looking things are steamed with pine needles to give it extra flavor and also for decoration. You can buy them at street markets, but I was given my first songpyeon by an ajumma (a respectful term for a married or aged woman) that rescued Rob and I from wild hogs and other night terrors on our way down from a hike in Gyeryongsan National Park. That story deserves a post of it's own, I'll work on that.
Chuseok weekend is one of the only vacations that Rob got this year and since we don't have any Korean ancestors to bow to, we decided to join the hash group in Daejeon on a little island run that they were preparing. So you're probably wondering something along the lines of...
What is hashing?
Hashing is a excellent mix of a social gathering and a workout. A little exercise and a little beer. Sometimes there's more of one than the other and you can never be sure which side the scale will fall on, but that's where the fun lies. Hashing started in Malaysia as a running club for expats, the original members came up with the title Hash House Harriers and modeled the events after the British game paper chase. The most famous hash that I know about is The Red Dress Run in New Orleans, LA put on by NOH3. (New Orleans Hash House Harriers)
So here are the basics, you come bearing a hash cup and a small fee (in Daejeon, South Korea it's around 10,000 won). There are a couple of people who have organized the entire event, or hash, they're called the hares. The hares begin running their planned path and the hounds (the rest of the runners) follow the chalk or flour markings that they leave behind. The hounds must wait a small amount of time before they are allowed to start running after the hares. You follow the arrows until you get to an activity or beer stop, read the directions that they left you, complete whatever task they asked for, finish the beer and soju, and move on. Sometimes there will be tricks on the path and you must go different directions until you find the correct markings to continue. The objective is for the hounds to catch the hares before the party at the last stop. I'm not sure if it's like this in other places, but if they're caught the hares have to take their pants off. It hasn't happened on a hash I've been to but that detail keeps things interesting.
Getting to Sapshido, South Korea
We stayed at a friend's house in Daejeon (Thanks Deni!) the night before and got to Seobu Bus Terminal bright and early. From Seobu, you can catch a bus to Daecheon 대천 Beach Bus Terminal. You'll want to get a ticket from Daecheon Bus Terminal to the ferry terminal (대천연안여객선터미널) or take a taxi. The ferry ride to Sapshido is about 40 minutes long. You can check for a current ferry time table here.
About Sapshido //
The west coast island is named after its bow and arrow shape and is a great day trip from Boryeong. The beaches there were a little littered, but we had the place all to ourselves. It was such a change being away from all of the flashy lights that are common in Korean cities. Our trip was rainy, there was a typhoon coming the next day, so it was even more desolate. You could smell smoke from people's grills while they gathered to enjoy the holiday with their families. The waste from fishing and the cracked buildings made me feel like I was in another part of Asia, one not as polished as Korea. I personally loved it, I like getting away from the noise and I like it when there are more trees than people.
We were planning to camp on the beach but the rain didn't allow that to happen, so we joined the rest of the group in the pension that the hares provided. You can find markets and restaurants on the island, so no need to worry about bringing your food with you.
The run turned in to a hike, but it was beautiful. The soil there is so red and there were views of the ocean behind the trees. Someone was able to start a fire on the beach, and we had an amazing time cooking food on the grills that were at the pension. The ocean water was warm and you could see glowing candles from a cave with a chuseok offering near the beach.
By the next day, we were all wet, dirty and ready to get home. While we were waiting for our ferry we ate Jogaetang at a restaurant close to the port. It was a stew made with fresh clams, tofu, and different vegetables including hot peppers.
Overall, it was a beautiful trip and I definitely recommend a stay on Sapshido if you're in Korea! Thanks for reading and thank you to Mike and Dan for haring the hash and organizing everything.
Comment below if you've been to Sapshido and have anything to add!