Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mokpo and Damyang - Boats and Bamboo

With a "free" weekend, October 9-11, 2015, Bob and I visited several places in the southwest Jeolla Province of Korea.  A beautiful drive through rural farming communities took us to the west coast town of Mokpo.  It is from here that ferries set sail for several Korean island destinations.  Bob was quite excited to patronize a drive-through McDonald's - a rare find in our big city!

We decided to visit the National Maritime Museum, which features the relics of several recently discovered shipwrecks from the 11th-14th centuries.  Fortunately, modern-day sea exploration devices are more refined than the 16th century diving-bell Bob tried out.  These merchant ships carried pottery, spices, medicinal herbs, games, kitchen tools, and red sandalwood.  Seeing coins strung on rope gave me a new found understanding of the holes in the middle!  An exhibition on folk fishing villages and a history of Korean ships were also on display.


   I enjoyed the Coastal Exhibition outdoors showcasing various traditional boats.  Bob was perplexed by the notion of an anchor built of wood!


We returned to Gwangju that evening and the following morning we set out to explore Damyang - home of the revered bamboo forests of Korea.  Our first stop was Soswaewon Garden, which is supposedly the best example of a traditional Korean garden.  This small private garden was built in the 1500's and features a bamboo forest in the outer garden, with a small stream trickling between pavilions in the inner garden.  Several poems were written here on sign-boards by poets of the time and hang in the buildings.

The city of Damyang was hosting a "World Bamboo Fair", so we decided to see what it was all about.  It looked like a pretty big deal - like all Korean festivals!  There were exhibitions and experience centers, a show, musical performances, food vendors, a bamboo product market, science and craft classes, and more.  But it started raining when we arrived and we were not interested enough to pay the price and join the crowds.

 Instead, after the rain subsided, we took a walk down the Damyang Metasequoia Road.  The Sequoia  is famous as an extinct fossil tree in Korea, and in 1972, as a government roadside tree pilot project, Metasequoia trees were planted along a 1.5 mile stretch of road in this area.  Today, it creates a beautiful and popular refreshing roadside walking path.  Tourist attractions are available all along the path, including experience centers, cafes, artistic endeavors, theme parks and amusement centers.

Leaving Damyang around 2:00, we stopped in Osan for Bob to conduct some church business and then arrived back in Seoul that evening.  We enjoyed experiencing the laid back countryside and natural beauties of Jeollanam.

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