Just around this time last year, me and one of my dear friends also living in Seoul decided to go on a weekend adventure to Damyang located in Jeollanam-do, South Korea.
Planning our trip just around the time of the 17th Damyang Bamboo Festival we purchased KTX(Korail train) tickets and set out for Gwangju early one Saturday morning. On our train ride down south we planned out our full itinerary for the weekend. Our first destination was Damyang. After our visit there we planned to spend the rest of Saturday exploring Gwangju(*a historical city with significant history in Korea). The next destination the following Sunday, pending organized transportation, was visiting Boseong (*a well-known green tea plantation in Korea). Our weekend was certainly jam-packed with a lot of places to explore. Thankfully, we had just enough time.
Going back to our arrival in Gwangju, my friend and I picked up some tourist guide books at the train terminal station and discovered that we needed to take a bus to city bus terminal station where would be able to take another bus that would take us out of the city and into the countryside of Damyang county. After making our way via local transportation, we arrived midday at the Damyang local bus terminal station. Discovering that the Damyang Bamboo forest was just a 20-minute walk away we headed out enthusiastic about seeing bamboo.
Having seen only a handful of bamboo growing in some people’s private yards back home in the states, I was always interested in seeing an actual forest of bamboo. Unfortunately, bamboo does not grow in abundance anymore throughout Korea and the only well-known abundant forest is located in Damyang county’s Juknokwon(죽녹원), a preserved park filled with tall-growing bamboo shoots.
Upon entering the Damyang Juknokwon area, my friend and I, spotted the trail way leading to the area’s Metasequoia pathway. This pathway is famous for being one of the backdrops for the 2002 popular Korean drama Winter Sonata.
Making our way across a river basin where many festival festivities were stationed we headed uphill towards Juknokwon. The admission price to enter the bamboo park was only: 3,000won ($2USD). Once inside you are free to explore all of the trails leading high up into the hillsides. To make each trail more enjoyable the park installed photo zones, traditional themed rest-stop pavilions, informational cards, and life-size panda statues for tourists to take pictures with.
Spending the whole afternoon to spend there, my friend and I made sure to explore one of the longest trails on the map. We walked deep into the forest and ventured into areas less crowded. Taking advantage of the non-crowded areas we soaked up the scenery: the sound of the bamboo shoots moving due to a strong breeze, the varying color scheme of the bamboo, the immense size and height of the bamboo shoots, and the sight of new bamboo shoots emerging from cocoon-like stumps.
Somewhere in the midst of taking pictures of the bamboo the 1974 song “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting” came to mind. Before we knew it we started taking some awesome kung fu shots – turning our calm bamboo adventure into a kung fu fighting photo shoot. It was just as awesome as it sounds!
We must have taken several good action shots of each other doing high-kicks and leaps in the air, surrounded by bamboo. Haha, we eventually stopped due to the arrival of more tourists coming down the trail way we had used as our photo zone.
Having lots of fun acting out kung fu moves, like Jackie Chan would, we moved on to other areas in the park that might also be good spots for more shots. My friend and I eventually found a new location and decided to complete an action shot together with the help of a nice elderly Korean man who happened to be visiting the park with his wife. Together we pushed ourselves off of bamboo and completed a high-kick contact photo shot. It was a priceless photo opportunity!
After completing our combo photo opp we continued our self tour through Juknokwon, and came across the waterfall area where the majority of life-size panda statues are located. This area was very crowded with tourists and local Koreans taking group pictures next to and with the pandas. Taking a few candid shots before making our way down to the pandas we noticed that many tourists had left their names on bamboo shoots along the path way, as a memento of their travels through the park. The majority of the signatures were from couples who inscribed their names inside of hearts.
Visiting Damyang’s bamboo forest was one of the best trips I had gone on while living in Korea. It was a great experience getting lost in nature, and seeing a new area of Korea that I had never visited before.
For anyone interested in visiting Damyang, I highly recommend that you visit between mid-spring and the beginning of summer(April-June). The temperature between these months is just right. It is neither too hot or too cold and the insects are few in number. Also, during this period there are many spring festivals taking place in the Jeollanam-do area. These festivals include: The Jindo Miracle Sea Road Festival, the Gwangju International Film Festival, the Boseong Green Tea Festival, and the Damyang Bamboo Festival.
My friend and I really enjoyed our short adventure into the bamboo forest. Before leaving the area we got to visit some of the festival shops and buy hand-made bamboo items. We also had the opportunity to eat Damyang daetongbap (대텅밥) – rice steamed in a real bamboo shoot base and ddeok galbi(떡갈비) – grilled marinated beef at a great restaurant called Okbingwan (옥빈관) located right next to the bridge(see map photo above) located outside of the forest.
As one of the most memorable trips in Korea I hope that I will get the chance to visit Damyang again. I would love to go again either with my good friends or family if I get them to travel with me outside to Seoul. But, we will see what happens when that day comes 🙂