Top 20 Things To Do At The Damyang House

What will you do during your stay at The Damyang House?  Here are 20 suggestions to help you organize your visit (in no particular order).  These can all be done without a car (bus/transfer service gets you to the house):

1.  Hike Through the Bamboo Forest
Pretty obvious choice seeing as you’ll be surrounded by it on three sides.  Added bonus:  the trailhead is in the front yard.

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Hiking: TDH Top 5 Dog Friendly Hikes

Being dog owners ourselves, we’re constantly looking for dog-friendly hiking options. So, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite routes around the area to help take some of the guess work out of your weekend adventure in the countryside.  As a rule of thumb, Eco-Parks and National Parks are typically NOT dog friendly (there are exceptions as you will see below).  Also, please be respectful of other hikers that may not be comfortable around your “large” dog. Keep them leashed when necessary, clean up after them and don’t let them kill any of the wildlife 🙂

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Hiking: Chuwolsan Provincial Park – Dog Friendly

Chuwolsan is somewhat of a no-brainer in terms of hiking.  It’s easy to find, has facilities, and as a provincial park it’s not too strict with dogs.  All trails from the parking lot lead straight up the mountain and it can be steep so if stairs aren’t your thing, maybe give this one a pass.  The views are killer though if you do make up to the top, or even part of the way!
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Hiking: Mudeung National Park (Shinseondae) – Dog Friendly Route

 

 December Hiking

 

Mudeung National Park (or any NP for that matter) doesn’t exactly scream “dog friendly”, but Mudeung is unique in a few key ways that make it a bit more accessible for you and your pup.  In short, it’s very large and was only recently given national park status.  Provincial parks, Mudeung’s former rank, aren’t as heavily funded and therefor lack the strict regulations found in national parks.  They’re usually free so there is no reason to limit the number of access points and trailheads leading into the mountains can be found in just about every village in the countryside.  We have one right in our front yard that connects to Sosaewon, Shikyoungjung, and a massive network of trails throughout the surrounding mountains.  These types of trails are dog friendly and usually much less crowded!
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Restaurant Review: 황가네 (Eco-Park Restaurant)

 


I’ve spent a lot of time at this restaurant over the years so it goes without saying I’m a bit biased and probably couldn’t give an objective review even if I wanted to.  However, judging by the reaction of family and friends I think I’m justified in giving this no-frills restaurant an enthusiastic two thumbs up.This place is well known amongst locals, mostly due to the cheap prices and pungent flavors (seriously the kimche at this place is beyond “fermented”!), but also has it’s fair share of signatures on the wall from visiting local/national celebrities.  Famous or not, this place is packed with customers during mealtimes, mostly ordering the star of the show:  the kimchee jiggae.  The kimchee jiggae (see photo above) is made with the aforementioned “funky” kimchee, but is also chocked full of pork and homemade green tea tofu.  Best 6,000 you’ll ever spend!


The green tea tofu can be ordered on it’s own (comes with dipping sauce) and will usually be served with the ban-chan before your main dish arrives.  It’s fresh.  It’s delicious.  Order some to-go on your way out!


Speaking of ban-chan, the six pictured above are usually what you get…the portions are certainly representative of Jeolla-Do (read: large) and refills often happen whether you ask or not.  The ban-chan (and food for that matter) is definitely on the salty side, but most good Korean food is.  The menu has a few different options, all of which you would expect to find in a place like this, but honestly I never venture far from the kimchee jiggae.  They are accommodating for vegetarians as well, but make sure you ask (everything except the tofu itself has meat and/or seafood in it).

Kimchee Jiggae, Ban-Chan and Green Tea Tofu

 

순두부 지께

Getting there from the house is easy.  Head towards the Eco-Park (take a right on the main road and a left at the gas station) and continuing walking past the park entrance (it should be on your right) for another few minutes.  The restaurant will be on your right and looks like this:

Stop by next time you’re in the area…you won’t regret it!
Looking for something else?  Plenty of other restaurant recommendations can be found here.

Restaurant Review: Sanggyo Galbi (쌍교 숯불갈비)


Sanggyo has recently undergone some major renovations, presumably to solidify their reputation as “the” top dog in the Damyang restaurant market.  I try not to let fancy buildings influence my judgement of the food (it’s Korea after all…some of the best food in the country is found in some of the scariest looking restaurants), but it’s hard not to be impressed with this beautiful hanok inspired two-story restaurant.  As a testament to the quality of the food, I can tell you that for the better part of a year, during the renovations, they had people eating in make-shift shacks and it didn’t affect business in the slightest.  Be prepared to wait at least 45 minutes on the weekends…mind blowing when you see how big it is inside.

 

Like any good tourist restaurant (not a negative in this context) they provide, both floor and table seating as well as private rooms.  The food comes out quick and servers are accustomed to obnoxious picture taking so snap away.

 
They offer two local specialties: ddeok galbi and Damyang style BBQ’d galbi.  I’m sure you can find better ddeok galbi elsewhere in town, so stick with the galbi they’re famous for.  The Damyang style of BBQ is a bit different in that the meat is brined and cooked in back and comes out piping hot and ready to eat.  You have a choice between regular and spicy (it’s not spicy at all).  Both are delicious.

 
The basic banchan will arrive almost immediately and consists of three types of salad, three types of kimche, three types of seaweed and a couple of other odds and ends.  The server will recommend which salad or seaweed to eat with the meat, but after a decade of living in Korea I’m pretty sure that there is no rule about what goes in your lettuce leaf wrap.

Additional servings of meat are easy to order and encouraged by the staff.  Refills of banchan are no problem what-so-ever.  Basically, arrive hungry and ready to eat.  Be sure to save room for the “shik-sa” portion of the meal…because it’s not dinner unless rice is involved!  We, for some reason, always order the sujaebee and are always disappointed.  One portion is more than enough for three or four people though so at least it’s not expensive.  In fact our entire meal for three people, including five orders of meat (don’t judge), five beers, and an order of sujaebee was about 80,000…and I didn’t eat for the next 48 hours~

 


Not interested in galbi?  Plenty of other options can be found here.

Restaurant Review: Daega (대가 – 생선구이)

Daega is another popular “destination restaurant” for both domestic tourists and Gwangju day-trippers alike.  It’s situated directly across from the Gwangju dam and it checks all the right boxes by being comparatively cheap, serving local specialties and having a somewhat quirky “traditional” interior design.  Even during the winter months, when everything else is dead, this place is thriving on the weekends with a packed parking lot and a full restaurant.

 

Even if you don’t like grilled fish (looking at you dad), this place is just straight up fun to be in.  Walking through the big wooden front doors, you’re greeted with a large open restaurant offering floor seating, table seating and a few private rooms in the back.  There’s tons of traditional kitsch around to keep your eyes occupied while your stomach waits for your food to arrive.  They even have a water-way built into the floor with goldfish swimming around!

The menu has a few options, depending on the size of your group, but it’s basically your choice of grilled fish with or without ddeok galbi.  Don’t sleep on the ddeok galbi…it’s better than most (all) of the Damyang restaurants specializing in this tasty local treat.  The set menus toward the top will give you a mix of different fish, ddeok galbi and the dolsot rice.

The banchan will arrive first, of course, and while it doesn’t look like much they are extremely friendly about refilling the dishes you like, especially if you catch them before the lunch/dinner rush.  The kimche is at least a million years old and is phenomenal…refills are a must.

Next out is the dolsot bap.  If you’ve never had it before, it’s basically two dishes in one:  rice and 누룽지 (I’m not even going to try and spell that in English).  Simply scoop out your rice into the separate rice bowl (not pictured).  Don’t scrape too hard because the crispy burnt pieces stuck in the bowl is what makes your 누룽지.  Next, fill the stone bowl with the barely tea from the pitcher on your table and put it aside until the end of the meal.  During the time it takes you to eat everything else, this burnt rice and barely tea will turn into a delicious after dinner porridge.

Shortly after you’ve dealt with your dolsot bap, the fish and ddeok galbi will arrive.  The type of fish will vary depending on which set menu you choose, but it’s all delicious!  If you’ve been in Korea longer than five minutes you probably know the fish comes out whole…you’ve been warned.

  

Here’s what the entire spread looks like:

 


For dessert you have a choice of coffee, shikhye or do-it-yourself ice cream cones.   Or you can do yourself a favor and skip the crappy dessert and order another round of OB and a few more of those tasty ddeok galbi paddies!

Restaurant Review: Vietnam Restaurant and Mart

Spring Rolls

Fried Spring Rolls

Pho Bo

Pho Bo

What this place lacks in decor and ambiance, it makes up for in authenticity and taste.  Don’t be fooled by the dilapidated exterior of the building and the exposed kitchen and appliances indoors.  They’re serving Vietnamese food miles beyond what you’ll find in Gwangju (those Vietnamese chain restaurants basically serve Korean food for twice the price).

 

 

Walking in, I was met by a small Vietnamese server and a handful of younger Vietnamese friends having lunch…always a good sign to see actual Vietnamese people in a Vietnamese restaurant.  Rumors of Bahn Mi sandwiches proved false (possibly sold out?)  (update: been back a couple of times and still no Bahn Mi sandwiches) so we opted for the litmus test of Vietnamese food:  Pho and Spring Rolls.

It wasn’t cheap at 24,000 for two people, but two bowls of soup and a plate of spring rolls was more than enough to fill us up and ultimately well worth the price.  Simply put, it was delicious. (The fresh spring rolls are better than the fried)

This place is also a mart selling Vietnamese snacks and ingredients.  The mart is in the back, where you will also find additional seating.  The best part is they sell fresh cilantro if you ask nicely…2,000 for a large handful.

The location is pretty easy to find as it’s close to the river, noodle street, and one of the most famous restaurants in town, SeungIl Shikdang (승일 식당).  Here’s the google map link.  Just in case, here’s the map from my phone:

If you have room for dessert, head down to the river and get in line with the rest of these suckers and buy some of the “famous” Damyang donuts 🙂

 

Hiking: Jishil Valley (The Mountains Behind The House)

This is the 5km dog-friendly hike I’ll recommend to you when you visit and be secretly disappointed when you provide some thin excuse the next day as to why you couldn’t fit it in your schedule.  My disappointment lies in the fact that this trail is nearly perfect in so many ways.

For starters, it offers more “bang for your buck” than any trail in the area.  It’s got a bamboo forest, a pine forest, giant boulders, ancient pagodas and a pretty amazing overlook just towards the end that acts as the cherry on top (it’s all downhill from there!).

Spring

Summer

Fall

Winter

Next, it’s extremely accessible.  The trailhead is in the front yard (literally) and the trail ends just on the other side of the village.  No need to walk along the busy main road, ride a bike or drive anywhere.

 

 Start at 12 (the house) finish at 1 (Shikyoungjung)

Lastly, it’s the perfect length; long, but not too long.  At around 2 hours, it’s just long enough to make it feel like you accomplished something and earned that second helping of chicken pot pie.  You can even cheat and head straight up to the overlook by doing the hike in reverse.  From the front door you can be looking out over the entire valley and Mudeung National Park while enjoying a cup of makoli in less than 20 minutes (double that if you’re my wife).

 

The hike itself is fairly easy to navigate, but here’s the play by play just to help eliminate a least one of the more common excuses (getting lost).

In the front yard, to the left of the fence, you’ll find the trail.  This trail runs behind the fence and out to the road in the village so it’s not uncommon to see hikers passing through.

The trail from the front yard

The trail leading into the bamboo forest

This trail leads through a thick bamboo forest that gradually thins out as you go up the mountain.  Even if you’re not interested in hiking the whole trail, do yourself a favor and at least walk through the bamboo forest.  It’s what Damyang is famous for and pretty cool to have right at your fingertips.  Bonus points if you go in there at night (spoiler alert: it’s terrifying).

At the top of the first climb, you’ll come to a small ridge and a trail marker.  Here’s the secret to this hike: take a left EACH time you see one of these trail markers.  That will loop you back around the valley to the other side of the village.

 


As I mentioned, after the first climb and at the first trail marker you’ll take a left (always a left) and continue up the mountain (if you take a right you’ll end up at Sosaewon).  It’s a fair bit of uphill, but I promise it’s worth it.  It gets rocky towards the  top and you’ll start realizing how high up you are!

 


After a couple of left turns and a couple of climbs/descents, you’ll end up at the overlook.  There are actually two overlooks.  The one on the left overlooks the Jishil Valley and of course Mudeung National Park.

 

 

 

The overlook on the right provides views of Gwangju Lake.

 

 

The overlook is a good place to relax and soak in the views.  It’s all downhill from here back to the house so take a break and continue down the trail when you’re ready.  When you reach the pine forest you’re very near the end of the trail and its ultimate destination:  The National Heritage site of Shikyungjung.


As you exit the pine forest continue walking towards the pagoda and ultimately down the stone staircase.

 


This small park has four or five pagodas and is a popular tourist attraction for the bus loads of Korean tourists that visit during the summer.  It also attracts a lot of photographers and can be very scenic with dramatic changes throughout the year.  Here’s my best effort:

 

 


From Shikyungjung you will be able to see the poetry museum.  Behind the museum you will find a small village road that will take you back to the house and offer one last glimpse of Mudeung National Park.

Poetry Museum

If you have a bit more time and energy, walk across to the Eco-Park and watch the sun set!  Enjoy.

 

 

Hiking: Mudeung National Park – Hidden Lake (dog friendly)

Update:  This “trail” is also a pretty sweet off-roading adventure if you have a four-wheel option!

Here’s another suggestion for a shorter “bike’n hike” outing that can be done in an afternoon without leaving you exhausted at the end of the day.  At around a dozen kilometers, this one is even shorter than the Wonhyosa Valley hike I previously suggested, yet still gets you off the beaten path and into some of the more remote corners of Mudeung National Park.  Don’t be fooled by some of the gloomy weather and crappy phone camera…it’s a beautiful hike and besides a few local farmers, completely unknown and void of the day trippers swarming to the Eco-Park.

From the house you have a few options on how to get to the back entrance of the Eco-Park, where you’ll find the road leading to the trailhead.  A bike will take you the 4km pretty quickly and is a no-brainer as you’ll be using the main roads.  If time is on your side, I would suggest walking there via the rice paddies or by entering the main entrance of Eco-Park and walking through the park itself (ideally a combination of both).

Because I had my dog (another dog friendly hike!), I opted for the rice paddy route on the way there and the main roads on the way back (2-3 hours total).  Here’s the cyclemter link to help you get your bearings.  And here’s instructions:

Walk out to the main road and take a right.  Take a quick left across the small service road that crosses the river.

 


Take a left when it dead-ends on the other side of the river and take the first left after that down this service road into the rice paddies (these turns are all very quick).


Follow this service road around through the rice paddies until you reach the cows in the blue stable.  It’s gorgeous out here in nicer weather!


When you reach the cows take a right up the little hill.  At the top you’ll have views of all the surrounding mountains, including Mudeung.


Just after the top of the hill you’ll want to take the first left down towards the middle school and a right at the intersection in front of the middle school.  Again, these are all quick turns.


This will take you around to the Eco-Park parking lot and this fancy 7-11 where you can grab some snacks and drinks to take with you on your hike.


At the main road in front of the 7-11 you should take a left…you should be walking away from the Eco-Park main entrance and parking lot.  This road will take you toward the back entrance of the park (you could walk through the park itself if you don’t have a dog with you!).  You’ll also walk past this restaurant (황가내), which is a good place to stop for lunch if you’re hungry before or after your hike (the tofu is made in-house and infused with green tea…the kimche jiggae is 6,000 and AMAZING).


Just past this restaurant you’ll see a small road and bus stop.  Turn here (right) and walk up the hill to the back entrance of Eco-Park.

 


This road leading up to and past the back entrance of Eco-Park will take you around to the lesser known side of Gwangju Lake.  It’s a quiet walk/cycle along this road with a few small hills.  Great fishing on this side of the lake as well so keep that in mind when you see small trails leading off the road down towards the bank of the lake.

 

 

 

Same road in nicer weather (although winter)

Keep walking until you see this road/trail on your left.  This will take you to the hidden lake.  Once on this road it’s a straight shot with no turnoffs so pretty easy from this point.  This trailhead is only a couple of kilometers from the back entrance of the Eco-Park.

 

A better look at the sign at the turnoff to the hidden lake.

Follow this trail (it’s more of a road…probably used by local farmers) up through the valley.  You’ll eventually enter Mudeung National Park.

 

Once you reach the lake, you’ll find a small trail in between the lake and the rice paddies which will take you around the lake (clockwise).  Pretty easy as it’s not a huge lake.  The trail on the opposite side from the rice paddies is more pronounced and easier to follow.  The trail on the side of the rice paddies tends to get overgrown in the summer months.

From here it’s all downhill back to the house and you get to enjoy the scenic valley views the entire way!  Enjoy.

Looking for something a bit more ON the beaten path?  Plenty of other suggestions can be found here.