Following Kayla and my day of rest and errands, we decided to go to the Jungnokwon bamboo forest in Damyang. It’s about 45 minutes outside of Gwangju, the city we live in. We cabbed to the bus terminal and bought our tickets. Going to Damyang is only $2 and our bus never even got on the highway. We basically drove through Gwangju until we got to the next town over, Damyang. Unlike larger cities like Gwangju, Mokpo, and Seoul, the bus terminal here was basically a shed and comparable to the Wondo bus terminal.
We got off and waited for a transfer bus to the Jungnokwon bamboo forest. This bus ride was only $1 and the ride was about 5 minutes up the road. Unlike the buses that take you between major cities in Korea this local Damyang bus was ancient and it appeared handmade, complete with rusted metal panels welded to the floor, possibly to cover places that were even more rusted underneath.
The bus stop for the bamboo forest was next to a beautiful riverside park and a little stone footbridge connecting the two banks. Kayla and I walked along the riverbank watching Koreans escaping the summer heat under large shady trees. There was a fountain along the way with kids running through it getting wet and cooling off. The whole area felt very peaceful and not at all like the hustle and bustle of the big cities like Gwangju and Seoul that we were used to.
Kayla and I crossed the stepping stone footbridge and entered the Bamboo forest.
There were tons of Korean families enjoying the bamboo forest and taking photos. Several Korean TV shows had been filmed in the Bamboo forest and occasionally there were placards referencing various scenes and shows.
A bit deeper into the bamboo forest, Kayla and I came across a model traditional Korean village with a few little stores and houses.
I got the impression that certain times of the year re-enactors would demonstrate various traditional Korean trades, but no one was there when we visited so we were left to make our own assumptions.
This village was really beautiful even if it was fake. There was a wooden bridge along the water where Koreans were feeding Koi and taking more photos. It was one of the most peaceful places I’ve been to in Korea so far.
Further along our explorations of the Bamboo forest we came across a Buddhist temple. No one was there and all the doors were locked so Kayla and I wandered around the outside. I took some photos and we sat by a different pond and listened to the fountain before making our way back to the bus.
Just before the footpath we’d taken to the bamboo forest we came across several outdoor food stands. Kayla and I stopped for some sweet pancakes stuffed with honey. They were incredibly delicious and only a dollar.
Overall I had a really good time at the forest. I feel so at home in Korea. Occasionally I have to remind myself that I’m living in Korea. While everything around me is different so many things are also the same. Kids still love legos and playing in fountains. Families go on vacations. Everyone eats delicious pancakes. There are still grocery stores, coffee shops, and apartment buildings. In downtown Gwangju there are most of the same stores found in the states.