This weekend I went to Gwangju with two friends and continued onto Naejangsan National Park for a Sunday hike. The bus from Sasang in Busan is about 3 1/2hours (but on our way back it was only 2 1/2  so that was pretty amazing). You can also leave from Nopo but that adds more than 1/2 an hour to the time and costs more than 5,000 KRW more.

One friend had already been to Gwangju and there were certain things he had not seen before and wanted to see this time so we headed off from the bus station towards the river and to the Gwangu Student Independence Movement Memorial Tower. Let’s just say that the map on how to get anywhere in Gwangju is very deceptive in the scale. We walked, and walked and walked and walked while checking the map I had taken a photo of on my real camera and Googlemaps on our phones (had to cross check as the memorial tower is not in Googlemaps). Let me simplifiy it’s location for you, as their tourist map is also a bit wrong: go to the Yangdong Market stop and check out the market for a bit (if it’s open, we were there midday on a Saturday and things looked a bit closed). Either cross the river at that train stop bridge or the next bridge south. Keep walking down the street of that second bridge and you will see a few rocks with carvings and a nice building that looks a bit like a police station. Go in there and keep walking ahead. The shrine is surrounded by trees so we almost missed it from within the park! Fair warning: it’s not very big.

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After that we headed down toward Art Street which was 1 km away. There were some interesting statues along the way, and a park that had a great performance area (more on that on our way back). We headed down towards Wongaksa Temple to see that before art street and it was quite a beautiful temple in the middle of the city. Art Street is more of ‘Art Academy Street’ as there were many academy and not so much people selling art on the street, which is what we thought it would have been. After that, we headed back to the park, going towards the 5-Story STONE Pagoda. I’m only seeing the word stone now that I’m looking at the map, as we thought it was going to be a real pagoda. In the park there were some rapping 20-something Koreans that I wish I had taken a video of since they were free-styling but I was a bit nervous to just pull out my camera then. It took us awhile to find the pagoda since, again, it is not on googlemaps and the tourist map is a bit deceptive as to where things are.

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After this we had coffee and warmed up in Hans and Bean which is a great coffee shop! Haven’t seen them in Busan, but they were all over Gwangju.  We then found out that we were in the perfect area for what we were looking for that night–pubs and great food–around the culture complex subway stop.

Our first stop was the Speakeasy, used to be called Mike and Dave’s Speakeasy, which was an expat Irish-Ameircan pub with Guinness and Smithwicks. The bathroom had a ton of interesting and hilarious (and sometimes hateful) writing. Next was Tequilaz Mexican Grill and Bar where we had TG Tequila which was the best tequila I have ever had. The manager was trying to sell it to us hard and said “I won’t even give you a lemon, it’s that smooth” and he was right. We also had fantastic tacos, chimichangas and nachos there. He suggested that we go to German Bar Two, but after we got there it was more of a club which was not what we were looking for so we headed back to Soul Train (not related to the one in Busan) which was a bit expensive but had pool.

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Spent the night in Starbucks Spa (Starbucks was the name of the building, but there was no Starbucks Coffee to be seen) which was pretty standard other than the washrooms which had personal jacuzzis.

The next day we went to the park for the hike and that post is here. We returned in time to explore Gwangju a bit more, but using the same map we did not find much. We tried to find the Hwadamsa Shrine but I’m pretty sure that was taken down as we walked a circle around where it should have been and only saw 2 Christian churches there. Also tried to find the May 18 Memorial Park but there was no park to be seen, unless it was inside an apartment complex.

Overall, Gwangju was interesting and I do plan on going back to do another hike in that park and for delicious Mexican food, but this time I’ll keep my expectations low about the tourist map and if things will actually be where they say they are.