Destination: a KTX trip – tea fields in Boseong and rail-biking in Gokseong (Jeollanam-do)

There are quite a few ‘KTX Tours’ available – typically one- or two-day trip offering to whisk you away to sights around the country using Korea’s fast train service. While the KTX train didn’t take us all the way to our first destination, the chartered bus took us the rest of the way.

Destination: Juknokwon bamboo forest (Damyang, Jeollanam-do)

The bamboo forest at Juknokwon (죽녹원) is one of the main attractions in Damyang county. Since it’s a mere half-hour from Gwangju, I thought it was time to check it out.

Quite a few smaller towns and areas have become known for one thing or another – Boryeong / Daecheon for their mud festival, Jeonju for its bibimbap, Chuncheon for its dak galbi, and so on. That association sticks around, helping to brand the area for locals and visitors alike. Damyang’s bamboo forest is but one of the county’s highlights, although this is the most visible one.

Destination: Songgwangsa (Suncheon, Jeollanam-do)

The monks were everywhere. One was beating his wooden moktok, another was laboriously carrying a load of plants, and a third was walking through the courtyard. A number were meditating behind one of the hall’s closed doors, while even more were seen walking in a separate section of the temple, restricted to visitors. One was even seen bringing a Dunkin’ Donuts bag into the monks-only section. At that point, the Lady in Red pinched me, telling me that this is indeed not a dream – there really are lots of monks here. Then again, why wouldn’t they be?

Destination: Orchid Garden / Exhibition Hall (Mokpo, Jeollanam-do)

If you're exploring Mokpo for any length of time, Yudalsan will show up on your list of places to see. The mountain area is a centerpiece of town - and there's plenty to keep you busy for at least a couple of days. The 228-meter-high isn't an overly difficult climb Although the Lady in Red and I didn't have a lot of time, we discovered the Orchid Garden / Exhibition Hall not far from the Sculpture Park on the mountainside.

It's far from a popular tourist destination, however. Get up to the garden and enjoy the views, almost entirely to yourself:

Destination: Yudalsan International Sculpture Park (Mokpo, Jeollanam-do)

The Lady in Red is both an artist and a lover of sculptures. Thus while in town to see Bigeumdo off the coast of Mokpo, we made it a point to search for this place.

Destination: Wonpyeong Beach / Bigeumdo (Shihan country, Jeollanam-do)

To put it mildly, Wonpyeong Beach (원평해수욕장) is off the beaten path. Bigeum-do is 54.5 kilometers (about 34 miles) from the mainland of Dae Han Min Guk. Of the 827 islands that dot the shores of Shinan county in Jeollanam-do, Bigeum-do is the seventh-largest. It hearkens back to a time before foreigners taught English in Korea and the locals viewed foreign tourists as curiosities. If you've ever needed that 'far off island getaway' during your stay in Korea - but had to be back to work on Monday - this may be the place.

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