I’ve been thinking about what Gwangju has to offer its foreign visitors and citizens. So yesterday, I wrote a list of nine things that have brought me a lot of enjoyment in the ten months. I’ve been here. The list has no real order, so pick what you want or try them all.
1. Take pictures in a photo booth with friends
Why?: It’s a lot of fun! Most places have costumes customers are allowed to wear. It allows the pictures to have more of an umph to them and allows the people in them to act a little sillier than normal. It’s 6,000 won well spent.
Where?: There is one somewhere downtown. I’ll find it and report back.
2. Eat at The First Alleyway and shop at The Underground Grocers
Why?: The food is good and the atmosphere is fantastic. Mike Simning’s restaurant, The First Alleyway, is the place for foreigners to hangout and eat. The Underground Grocers, co-owned by Simning, is another place foreigners can find those things that they can’t at places like Home Plus, Emart or Lotte Mart. For example, Underground sells Rice Krispie treats, sour cream, cheddar cheese, guacamole, biscuits, Tim Tams and Quakers oatmeal.
Where?: Start at Starbucks on the main road. Make a right at converse and keep walking. Pass the Angel in us Coffee shop. Before you get to clothing store Evisu, go through the small alleyway, it’ll be on your left.
3. Eat at First Nepal Restaurant
Why?: This is another foreigner hangout, but you’ll also find many Koreans like it too. The food is fantastic: Palaak Paneer, Alu Gobi, Mutter Paneer, Cheese/Butter/Garlic Naan, Mango/Banana Lassi, samosas and basmati rice–I’m hungry just thinking about it.
Where?: Still on the main road downtown, past Starbucks. Keep walking (pass the Burger King, the Paris Baguette, Seven Monkey’s Coffee). You’re going to get to an intersection, and you’ll see a bank on your left. Walk a little further, First Nepal will be on the left.
4. Join/Visit the G.I.C. (Gwangju International Center)
Why?: You’ll find that for 10,000 won you can get a membership which includes the renting of books and DVDs anytime you want for six months. Another bonus if you sign up, is a copy of the Gwangju News magazine–it’s delivered for free to your house each month . Plus, the GIC offers Saturday discussions about culture in Korea and around the world to help better inform the community.
Where?: It’s straight across the street from the YMCA downtown. Go into the subway station and walk to the other side. Walk up the steps and walk straight, pass the KEB (which is on your left, and go into the glass doors. Take the elevator to the fifth floor, make a right, and you’ll see a sign that says Gwangju International Center, it’s open M-S from 10am to 6pm.
5. Have a Drink at the Ethnic Cafe
Why?: Have you just wanted to chill with friends or a sweetheart? Ethnic Cafe is the place to do so, grab a smoothie, shake, cocktail and even have hookah. It’s Indian style set up and many candles is not to miss.
Where?: Start at Starbucks, go in the same direction of First Nepal restuarant. Before getting to the bank, hang a right and walk. You’ll eventually see a white sign. To get inside the cafe, you must walk down the stairs lined with candles.
6. Bike Ride Along the River
Why?: Biking is a really great way to transport ones self around the city of Gwangju. It’s good for the environment and good for the body. Biking along the river is quite easy. If you don’t have a bike though, no problem. Sangmu station will let you rent a bike for free, if you hand over your ARC card.
Where?: All around Gwangju.
7. Take a Class in Something
Why?: If you are tired of nodding yes and smiling when you don’t understand what someone is saying, why not invest in a Korean class? Luckily, those in Gwangju EPIK are provided with free lessons at Chonnam University. If not in the EPIK program, no worries, there are other options available–paying for classes at the GIC, or taking up a language exchange. A
While in Korea, I took up swimming for one month. It was 70,000 won for the membership and I was allowed to use the pool when I wanted for free to 2,000 won on holidays and Sundays. The entire class was in Korean. I got along well with my class and instructor, and the women were really helpful in the changing rooms when I had no idea what to do.
Where?: Check the Facebook group Gwangju Tri Sports for more. All the information about swimming times, costs and numbers to call are there.
8. Visit the Damyang Sosaewon and Vegetarian Buffet
Why?: This place is so beautiful. If you’ve seen my blog with pictures, you’ll see exactly why you should go. The vegetarian buffet is amazing!
Where?: Go to the bus terminal. Wait for bus 225 on the Usquare side. It comes on the 50 or 55 on the hour.
9. Go for a Night on the Town
Why?: There are many places one can go for a drink, that has loud music and a dance floor on which to go wild.
Speakeasy, German Bar, Bubble Bar, Mix lounge, Soul Train, Houze (dance club), Volume (dance club).
Where?: Go downtown, ask around, someone is bound to tell you where these places are. People are quite friendly here, so they might even tag along.
I’m working right now on trying to get video of the places I mentioned and directions to them. That will be my project this weekend, and I’ll get friends to help out too. In these videos, I hope to show why these places matter to us and the greater community. Be sure to check back here for added video or my YouTube page for something titled 9 Top Things To Do In Gwangju.
If you have anything else to add feel free to comment below. Thanks!