Last June, my friend Samantha and I decided to take a weekend trip to a city called Gwangju, which is about five hours South of Seoul. The weekend was full of adventure and lots of “only in Korea” moments. We stayed at Namdo Hostel, which I highly recommend. The owner was incredibly accommodating and helpful and the atmosphere was quiet and relaxing, which is exactly what we were hoping for.
Since Gwangju is a small city, most people there did not speak English whatsoever, which was interesting to say the least. Sam and I are both vegetarian, so ordering our it was hard to relay to the restaurant that we wanted a meat-free dish, but we settled for a “squid stir fry.” This dish was literally a plate of squid with a head of lettuce and a banana. Never a dull moment, Korea!
The next day we decided to head to the Boseong Green Tea Plantation in the neighboring city Boseong. We took a local bus near our hostel to a larger bus terminal, which only proved to be even more confusing because the scheduling was wrong and nobody spoke English. We laughed it off, though, and met a nice couple from Germany as we waited for our main bus to take us to our destination. It was well worth the wait as the scenery was absolutely stunning.
After we ate lunch, we walked over to get some green tea ice cream and we ran into my friend Julia. I met Julia hiking Hallasan on Jeju Island last January and hadn’t seen her since. I was pretty excited to see her! The three of us decided to figure out a way to get to Damyang-gun because I really wanted to check out the Damyang Bamboo Forest. Since Boseong is such a small town, the buses don’t run as frequently as the schedule says they do. However, we figured it out and took a 1.5 hour bus back to the main bus terminal and then another 40 minute bus to the forest. I forget which ride we were forced to sit on the ground for given that the bus was over capacity, but it was still such a fun day and totally worth all the trekking.
After deciding our legs were going to fall off if we walked any longer, we decided to head back to Gwangju and get some dinner. After saying our farewells to Julia, Sam and I went back to our hostel and met an Incheon Police Officer who was drinking shots of soju alone and beat boxing. We went to bed early as we planned to go hiking in Gwangju on our last day.
The next day we accidentally hiked about 8 miles, but again, the trek was well worth it. We woke up and said our goodbyes to the owner of our hostel and took another local bus to the base of the mountain at Mudeungsan National Park. Halfway up our hike, we decided to stop at one of the temples along our path. As it turns out, we got there just in time for the meal, which was some sort of vegetable broth with noodles. Temple food is great because not only is it vegetarian, it’s free.
After finishing our hike, we realized we had a few hours to kill before heading back toward Seoul. We decided to check out a market where I purchased a giant Korean pear (also known as “Dan Bae.”)
Although it was a bit of a trek, I highly recommend anyone looking to get out of the city to head to Gwangju!