Great Destinations To Enjoy A Weekend Away
The South of South Korea is well known above all for spectacular landscapes on offer, and is also home to thousands of secluded islands. Over the oncoming Summer months, On any certain weekend, Going off somewhere is paramount to a summer well spent. Here is some of my personal recommendations to enjoy on a break off from one’s daily life.
Gwangju is a low-key city most of the time, in many areas of the city centre, traffic ceases and streets become pedestrian malls busy with people strolling all over.
Gwangju is always in contention for having “best food in South Korea” and “the most food served in South Korea.” This is because in the past wealthy aristocrats went to great lengths to have top shelf food standards, and because the lush Honam Plain in Jeollanam-do has provided food for the city’s gourmets. Also, the country’s best jeongjong and makgeolli are served here with an array of drinking snacks which make a veritable dinner out of a drink.
The absolute best time to make your way to Gwangju is when one of its two popular festivals is up and running. If you have developed a taste for Korean cuisine, visit during the Kimchi Festival. The festival is held over a long weekend in late September or early October. Here you can get a taste of every kimchi imaginable, even some that you never imagined. There are plenty of games and local talent performing to keep the crowds content.
The other major festival is the Gwangju Biennale, which runs from September through to November every 2nd year. This is South Korea’s premier exhibition for the arts, displaying pieces from Korea’s best artists, as well as contributions from artists from over 50 other countries.
Damyang Bamboo Crafts Museum
Probably the most revered plant in Korea is bamboo, called daenamu in Korean. It is a key material for making chopsticks, spoons and can be harvested for its delicious tender shoots, and immortalized in paintings and poetry.
The center of bamboo cultivation and craftsmanship is Damyang, north of Gwangju. The best time to visit Damyang is on market day, which falls on days ending with either the number 2 or 7. The market is beside the Gwanbangcheon stream, opposite a chartreuse bamboo forest. The bamboo is cultivated no longer than three years, as its purpose is specifically for basket-weaving. Villagers bring their wares down from their nearby village homes on market day, which starts at around 6am and finshes up by around 3pm. Straw and bamboo mats are sold near the market above the riverbank.
In the town center stands what locals claim to be the only museum devoted to bamboo. Check out the many uses made of bamboo in Damyang’s Bamboo Crafts Museum.
Jin Island is a large island that is only two hours’ travel by ferry from Mokpo. The island is also connected to the mainland via Korea’s longest suspension bridge, but the scenery makes the boat trip more worthwhile.
Jin-do is well known and quite famous for two things specifically. One, a rare breed of dog, The Jindotgae literally translated as Jin Island dog. It has a short, nearly white coat of fur along with characteristic curved up tail. A yearly Jin-do dog show is held in the fall and billed among the English-language press as a “beauty contest for dogs.”
Jin-do’s second claim to fame is an unusual natural occurrence where the impressive low tides that at end of February and around mid-June roughly, the tides are so low that a small island about 3km offshore becomes accessible by foot. It can be likened to the parting of the seas. In recent years it has become an extremely popular event, with thousands of people walking between the two islands. The event has reached the scale of a festival , and has become a showcase for the island’s cultural traditions and enthusiastic local talent.
Though Jeju-do cannot advertise that its deep fissures and frozen lava swirls are the products of still-active volcanoes. It can claim to have the world’s longest known lava tubes, Manjang caverns are located to the northeast of the island between Jeju City and Seongsan.
The Manjang cavern, the longer of the two tubes, is a incredibly long 13.4km in length, although only 1km of the cave is open to the public. During the summer, visitors can join the lamplight tours of these caverns filled with bats, spiders, centipedes, and unusual lava formations. You are advised to dress warmly as temperatures inside the caverns stay between 10–20°C throughout the year.