IT’S happened to every traveler – a place starts off sounding intriguing, but upon arriving seems more ‘meh’ then ‘hey, cool!’. The Gwangyang Ornamental Knife Museum (광양장도박물관) was one of those places for me – an interesting facet of Korean history, dulled somewhat by the lack of English explanation and few stories worth telling. It ended up being worth the visit, but for other reasons.
A jangdo (장도) is a small, ornamental knife worn by women (and sometimes men) during the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties (10th to 14th, More >
Take the tourist friendliness of Jinju Fortress, the size of Suwon’s Hwaseong, and a bit of the remoteness required for the Andong Hahoe Village. Put them together and you get Naganeupseong (낙안읍성) – a fortress with several hundred citizens still living within the fortress walls. It’s remote, so it’s a stretch to call it a day trip from Seoul; it would be pretty easy from Gwangju, Daegu, or Busan.
Two of the many jangseung, or Korean totem poles typically placed near a village entrance to ward off evil spirits. Dozens more are scattered around the fortress, but the biggest grouping is along More >
Destination: Unjusa – where weird stone statues are more interesting than the temple’s buildings (Hwasun-gun, Jeollanam-do)3
IF you’ve spent any time in Korea, you’ve seen a temple or three. I’ve lost track at this point, but this one remains memorable for a few reasons. On one level, it’s considered a ‘mysterious temple’ since the founder and date isn’t known. On another level, the temple holds a number of stone statues I doubt you’d see anywhere else. There’s nothing to describe them, possibly because there’s so little that’s really known about the place. This is despite four excavations and two academic studies done over the course of 7 years.
It’s believed that the temple once had a thousand stone pagodas and More >
Gwangju Kimchi Town (광주김치타운) – possibly one of the weirdest places in Jeollanam-do – and on a road named after a food! Intended to house a kimchi museum and a working manufacturing plant, we saw no evidence the latter was operating. The place was such a ghost town we weren’t sure the place was open at first – even the cafeteria was closed. Eventually, we discovered the first hall (seen above). A kind but clueless lady actually asked us if we knew what kimchi was. Bear in mind, this is after researching the place, after finding the place, after showing the taxi driver the address (who hadn’t More >
Destination: the first laver cultivation farm – the legacy of a Mr. Kim (an island in the middle of nowhere, Gwangyang, Jeollanam-do)0
Designated Jeollanam-do Monument #113, this is one of the most remote places I’ve visited in Korea. That includes Ulleungdo, a Geoje-do POW camp, and a tropical island where the taxi drove on the sand. Even after 2 fairly long bus rides and a walk along the main road, it’s still a 700 meter walk down a side road.
The site is dedicated to 김여익 (Kim Yeo-ik), the man who first cultivated laver, or dried seaweed sheets. Despite the remoteness, an English sign is around to explain some of the details. Born in 1606 a bit east of Mokpo, he moved to Taein-do (now called Bae-al-do, the same island as More >
The nice thing about being a travel blogger is the seemingly endless array of places to write about. Since I started, I’ve made it a point to visit a new place, event, festival, or something new every single week. It’s also quite nice to retain an independent mindset (e.g. not paid by official or government
I won’t be checking out the Yeosu Expo, for at least a few reasons.
Cost – much like the Olympics happening in More >
THE bus ride and walk are worth it.
Located within Jogyesan Provincial Park, 선암사 (Seon-am-sa, or heavenly rock temple) offers Seung-seon-gyo (the bridge seen above) as one of the temple’s National Treasures (Treasure #400). The scholars aren’t sure whether the temple started in either the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC-AD 676) or the Unified Silla Period (676-935) – either way, it’s pretty old. While the first known name, Haecheonsa, was given in the 6th century, it was changed to the current name Seonamsa by Tosun Kuksa (the highest ranking priest) by the 11th century. He also consolidated More >
Where life moves at the speed of turtles made of stone.
Let’s start off by calling this place remote – from the nearest train station, it’s a 50-60 minute bus ride. Planning to visit somewhere after will require you to get a fairly easy start. That said, it’s well worth the trip to slow down and admire the stone turtles.
Destroyed by fire in December 2009, Hyangiram has rebuilt itself as most Buddhist temples do. Originally built in 659 AD by the monk Wonhyo, Hyangiram (literally ‘standing toward the sun’) is one of four places in Korea to pray to Gwaneum, the Bodhisattva of mercy. It’s More >
It’s a hike – but it’s worth it.
The Yeosu area may well be a very different place later this year, as the Yeosu EXPO finishes construction and gets underway in May 2012. As it stands when I write this post, the only exit at the train station deposits you in the midst of a construction zone. Getting out of it means catching the occasional bus or ever-present taxi. After you’ve enjoyed the Expo grounds, Odongdo offers a surprisingly easy getaway from the futuristic architecture and overwhelming crowds.
From where the bus lets you off, start by heading up the ’scenic lookout’ – a few hundred More >
Author’s note: a version of this article appears in the Gwangju News, November 2011 issue.
On my way to Wando Tower – the harbor serves as a cornucopia of colors, and is a reminder of what you don’t see in Seoul.
The scene is set – drying fish in the foreground, the evergreen forest island Judo in the background, and a few boats in-between.
After visiting the excellent Wando Arboretum, the next stop on the island is Wando Tower. Best seen in the afternoon or for the sunset, the nearby parks and the area make it worth sticking around well after the sun sets. Start by hiking up the hill, More >