While doing some research on places to visit while we’re in Korea, I came across an ex-pat’s blog that proved to be very helpful. She listed the sources she used to find travel ideas, one of which being CNN’s 50 Beautiful Places to Visit in Korea. I’m always intrigued by lists, as they generally provide a clear cut “check-list” of things to see and do and it’s easy to keep track of what you have seen and what you haven’t. I must admit that my Korean geography is pretty sketchy, so I had to look up most of the locations to see how far they are from Kunsan AFB. Of course, I learned a lot along the way, which is always nice. I found three places on the list that are within a two-hour radius, a “must” if Bobby doesn’t want to take leave / ask permission to be gone. So, we started there. The three places seemed to be pretty close to each other, so we set off early in hopes to see all of them on one Sunday afternoon.
Our first stop was the Terraced Fields in Hamyang, number 29 on the list. I should put an asterisk by this though, because unfortunately these terraced fields are located in more of a general area than a specific place. We figured we would get close to the address provided by CNN and then like the wine roads in Italy, the rice fields would just appear on the horizon. Not so much. We did get to see one pretty cool terrace, but didn’t find any like in CNN’s photo. This was a bummer too, because in the fall the fields are golden right before the harvest.
After driving around for about two hours, getting our car stuck on a rock on a very steep embankment and almost ripping the back bumper off (it would have probably improved the value of our Korean car!) and then striking out again while following directions from someone in town, we decided to give up. I’m certain the terraces are absolutely beautiful, as eluded to by the photo above, but unfortunately that’s the only one we got to see.
We turned back around and headed for the next site, Kwanghan Pavilion, which is number 25 on CNN’s list. The pavilion is located in the town of Namwon and is the setting of Chunhyangjeon, one of Korea’s most famous folk tales. The story is so famous that it has been made into several movies over the years. Chunhyang, the young, beautiful daughter of a gisaeng (a Korean geisha), and Mongryong, the handsome son of the local governor, first met and fell in love in this beautifully designed pavilion, which was designated a national treasure in 1963.
Surrounding the pavilion is a pond that is filled with really large fish. I’m not sure what kind of fish they are, but if you go outside the garden’s gate, all the restaurants serve this fish for lunch and dinner. In fact, it was Sunday and it was the only thing we could find to eat. We weren’t really into the fish scene that day, since the heat caused the stench to be pretty unbearable, so we bought a couple of snacks in the grocery store and pressed on to the next stop.
The third and last stop on our day trip lead us to the city of Damyang and the Juknokwon (Bamboo Garden), which is number 15 on the list. We ended up hitting up the bamboo garden on the weekend of the International Bamboo Expo, which meant that it was very crowded. It took us a bit to even find a parking spot on the crowded streets and with the heat, it was pretty miserable… I’m not going to lie! However, the bamboo was mature, meaning that it was tall and thick and we were provided lots of shade. That was a plus!
After a really hot and sticky day, of course we ran into traffic on the way home, Stella ran out of milk with about an hour and a half left and we were all frazzled. We ended up getting back to the base about 8pm and collapsed on the couch. Who knew driving around for the majority of day could wear us out?!