Travel Destinations: Gwangju, South Korea
Gwangja may seem as though it’s just another city in South Korea, but at the very heart of this city lays an artistic soul. The city promotes its artistic and soulful tendencies, as well as its magnificent historical glory.
Gwangja National Museum and Vicinity is a must see site when visiting this city. Located north of the city, their beautiful collections of brilliantly preserved Chinese ceramics are the highlight of the museum. These ceramics were only recently found inside a shipwreck dating to the 14th century. The collection has various different artefacts, from the iconic beautiful vases to the more humble mortar and pestles. Inside the other galleries, you will find displays of Buddhist and Joseon art.
If you take a 15 minute walk through a tunnel under the expressway, you will find the Gwangja Folk Museum. This is a wonderful place to visit as it uses dioramas, sound and visual effects as well as models to show the traditional culture. You can also see the historical photographs which show the process of how the Koreans transformed from feudal farmers to 21st century technological geniuses.
After this, why not take a walk around the corner of the Folk Museum. You will discover a lovely park that holds the Biennale Exhibition Hall.
The Gwangja Art Museum is part of a plaza where concerts are held and displays features from the avant-garde Gwangju Biennale. To reach here, take the number 23 bus from the bus terminal. Get off at the Gwangja Art Museum and walk the 15 minutes to the Gwangja National Museum.
The May 18th National Cemetery is a memorial park, a good place to visit. Sombre, it opened recently in 1997, it contains a humble burial site for the 325 civilians who died during the 1980 Gwangja Uprising. The small museum holds some powerfully emotional photographs and film of the events that still affects the political landscape.
For when you want to relax, the Mudeungsan Provincial Park which overlooks Gwangja, is the next stop. It is a breathtakingly beautiful mountain range with well-signed trails where you can reach the peak, Cheonwangbong.
Uijae Misulgwan is a chic art gallery which shows some beautiful pieces from the painter Heo Baek-ryeon (1891-1977). A 10 minute walk from here leads you to Jeungsima, a temple with an iron Buddha dating from the Silla period. Next door to it, is a ting shrine dedicated to the Shamanistic Mountain God.
There are daily flights to Gwangja and travellers can also use the bus which runs quite regularly. From the airport, take the Bus 1000. A taxi will cost around W7500. Trains run between Gwangja and Yongsan Station in Seoul.
Gwangja is a great place to visit if you like to discover shining gems hidden in a rough case. Look beneath the normal, everyday, drab setting and you will find a beautiful artistic city that is proud of its heritage.