Juknokwon Bamboo Forest

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you should be excited about your weekend plans, but all you want to do is cancel all of them and not leave your bed? I don’t know if was stress from finishing the year up at work, hormones, falling and banging up my knee, or the ongoing sinusitis that was keeping me down, but when my friend Ching messaged me asking if I was still “keen” on our weekend plans it took everything not to cancel on her. Let me tell you, I’m so glad I didn’t.

We met up in Gwangju, where we stuffed our overnight bags into a locker and hopped on a bus towards Damyang 담양.

40 short minutes later, we arrived at the Damyang bus terminal and headed towards Juknokwon Bamboo Forest 죽녹원 a sort 30min stroll north.

We meandered along the forest paths, capturing the sights and posing for photos among the bamboo. They walked into their art gallery, highlighting Korean artists who depicted bamboo and hand. They also had a multi-media art exhibit that transformed famous paintings like Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” into moving worlds. After walking around the forest, we walked around the artisan shops in the surrounding area.

Hungry without a restaurant in sight, we started to walk along the river lined with metasequoia Trees towards the outdoor shopping area of Meta Province 메타프로방스. We discussed our intentions and plans for the New Year as we walked. I think this New Year weighed on us more than any other with the lingering pandemic, no solid plans for the future, and Ching leaving Korea for work opportunities elsewhere. It was nice to spend a relaxing day out walking in nature instead of alone at home binging on Netflix.

20 minutes later, we arrived at Meta Province, a shopping district designed to transport you from Korea to the French countryside. There we found the most delicious lunch at Damyang Grilled Short Ribs Changgo 담양갈비창고.

Galbi 갈비 is a delicious beef patty; if done right, it tastes less like meat love and more like a savory juicy hamburger that needs no toppings. This Galbi came with nothing less than a feast of Banchan 반찬. The Banchan included spicy kimchi, marinated bamboo shoots, two different types of soup, a salad, pickled lotus roots, pickled radish, raw marinated crawfish, raw marinated crab, and the crowning dish rice. Oh, but it wasn’t just any sticky white rice. No, the rise was steamed in a bamboo root with what I assume was some sort of bamboo broth that made it sweet, all topped with almonds and raisins. I think it’s the best rice I’ve ever had. 10/10

We treated ourselves to charter-shaped macaroons for dessert while listening to a live band, and people watched in the district’s square (yes, the Minion was banana flavored!). With bags of goodies and Full of food, we headed back to what would have been a 40-minute walk to the bus terminal; however, Ching spotted a bakery, and of course, we had to stop. We knew this place must be good because it happened with a long line at the register. Ching filled up on goodies and picked up a cheesecake after convincing me that I had to get it. Which I’m so glad she did. The cheesecake was so good. The best I have had in Korea to date and crustless!

I am so happy I did not bail on Ching and our weekend plans. Damyang is a place where there’s not much to do but eat and walk in nature, perfect for a relaxing getaway with a good friend. I have to say I love the relaxed laid back feel of this place, and I can’t wait to come back for another short weekend getaway.

The Specifics

Juknokwon Bamboo Forest (죽녹원)  전라남도 담양군 담양읍 죽녹원로 119 per person

Meta Provience (메타프로방스) 전라남도 담양군 담양읍 깊은실길 2-17

Damyang Grilled Short Ribs Changgo (담양갈비창고) 전남 담양군 담양읍 메타프로방스2길 6-17 201동 101호. 30,000-50,000KRW Meals serve a minimum of 2 people

Verviers in Damyang (베비에르 담양) 전남 담양군 담양읍 죽향대로 1300

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