Published: April 28th 2011April 28th 2011
Spring is by far my favorite time in Korea (minus the occasional yellow dust). The weather is mild and pleasant, skies are clear, and everything seems to be voraciously blooming. Sadly, springtime is also rather short here, so I'm trying to make the most of it by taking as many weekend trips as possible. Over Easter weekend I went to visit a friend who lives in Gwangyang, in the Jeollanam province. Although my friend warned me that there isn't a whole lot to do in Gwangyang, I was eager to get out of the city and experience spring. Weather is much nicer in the southern part of the peninsula and spring is already in full swing. So, I headed out there, eager for some refreshing air and countryside tranquility. I arrived to the pleasant sight of buildings no taller than 6 stories (contrasted with the massive skyscrapers of Seoul) and beautiful warm air. I instantly felt better. We didn't do much in Gwangyang, but waking up early and going for a jog around the bay in perfect weather was enough to make me want to come back.
We spent Saturday in Suncheon, a neighboring city with slightly more attractions and
activities. The first stop was Seonamsa, a Buddhist temple constructed during the Unified Silla Period. From the Korean tourism site, "The name Seonam (Heavenly Rock) derives from the legend that a heavenly being once played the game of Go at that spot. Aesthetically, Seonamsa is considered to be quite feminine, while Songgwangsa Temple, also located in Mt. Jogyesan, is thought to be masculine." The temple itself is quite modest but there are many sites around it worth visiting as well. Buddha's birthday is right around the corner, so the temple grounds were beautifully decorated with thousands of colorful lanterns. Walking up Jogyesan is a treat in itself. A stream runs alongside the walking path, trees are blooming, and lanterns are everywhere. The weather could not have been more perfect, and the sounds of monks chanting in the distance completed this experience.
On the walk back down the mountain we passed by Seungseon-gyo bridge, a famous bridge that joins the two sides of the stream. It only spans 14 meters, and is constructed granite, but it is elegant in its simplicity. A sculpture of a dragon's head juts out from under the bridge.
Stop #2 was the Suncheon Bay,
a coastal wetland and ecological marvel of Korea. A 3.5km long stream runs through the bay, which is carpeted with reeds. The bay is a proud landmark of Korea, and Suncheon is even called the ecological capital of South Korea. A raised wooden walkway snakes through the wetland, allowing visitors to walk through much of the grounds. The walkway leads to an observation point that overlooks the entire wetland grounds. We wanted to take the boat tour, which takes about one hour to complete a circle through the stream, but it was closed for the day.
Suncheon Bay maintains its pristine beauty with the help of a complex interaction between various elements. Salt swamps help purify the water and keep pollution at bay. A combination of salt content and abundant fields of reeds make this place an excellent home for lots of little creature, as well as a migratory location for several species of birds.
I highly suggest visiting the bay close to sunset; the views are superb.
Sunday was Easter, and we decided to paint Eggs in celebration. We took the painted eggs to a BBQ that we were invited to. It turns out, twin 3
year old girls were celebrating their birthdays at the picnic so we hid the eggs and let them experience the joy that is searching for eggs. Later we grilled up some Australian beef and had delectable burgers. As much as I enjoy living so close to Seoul, a visit to a less frenzied part of the country is becoming more and more necessary. I'll definitely be making my way back here this spring.
There are more photos below