Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Tourist impersonation in Damyang

Because so much of my timeline has been thwarted on this trip, which I fully expected considering how the entire process began, I wasn't surprised when I ended up with a non-refundable hotel stay in Damyang on a trip that could easily have been taken care of with no overnight. But I did all my due diligence and set out on my one big open day to do as much tourist stuff as possible. I had intended to take the bus from my hotel to the giant bamboo park but the buses do not run as often as in the big cities, so I decided to walk instead. This is the water I had to cross to get there.
I was relieved to reach the entrance to Juknokwon after the long walk but hadn't done a good job of finding breakfast.
So the first thing I did was sit down for a smoothie, and watched people go by. This is a planted forest, so while it's lovely, it has some weird features.
You can glimpse the two people walking through this structure of bamboo, clothed in red.
But this is fine compared to the other things going on in this giant park.
I didn't take many pictures of the fake plastic figures, but those are not real pandas. There is a small waterfall they are looking towards and there are more fake cartoon pandas playing all over that area. I think this area is also for children but I think children would be content with the place sans fake figurines. This is not unusual, though, for sites like and unlike this in Korea.
I was also told to visit the metasequoia trees on one road where they've been planted. This was clearly not the right season for this attraction, and the person who told me to go said not to compare them to the sequoias from back home. He was right to warn me, because if I hadn't been told, I would have assumed they were any other type of tree. I walked in both directions through the public park area along the river (the tree-lined road and bamboo forest require admission fees albeit modest) called Gwangbangjerim. You can tell from the lack of photos that I was tired and internally freaking out that I had forgotten my sunblock and had no hat on an extremely sunny day, and also that it was not a fancy park.
When I made it back to the town area (as it's not really a city) after having failed to find a cab, I was relieved to see buildings and knew I was close to the best rated Vietnamese place on the Kakao Map app that I use religiously because otherwise I would be lost daily. This gallery was closed but the title felt telling.
I was so happy to sit down after a ton of walking (I can't do the conversions though I know they're not hard from km to miles) and also to be in an eatery with lots of people. Minus the viral risk, it's always a good sign when it comes to tasty food, plus it's located next door to a store that sells Vietnamese food and ingredients. The prior evening I had wandered on foot into this area and just walked into a Vietnamese place but as soon as I sat down and ordered, knew I had made a mistake. Not only was it empty, but when I checked, the popular place was only a few blocks up the road. There are a lot of immigrants here from Vietnam here because it is a big farming area.
On my walk towards whatever cabs I could find, I saw this mural that made me think of the chaekgeori exhibit back home years ago that Sooa curated. Chaekgeori are usually painted still lives of books and other objects meant to signify a whole range of things, like how well read and cultured a person. I'm glad I failed to find a cab while walking because at one crosswalk, I noticed colorful umbrellas in the distance. The one thing I knew I might miss here is the 5-day market, which is a big outdoor market that comes to town once every five days. I wasn't sure how to look it up and my hotel was very no frills (meaning no front desk person) but I walked towards the umbrellas and was so happy to confirm it was the market.
I was too winded and overexposed to sun by this point to take pictures, plus the market is very...here I am fishing for the right word in English when only the Korean word comes to mind and has no easy translation...bustling and busy and with small spaces to navigate, so I didn't want to be the one holding up traffic taking pictures, especially if I was not going to be buying what I was taking pictures of. I bought a hat as soon as I could and then marveled at all the trees and plants on sale.
Near the tiny bus terminal, I finally saw the line of cabs and the one in front had been waiting for so long he had turned off his car. I rode to the bamboo museum and was greeted by the one employee inside who was very excited to give me a tour and explanations, which was so helpful because I was really not in the mood to read. Here are tools used to process bamboo.
And a hanbok dyed with bamboo, I'm guessing maybe the leaves? I don't think of bamboo as a dye agent so that was a surprise.
This was in a section of pieces that had gotten prizes. I was sad to see that the translated title into English is "lacquer disease" because it should read "lacquer bottle." Obviously the person doing the tags doesn't know English and put everything into a translation engine, since the character for bottle is the same as the one for disease.
Lamps near the entrance of that area for prize-winning objects
A whole canoe made of bamboo
And an old screen woven from bamboo, very fine splints. I was slightly horrified by how it was hung but I guess that damage is done. The wavy lines in the screen, if you can see past all of the glass reflections, are where the maker lined up all of the nodes of the bamboo.
I watched a video on a loop of Mr. Bak, whom I had met the previous day, and was unhappy about it cutting off right at the part I wanted most to see, but was glad to have a better understanding of the process after having seen it in person.
Koreans love to make giant (and small) dioramas of things, so this was the almost life-sized version of an artisan doing what Mr. Bak and many other bamboo folks do, in this case, splitting bamboo stems.
Since I knew I didn't have the energy to find the last thing on my list (eating rice in a bamboo stem), I sat down at the cafe near the museum with a cup of bamboo leaf ice cream.
On my walk back to the hotel, which was in a more industrial area I think devoted to car care, I saw these blossoms and was grateful for their greeting. The view from my room was of some apartment buildings but mostly a big grove of bamboo that makes a wonderful rustling sound in the wind, and I rested the rest of the evening before setting off the next day to head back to Jeonju via Gwangju (these places I am visiting are never easy to get to in one shot, so I had to head south to go north again).

I was so close to being caught up, and then was ensnared in another crazy trip! I'm about to leave Seoul right now but the next post I think will be about Naju, even further south.

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