Week 17: A Korean Love Story

Gwangju Travel Blog

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Temple of the Moon and Gwanghallu Garden.

We finally were able to take advantage of the Gwangju International Center's (GIC) Cultural tours.  On this tour we went to Namwon, approximately an hour or so from Gwangju.  After mistaking Gwangju Station (it turned out it was the train station) for Gwangju Terminal (the bus terminal is not exactly close the the train station) we made it to the group meeting place with less than 5 minutes to spare.  First we went to Gwanghallu Garden which is the setting for the Korean version of "Romeo and Juliet".  Basically a courtesan's daughter falls in love with the son of an aristocrat.  After professing their love to each other in the garden, the aristocrat's son was forced to go with his father to Seoul to complete his studies while the courtesan's daughter was terrorized by the new governor and was jailed due to her refusal to dishonor her true love.

  Eventually the aristocrat's son finished his studies, was given a highly respect position in the government and returned to find his true love.  On his way to his true love's village he discovered the cruel fate that had befallen her so he led a band of disguised soldiers into the village, rescued his love and arrested the evil governor.  And they lived happily ever after.

The garden was a very pretty place to visit in the fall.  The trees were bedecked in warm autumn colors and the fallen leaves were strewn across the elaborate ponds where immense koi fish greedily gobbled the pellets thrown to them by the many garden visitors.  One section of the park displayed a recreation of the hanok, or traditional korean home typically built at the time of the Korean love story.

  Traditional korean games resembling a see-saw, horseshoes and hacky-sack were also set  up for the garden visitors to play.  Justin and I both took a turn on the 60 foot high swing.  We stood on the seat while the other one pushed us and tried not to get sick :)

After the gardens we walked out the back gate, browsed through some souvenir stands and had bibimbap for lunch at a local shikdang.  Afterwards we walked alongside the river where couples could enjoy a breezy boat ride on a swan-shaped boat and headed to the Chunhyang Theme Park.  This theme park is also based on the characters from the korean "romeo and juliet" and is devoted to educating visitors on traditional korean folk life.  We were given hanbok (traditional clothing) to wear as we walked through the park.

Giving us a demo of the "Rice Bomb"
  Our many stops included a lesson in playing a korean drum, watching puffed rice or (rice bombs) being made, tasting traditional wine (milky-white makoli), kimchi and tofu, and trying out traditional torture methods ie the stocks, tying someone on a horizontal platform and beating them with a huge wooden paddle, and tying someone's legs together with rope and using two wooden  poles to spread their knees thus causing a very sharp pain (or so I'm told).  We didn't really torture anyone but we did get some good pictures of us in the act :)

As we left the park we followed a colorful, vibrant parade leading from the park and following the river through the city.  Overall the day had been very chilly but we got a good taste of traditional korean culture.

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Temple of the Moon and Gwanghallu …
Temple of the Moon and Gwanghallu…
Giving us a demo of the Rice Bomb
Giving us a demo of the "Rice Bomb"
Minsu and Justin punishing Du Man.
Minsu and Justin punishing Du Man.
photo by: khartl731