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: 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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Bike’n Hike (XI): Naejangsan National Park

Destination:  Naejangsan National Park
Cycling:  50km (one-way)
Hiking:  5km

This is our fourth visit to Naejangsan National Park for good reason (see also Bike’n Hike I, II & VI).  It’s not only a beautiful underrated park, it’s also extremely accessible in terms of cycling and hiking.  At this point it pretty much acts as the “entry level” Bike’n Hike adventure for those on the fence about whether something like this would be fun or torturous.

We’ve covered this trip in detail in the past, so here is a brief photo essay of this most recent trip.  When my friend wasn’t complaining about the cycling and my wife wasn’t complaining about the hiking it was a perfectly lovely two day adventure!

 Early start to the day.  Perfect weather.

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Bike’n Hike (XII): Byeongsanbando National Park / Wido Island

Destination:  Byeonsanbando National Park / Wido Island
Cycling:  180km
Hiking:  2km
Days:  2.5

 

This trip to the Buan peninsula had been canceled twice previously, so even though I got rained out on the last day it was still labeled a success.  The entire area is beautiful and offers excellent coastal roads for cycling (didn’t do much hiking due to the incredible heat during mid-August).  Oddly enough the biggest challenge was finding food!
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Bike’n Hike Update and Summary

The “Bike’n Hike” concept was born out of a failed backpacking trip to Jirisan National Park in February of 2014. The logistics of that trip, for whatever reason, weren’t coming together and out of frustration we got out our wall map of Jeolla-Do and started looking for alternatives.  Naejangsan National Park, the closest to Gwangju, was an obvious alternative choice.  Within about 15 minutes Jirisan was long forgotten, our bikes had replaced our car, and our first Bike’n Hike tour was organized and ready to go.
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Bike’n Hike (IX): Jirisan National Park

Destination: Jirisan National Park
Cycling:  164 km
Hiking:  20 km
Days:  3

Jirisan National Park, the destination of the 9th Bike’n Hike, is downright intimidating. It commands a lot of superlatives (biggest, oldest, highest) and having cycled and hiked there on separate occasions, I knew exactly what I was in for. I could have easily canceled the trip for any number of reasons; thunderstorms were on the way and it wasn’t exactly the best time for a three-day bike tour. Truth be told, I was just afraid I wouldn’t make it to the finish line! In fact I did make it and it wasn’t all that dramatic.  Fun actually.  Here’s all the gory details:

Day 1 (cycling): TDH to Jirisan National Park – 84 kilometers

Leaving the village
Day one and three could easily be switched as they are nearly equal in terms of length and difficulty.  Together they make a nice loop around Jeollanam-Do and avoid having to back-track.  I chose to take the “southern” route first, which takes you towards Dongbok Lake and then Suncheon, before turning north towards Gurye, just outside of the park.  Here’s the cyclemeter link.
Like all rides from the house you start on road 887.  Take a left out of the village and head up the mountain where you’ll briefly enter Mudeung National Park.  There’s a tunnel at the top so it’s not much of a climb.  It’s a nice valley, decent roads and very little traffic.  Not a bad way to start the day. 
 Road 887
Around the 12km mark you’ll need to find the sign below for the turnoff…the road is unnamed on my maps.  This takes you through a small village and around the northern tip of the lake.  It’s easy and scenic and a HUGE time saver.  Cycling around the southern tip of the lake is much more challenging with at least three climbs of varying size and difficulty.  Wish I would have found this shortcut sooner!
Turn right here
 Countryside village bus stop

Dongbok Lake

It’s all much more scenic than it looks…the weather wasn’t cooperating and the early morning light wasn’t helping either.  Just past the lake you’ll pick up 15, but it’s not long after (7km) that you’ll need to jump on 22.  You need to follow 22 until you find 18, which takes you directly to the park entrance (Hwaeomsa), where you’ll find accommodations and food.  Sounds confusing, but these roads are all well marked…just keep heading towards either Suncheon or Gurye.  Additionally it’s top-notch cycling!  Gorgeous valleys and no major climbs to worry about.  Wind is more of an issue than elevation. 

The photos above and below are the same valley.  Weather makes a big difference!

Heading to Jirisan
 Heading to Jirisan 
 Just outside Gurye
After you pass through Gurye (easy…just stay on 18) you’ll eventually need to turn off and head up towards Hwaeomsa Temple.  These last 4km are by far the hardest!  It’s a slow finish, but once you’re there you just need to sort out accommodation and food.  Both of which will be at your fingertips.
There are quite a few pension/minbak options.  I settled on the first pension I walked into because: A) I was tired and hungry.  B) The owner was friendly and willing to let me keep my bike indoors.  Not to mention the room had cable and wifi…I was on my own and there isn’t much nightlife so this was an added bonus.  화엄각팬션 can be found right behind the main parking lot.  You can’t miss it.  The room was 40,000/night. 
 The room
 The view
The pension
The business card
There are a few restaurant options available right across the street from the cluster of pensions.  The menus are all pretty much the same and feature all the countryside classics you would expect in a tourist area just outside a national park.  But unless you’re traveling with a group, you’ll be limited to two or three (at the most) options on the menu.   Traveling solo SUCKS in this regard…bibimbap and pajeon were on heavy rotation because everything else was for groups of four or more.  Thankfully they don’t apply these rules the dongdong-ju.  
 동동주
 산채비빔밥
 산채전 and a thunderstorm

Day 2 (hiking):  Hwaeomsa to Nogodan Ridge

Day 2 of course started out with more bibimbap, before entering the park and walking the kilometer or so to Hwaeomsa Temple.  The trail up the mountain starts just behind the temple, and while you do have the option of simply walking around the temple, I highly recommend walking through the temple instead.  It’s an impressive temple.  Very well maintained and very active.  Chanting and drums at 9am is a pretty fun start to any day of hiking.  Once you walk out the small back gate of the temple, turn right and look for the wooden bridge.  For the next 3+ hours you will be hiking uphill!

 1500 meters straight up!

 화엄사
 Monk chanting
 화엄사

Unfortunately this park entrance, the closest entrance in terms of cycling, doesn’t offer anything in terms of a “loop” hike.  You don’t have much option but to hike 10km up to the top and then head back down the way you came.  It definitely isn’t an easy hike and takes a solid three hours to get to the top (at least two heading down).  The last two kilometers are by far the steepest and slowest.  Not very many people on the trail during this trip so it was nice to have the forest to myself for once.

 Bridge leading into the park

     
Jirisan
Jirisan

 Jirisan
At the top you’ll find a ranger station, and area to cook your noodles and even a little shop to buy ice cream.  The trails near the peak are well maintained and oddly busy.  It took me a minute to figure out that everyone else had driven nearly to the top via the service roads and “hiked” only a kilometer or two.  Cheaters.  
The top of the mountain was covered in clouds when I arrived so I was only able to see just enough to let me know I was missing out on some killer views!  Bummer.  Still pretty though.  
 Trail to the top
The trail
 The top!
 
The view

 The trail back down
 Blue flowers

Day 3 (cycling):  Jirisan National Park to TDH – 84 kilometers

Getting home via the “northern” route is a great way to end the trip as it follows a scenic river valley the first half of the day.  There is even a semi-decent bike path if you want to avoid the quick trucks on the road (recommended).  Here’s the cyclemeter link.  

When you head out of Guyre, stay on road 17 and follow the river to Gokseong.  Pretty easy!  If nothing else look for this MASSIVE bridge.

 Leaving Gurye
 River valley
 Bike path
 River valley
Bike path
In Gokseong you’ll pick up road 60, then 27 and finally back on 60.  Follow signs to Gwangju and then Damyang and when you’re closer, look for signs to Soesaewon, which is the National Heritage Site next to the house.  Again it sounds confusing, but it’s pretty easy with the maps linked above.  It’s all quiet countryside.  

With stops for lunch and snacks it took me a little over five hours to get home.  Plenty of time left in the afternoon for a nap and a BBQ!

Already been to Jirisan?  Plenty of other suggestions can be found here

Bike’n Hike (VIII): Geumseongsanseong Fortress Wall (담양 금성산성)

Destination:  Geumseongsanseong Fortress Wall (담양 금성산성)
Cycling:  62km
Hiking:  9km

Days: 1

 

 


The original Bike’n Hike trip to the Damyang Fortress Wall was scheduled during a weekend back in January, but it was actually snowed out.   Fast forward a couple seasons and it was finally time to pull the trigger on this one day adventure.  Glad I did because not only was the weather perfect, but the fortress wall itself is way more impressive than I anticipated (or remembered).  To top it off, we stopped at DamJu Brewery (bamboo beer!) on the way home and the owner gave us a private tour of the place and free beers!  Win.Getting to the fortress wall from the house is fairly painless and only takes about 90 minutes.  Disregard what Naver Maps will tell you and avoid road 29 until after you reach “downtown” Damyang.  Instead take road 887…that’s the road our village is on and it’s a much more scenic ride (and considerably less traffic…in fact road 29 south of Damyang is borderline dangerous).  Here’s the cyclemeter link to help with directions.

 

Leaving the village.

 Damyang countryside.

887 will take you into Damyang where you will pick-up 29.  Follow the signs.

Once through Damyang you’ll have Chuwolsan to keep you company (the big rocky mountain).

Chuwolsan.

This is the small farming road you’ll need to turn right onto.  It’s unmarked so check the map.  This will bring you out just north of The Damyang Resort, where the park entrance is.

Just past The Damyang Resort (or just before if you arrive from the other direction) you’ll see this sign pointing to Geumseongsanseong.

Head up the road 2km to the park entrance.

Once you reach the parking lot, you can lock up your bike and get a look at the map.  It’s a pretty simple park, but you still have options.  Basically you will hike up to the “South Gate” and from there you will either take the trail hiking the perimeter of the park, essentially walking along the fortress wall and hitting all the “Gates”, or you will cut through the park via the valley trail and then hike back to the South Gate by using either the east or west mountain fortress wall trails.

I chose to hike down through the valley and back around via the eastern fortress wall trails, only because I had seen a bit of the western half of the park in the past.  Here was my route: 보국문 – 충용문 – 보국사터 – 서문 – 북문 – 운대봉 – 동문 – 내성 – 충용문 – 보국문.  This particular route was 9km in total (~4 hours).

The park isn’t labeled very well in certain areas, at least compared with your average National Park, but it’s difficult to get truly lost because it’s simply not a very big park.  At times we thought we had lost the trail because: A) we were hiking on the fortress wall which just seems wrong considering it’s a billion years old (seriously it was reconstructed in the 1400’s) and B) it was at times pretty dangerous with rocky trails, and steep drop-offs (“This can’t be the trail!”).  Having said that, we were never “lost” for more than a few minutes.

 Hiking into the park.

 First entrance into the fortress wall.  보국문.

Approaching 보국문 from the other side.

The second entrance.  충용문.

충용문.

충용문 from further up the western fortress wall trail.

The view from this second entrance, 충용문, is where you can really start to see how high up you already are.  It was a bit hazy this day, but the views of the valley and surrounding mountains are pretty impressive…and this is only the first kilometer of the hike.  From here you can also see the iconic views of the first entrance, 보국문.  This is pretty much what pops up if you google image search Geumseongsanseong.  Wish I had a better camera!

 보국문.

 보국문.

 보국문.

From here I headed down into the valley and followed the signs toward 서문.   The valley is a quick easy hike, which is good because the next section from 서문 to 복문 was by far the most difficult.  You have to hike back up to the ridge line which is pretty steep.  It’s amazing to see how much of the wall remains intact and hard not to imagine what led them to build and maintain such a massive structure.  Luckily you’ll have plenty of time to think it over because from here you follow the wall all the way up to the ridge line and then all the way back around to where you started.

Damyang Lake.

복문 is a great place to stop, relax and enjoy some makoli because most the climbing is out of the way.  It’s not exactly an easy hike back to your bike, but there aren’t any stairs either.  The views are incredible at this gate as well so it’s a good place to catch your breath and grab a few photos.

복문.

Jojo made it.

This next part of the hike is where it gets a bit dodgy.  It’s rocky with steep drop offs and it’s not always clear where to go.  Seems most of the trails eventually link up whenever they split, but it does help to pay attention during this stretch.  Maybe save the makoli for the end of the hike!  The views are pretty much 360 degrees during this stretch and you can actually climb up to one of the peaks.  It’s pretty intense.

From here you hike back down and pass through the two main gates that brought you into the park.  It’s all downhill back to your bike so it’s quick and painless.  Normally we’d call it a day at this point, but as luck would have it, the DamJu Brewery was on the way home.  I’ve raved about this place in the past and have been anxious to get back there during the warmer months to enjoy that outdoor seating…I couldn’t imagine a better time or circumstance.

Needless to say, this rooftop beer garden is amazing.  The views are extensive and look out over the surrounding rice paddies and mountains.  There were even a bunch of paragliders cruising around over the open countryside right in front of the Brewery.  With all of these healthy distractions it’s easy to forget you still have another 20km to ride!

Two of the three paragliders.

The owners are really friendly and because it was before the dinner service, they joined us for a beer and even showed us around the brewery.

Pretty incredible end to an already fun day.  The ride home from the Brewery is just one road, the 887, so it’s not only difficult to get lost, but it’s also flat.  And it always guarantees nice views!

Tired of fortress walls?  Plenty of other options here.

TDH Updates: April 2015 – Artist Chung Park

 Photo by: Diaz

Seoul based artist Chung Park has left his mark on Jeollanam-Do, both literally and figuratively.  Having two exhibits under his belt at the new up-and-coming Salt Art Gallery located in Gwangju, he’s no stranger to the area.  We were happy to snag the “Beacon” piece at the first show and have it proudly on display in the entrance way of the house; it’s the first thing you see when you enter.

My increasing obsession with sotdae (솟대) is directly proportional to the amount of time I’ve spent in the countryside over the last couple of years.  They’re easy to write off as “ducks on a stick”, but like most things in Asian culture have a much deeper meaning and significance.  Disney, unfortunately, has done no favors for these sacred migratory birds in western culture.  In contrast, here’s an example of one of many quotes on the Wikipedia page for sotdae, “It was believed that ducks travel to the world beyond the Earth and act as a messenger between the physical world and the realm of the spirits.”  Damn. 

It’s no secret Chung is a friend of The Damyang House, so convincing him to bring his talents back down to Jeolla-Do once more for a mural at the house was an easy sell.  Finding time was another story.  Alas, the planets aligned and it all came together this past weekend.  Sotdae now guard both entrances of the house and add a splash of color to an otherwise empty outside wall space.  

It was an action packed weekend at the house and we’re happy to share all the gory details.  Special thanks to Jay Diaz for helping to both participate in, and document the madness.  

Day 1 – Chung gets started:

The wall
The sketch

 
 Not as easy at it looks. Photo by: Diaz

Chung working; Diaz documenting
 Photo by: Diaz

 
Photo by: Diaz

Johan (Salt Art Gallery) looks in.  Photo by: Diaz
 
 Photo by: Diaz

 Photo by: Diaz



 
 Photo by: Diaz
Day 2 – We went for a hike and left Chung to his work. 
Photo by: Diaz

Photo by: Diaz

Dinner!

The artist sleeps! Photo by: Diaz

Day 3 – Finished work.

Photo by: Diaz

Chung eats a well deserved kimche jiggae at 왕가녜.

Well deserved thank you’s to Chung Park for the mural, Jay Diaz for the photos and Riser for hosting…and the whole crew for putting up with me for the weekend. Boom!

Bike’n Hike (IV): Jirisan National Park / Hallyeohaesang National Park (Namhae-Do) / Suncheon Bay

Destination:  Jirisan National Park / Hallyeohaesang National Park (Namhae-Do) / Suncheon Bay 
Cycling:  370km
Hiking:  0km
Days:  4
 
 

I skipped hiking these parks during this ride only because I wanted use my time to establish a cycling route.  If you combined hiking all of these parks, it would be upwards of an eight or nine day trip (and grueling!).  If you focused on just one park and rode there and back, it would be more of a traditional three-day Bike’n Hike.  And of course there are multiple variations in between that allow quite a bit of flexibility.  Jirisan is the toughest in terms of hiking.  Hallyeohaesang (Namhae-Do) is toughest in terms of cycling (new roads currently under construction will make this ride much easier in the future!).  I will present the route as I rode it, a four-day ride, but will make a note of different options at the end of each day.

 On the way to Jirisan
 
 Just outside Gurye

Day 1: Jirisan National Park
Click here for the cyclemeter link.

Pick up 887 right in front of the village and head towards Goseo (6km) where you’ll get on road 60.  Follow this to 13 and then to 27 and back to 60.  Not nearly as complicated as it sounds!  These roads are nothing special, but no major climbs or dangerous traffic either so not a bad start to the day.  In Gokseong you’ll pick up 17, which follows a gorgeous river and offers an option of a bike path (better than most bikes paths in Korea, but oddly confusing at times).  Lots of pensions along this ride and a nice end to the day.  Follow signs to Gurye, the town at the base of Jirisan National Park, where you have the option of staying in a motel (여일 motel was very friendly, let me keep my bike in the lobby and was only 30 bucks) or pressing on the extra few kilometers to the park where you have the option of tent camping. 
Note:  For a three-day Bike’n Hike, you would basically hike the park on day two and head back the way you came on day three.  
 
 Heading to Namhae
 Coastal views on Namhae Island
 
 Hallyeohaesang National Park

Day 2:  Hallyeohaesang National Park (Namhae-Do)

Click here for the cyclemeter link. 
This was by far the most challenging day.  It’s long at 98km and has some tough climbs.  The biggest one being at the very end of ride, just before you get to the beach.  The biggest problem though, is the construction on Namhae island.  It makes for a stressful ride, at least for now.  The park and beach are both incredible so if you’re still interested, please read on. 

Leaving Gurye is a fantastic ride along a scenic river with very few distractions.  You can either follow road 861, which follows the south side of the river, or road 19, which follows the north side of the river.  There seemed to be a bit less traffic on road 861, but you’ll eventually pick up road 19 a couple of hours later in Hadong anyway, so the choice is yours.  The next couple of hours along road 19 aren’t the greatest in terms of scenic beauty, but not exactly challenging either.  Things change dramatically when you cross the bridge onto Namhae island.  Road 19 takes you all the way to the beach, but there is a considerable amount of construction along the way and a fair amount of traffic as well.  Not the greatest combination.  The climbs towards the end of the ride are pretty tough, but the downhill into Sangju Beach makes it all worth it.  Plenty of minbaks around if you want to treat yourself.  Tent camping is available for about 7,000 won (?).  Showers cost 2,000.  Hallyeohaesang National Park is right behind the beach (follow 19 back up the mountain…trail head is about halfway up on the right).  The hike to the top is pretty easy and only about 2km.  Amazing views of the coast await!

Note:  A considerably easier option would be to head directly south to Suncheon/Suncheon Bay for the day.  The route in “Day 4” of this ride will take you back to Damyang making a nice loop and effectively cutting out Namhae-Do.  
Suncheon Bay
Suncheon Bay
Suncheon Bay

Day 3: Suncheon (Bay)
Click here for the cyclemeter link.

The ride from Namhae to Suncheon is honestly another argument in support of cutting out the Namhae portion of this ride and heading straight to Suncheon (Bay) from Jirisan.  Besides the construction I mentioned, this route also takes you through the bowels of Gwangyang’s industrial zone.  Namhae is absolutely gorgeous so if you have a couple of nights to stick around and enjoy the beach/hiking, it’s probably worth it.  If you’re going just for the night, probably not-so-much…

Head back the way you came on road 19 (nothing better than starting the day off with a nice climb up the mountain!).  Stay on 19 until well after you cross the bridge…look for 59 and take a left.  This will take you south through the ship building yards I mentioned and ultimately through Suncheon’s neighboring city of Gwangyang.  59 somehow turns into road 2 in the ship-building yards and the twists and turns through this area are a bit tricky.  Keep a map handy.  Road 2 takes you into Suncheon where you have the option of posting up for the night in a motel (the 프라자모텔 motel let me keep my bike in my room and only charged me 30 bucks for the night!) or pressing on to Suncheon Bay, which is about 10km south of the city and offers a surprising number of options in terms of pensions and restaurants.  The photos here are from Suncheon Bay, but I actually did this on Day 4 so click the link below for directions.  

Countryside outside of Suncheon

Heading to Damyang
Dongbok Lake

Day 4:  The Damyang House
Click here for the cyclemeter link.

Beers and fried chicken kept me in Suncheon city the night before so I opted to explore Suncheon Bay in the morning before heading back to Damyang.  This easily added an extra 20km to the day, but was well worth it to see the park…it’s stunning. Click on the link for directions to the Bay.

Out of Suncheon you have a few options depending on where you’re coming from, but you somehow need to find 17 and/or ultimately road 22 heading north out of the city.  Road 22 takes you through a gorgeous mountain pass and provides excellent cycling for the duration you’re on this road.  In Dongbok Myeon (74km marker) you’ll pick up road 15 which take you toward Dongbok Lake.  This is my stomping grounds so Naver maps and I had a disagreement about how to approach the last 20km or so.  Naver maps will take you a bit further on 15 and take you up a brutal mountain pass (it’s epic from the other direction!).  I suggest taking the road the follows the west side of the lake (not sure of the name!) until you pick up road 887 which takes you back to the house.  This road is not only more scenic, but the climbs are short and sweet making it a more fun road to ride.  Traffic is minimal as well, save for the occasional (massive) construction vehicles.

Looking for something a bit easier?  Plenty of other suggestions can be found here.