Sun, Fun, and Sand: A Weekend at the Busan Sand Festival

[pullquote align=”left”]Summer in Korea means one thing: time to spend a weekend or two at the beach. [/pullquote]From July to September, the beaches in Busan are inundated with families from all over the country, and every year, Busan flaunts its beaches’ popularity by holding a sand festival on the famous Haeundae Beach. While a “sand festival” doesn’t sound like the most thrilling weekend adventure, there is always a lot to do. A couple days of strolling through mazes of sand sculptures, shopping for handmade trinkets, and drinking with friends on the beach can’t be that bad.

Once Upon a Time...

The main event for the weekend is, of course, the sculptures. Artists from all over the area show off their skills by creating masterpieces with a common theme, which, for this year, was Once Upon a Time. The artwork featured a few familiar faces, like Rapunzel and Little Red Riding hood, as well as more traditional Korean stories like Hungboo and Nolboo, the two brothers who learn a lesson about greed. While admiring the details of these sculptures is entertaining, there is far more to do than just look at cleverly carved sand. At the end of each day, there’s a sand castle competition, where you can create your own work of art along with all the 7 year olds desperately wanting a prize. There are also vendors that set up booths along the shore to sell their wares, and there’s even a tent where you can learn everything you never wanted to know about sand.

Walking along the beach, you can really get a feel for a typical summer at Haeundae. Oversized beach umbrellas hide a plethora of families from the sun. . As a Californian, at first it struck me as odd to find the sea of umbrellas pitched in the sand, leaving no place uncovered—not to mention the hundreds of fully-dressed people floating on the waves, perched atop their bright yellow inner tubes. Although I’m not sure I could ever swim in a t-shirt and jeans, it is fun to join the masses and hop on an inner tube.

Taekwando Smurfs

No festival is complete without some sort of parade, and the Busan Sand Festival does not disappoint. For about 10 minutes, there were cartoon characters marching the streets, from Cinderella to Spongebob. There was even a random drag queen in a grass skirt thrown in there for good measure. For the big finish, a group of taekwondo-Smurfs (i.e. a large group of poorly painted blue teenage Korean boys) flipped and bounded down the street. After the parade, I went back to the sand once more to choose a prime location, watch the waves roll in, have a few drinks, and listen to the distant sounds of the bands playing. Not too bad for a weekend devoted to dirt…

Gulliver's Travels

Sand Bugs

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