“Not Seoul,” “onion farmers,” “rural,” and high pitch cackles are what I hear every time I say where I live and work in South Korea. People who live where I live are looked down upon by the rest of the country, infuriating them as it should.
Yes, most of Muan-gun (county) is what I consider the countryside with not much going on, and without a car, it is hard to get around. Would I go as far as calling it rural? If I followed the dictionary definition where rue means country and -al belonging to, then absolutely. However, in the modern context, rural areas lack access to food, banks, post offices, and other basic amenities. They are places where their homes are far apart, and there is no public transportation.
By car, the most remote part of Muan can get to any of these things in 30mins or less, and most parts are an hour from Gwangju, the 6th largest city in Korea, and only minutes from Mokpo. So I wouldn’t qualify Muan as being super rural but more of a countryside community even though, as a foreigner without a car, who grew up in suburbia, it is a culture shock.
There is something nice about the slow pace of the countryside some days. Getting out of the crowded city and taking an adventure to someplace surrounded by nature and farms can lift one’s spirits. Rejuvenation is always much needed before the next work week. Muan may not be much compared to Seoul or other country towns, but part of Muans charm is that here you can slow down and experience a side of Korea that is being lost to life in the major cities. If your looking for cheap things to do off the beaten path when you are in Mokpo. or Gwanju South Korea I have 3 half day trips you can take.
Muan Mud Flats
Hidden away on the island of Haeje, about a two-hour bus ride and 30 min walk from Mokpo, is the Muan Eco Mudflats. These mudflats provide food for the surrounding area, including the Octopus that Muan is famous for.
Although the mudflats are near two large cities, the mudflats are quite remote in the middle of farm fields without a convenience store, but that never stops me when it comes to an adventure. Walking along the paths that wind through the mud is relaxing and mesmerizing. The modern world has trained us to repel mud and dirt to avoid it on rainy days. If you don’t mind getting messy, you will find a whole ecosystem when you step out onto the earth and dig in the mud—an ecosystem with many different types of crabs, clams, mud skippers, and octopuses.
I thought these mud flats would be silent, but as you walk along the path, you hear the plops of the crabs running in and out of holes and the snaps of their claws when they fight. Although the park is small, there is something quite magical about being in the middle of nowhere with only a museum, campsites, and farm fields leading to the ocean, where you overlook the mud flats to Sinan islands. Remote and small but beautiful nonetheless. If you are in the area and have a down day with nothing to do, you might find peace in a world you never knew existed at the Muan Mudflats.
Sorbeksan is a small mountain halfway between Mokpo and Muan-Eup that locals hike after work and on the weekends in all seasons. Compared to the national parks and nearby Wolchusan in Youngnam, this is not the most exciting mountain; however, Hiking is a Korean pastime, and if you find yourself in the area for a couple of weeks, this is a nice way to spend the afternoon. This 7-ish mile hike can be done as an in-and-out or as a loop. You will start up the hill behind the church near the Chyeonggye bus stop or behind the Soccer stadium on the Mokpo University Campus. Along the way, you get several great views of the surrounding farms and the Shinan island and see a couple of graveyards and traditional stone stacks where people place their hopes and wishes.
Hoesan Lotus Pond
No matter where you’re coming from, the Hoesan Baengyeonji or the Lotus Pond in Illo is very hard to get to, even though by bus, it’s an hour north of Namak, the capital of Jeollanam-do which is connected to Mokpo. That hour bus ride also includes an hour’s walk if you miss the town bus that goes there only a few times a day.
The long walk through the rice fields is well worth it when the Lotus blossoms are in bloom. You can make a weekend of it by renting a nearby campsite, including glamping-style accommodations, or just a half day wandering the boardwalks that wind you through the reservoir full of giant white lotus flowers. In a few sections, they planted other varieties, including some beautiful pink blossoms. If you’re feeling romantic or adventurous, you can rent a small row boat and get up and personal with these enormous flowers along a 20 min path that takes you through one area of the pond. If you need a break from walking, try the cafe. That’s also a greenhouse overlooking the pond.
Every year Muan holds a Lotus blossom festival here in July. At this festival, you can purchase street food and works from local artisans, listen to music and watch cooking competitions. They also have painting activities set up for children or adults who are children at heart.
The lotus blossoms here seem like they belong to another world with beauty from a fairy tale. Whether you are looking for a peaceful escape or to get influencer-styled photos, the Hoesan Baengyeonji is the perfect yet remote day trip on a sunny afternoon.
*Bonus* Octopus Ally
Although the Yellow Onion is Muan’s official mascot, I think the octopus is just as iconic of a representation of the area. Muan supplies a significant portion of the small and tender mud octopuses (or small octopuse) that is part of traditional Korean cuisine, including the live octopus dish San-nakji 산낙지. There are two streets or allies where you can try raw octopuses in Muan-eup. The first is just south of the bus terminal, with several restaurants lining the way, and the other is the local fish market almost inside the Muan terminal itself. Here you can see all the fresh, locally caught seafood you can buy to make or eat in the restaurant behind the stall. I recommend trying raw octopus Bibimbap on your way out of Muan back to Mokpo or Gwangju.
Muan and other parts of Korea that are off the beaten path in the countryside are well worth a stop. In these places, some cultural practices that the major cities are leaving behind are still a part of everyday life in Korea. Will you venture to Muan the next time you’re in Mokpo or Gwangju?
All the Places
Octopus Ally – Muan Bus Terminal – Jeonnam Muan-gun Muan-eup Seongdong-ri 873-11
Muan Eco Mudflats – Hwangto Tide Lands– 5,000 KRW – Yuwol-ri Haeje-myeon Muan-gun Jeollanam-do
Hoesan Baengneonji – Hoesan Lotus Pond – Free – Sanjeong-ri Illo-eup Muan-gun Jeollanam-do
Sorbeksan – Starts Behind Chunggye Church– 53 Dorim-gil Cheonggye-myeon Muan-gun Jeollanam-do
Explore With Me
- Muan South Korea“Not Seoul,” “onion farmers,” “rural,” and high pitch cackles are what I hear every time I say where I live and work in SouthContinue reading “Muan South Korea”
- What About North Korea?For the third part of my ‘Is Korea Safe?’ series, I will to address the elephant in the room. ( Read Part I andContinue reading “What About North Korea?”
- 10 Vietnam Travel Tips1. Learn How to Ride a Motorcycle Vietnam has very poor public transportation in major cities, but outside of the major cities catching aContinue reading “10 Vietnam Travel Tips”