Direct buses connect Seoul Central City Bus Terminal to Damyang Bus Terminal. From there, you have to take a taxi or another bus to get to Damyang Bamboo Forest, also known as Juknokwon. Alternatively, you can take the KTX to Gwangju and take a local bus to Juknokwon.
We had spent the previous night at Gwangju and checked out early in the morning. U Square is a busy bus terminal in Gwangju and is always bustling with activity. This terminal has a couple of lockers to store your bags, but they get filled pretty quickly. We had one big backpack and a smaller daypack which conveniently fit in the long locker. Instructions are in English and don’t forget your locker number.
We had mistakenly booked a bus from Gwangju (U Square) to Damyang Bus Terminal. This route turns out to be more expensive because the bus doesn’t go directly to the bamboo forest. Fortunately, the local tourism officer helped us cancel our tickets and gave us the number of the local bus (311) that stops right outside the front gate of Juknokwon. The bus numbers are printed on the board at the local bus stop (outside U Square) and you can use your T-Money Card for payment. The driver will need to know your last stop to calculate the fare, and if you don’t speak Korean, show him the printed name (죽녹원).
The driver stopped the bus on the opposite side of the main entrance. We had to cross the road to buy tickets and enter the front entrance gate. There’s a pretty water fountain just beside the Metasequoia-lined Road. We decided to come back and explore this trail.
Bonghwangru Pavilion is perched on an elevated point and is surrounded by dense bamboo cover.
We took about an hour to reach Damyang Bamboo Forest from Gwangju and were happy to arrive by ten in the morning. It was a bright and sunny day — perfect to walk under the shade of bamboos. Starting early ensures that you have the trails all to yourself with fewer people lurking around for selfies.
There are multiple walking paths to explore in Juknokwon. Each path is named after the feeling one gets while walking along that particular trail. Information boards/maps are easy to find, and even if you don’t pick a map at the entrance, you won’t have to worry about getting lost here. In fact, this is just the place to follow your feet and lose yourself in the lap of nature.
Lee Lee-nam Art Centre
We didn’t have a particular route in mind and followed the path that lead to Lee Lee-nam Art Center. There are restrooms and a cafe in this center. The highlight of this gallery is the art exhibition that’s on display in a dark room. We were particularly excited with the exhibit of the lens and white screen (second pic). When an observer places the lens on the screen, he/she can see different colourful shapes move — in contrast to a white background. Other artworks were digital interpretations of popular Korean paintings.
There’s a small outdoor market that sells local bamboo products. A wooden hanok (traditional Korean house) doubles as a cafe and a restaurant for Korean delicacies.
Under a Canopy of Bamboo Leaves
We walked along Old Friend’s Trail, before peeping inside Lee Lee-nam Centre, and continued along the road that joined Good Luck Road. It gets pretty hot and humid in the summer months and we were happy to have the shade of towering bamboo trees.
The Korean Movie, R Point, was shot at this location in Damyang Bamboo Forest. We haven’t watched this horror/zombie movie yet. Judging by how realistic Korean films can get, I’d think twice.
Wangdae, Somdae, and Juksundae are the 3 species of bamboos that are cultivated in Korea. Wangdae bamboos, the tallest of the three, grow to a height of about 10-30 m with a diameter of 5-13 cm. Somdae trees have an average height of 10-15 m and a diameter of 3-10 cm. Juksundae trees, loosely translated as edible shoot, rise upto 10-12 m with a diameter of 20 cm.
Good Luck Road joins Meditation Road — another narrow path dwarfed by towering bamboo trees.
3-Way Intersection Point
The 3-way intersection point connects Scholar’s Road with Meditation Road and Seonginsan Trail. Seonginsan Trail looked more interesting and we decided to follow the upward course.
It’s a 5 minute climb to the top of a scenic viewing point. In June, those 5 minutes can feel much longer.
We met a couple of ajusshis and emos who were in high spirits and cracked jokes on making it to the highest point of Juknokwon. Their humour and zest for life was contagious. An ajusshi climbed on top of the elevation and screamed, ‘Yay, Kilimanjaro!’ and his friends laughed along. It made us smile and forget the heat. They smiled, greeted us and shook our hands. Have I mentioned how much I love being a foreign tourist in Korea?
The view from the top was stunning. We could see mountains in the backdrop and the long Metasequoia-lined Road.
There are multiple trails that lead to the top and we took a different path to go down.
This wooden pavilion was empty and perfect to take a break. You have to take off your shoes in most pavilions and always check for a board. If not, you can enter with your shoes.
The pavilion is built on a elevation and that gets you closer to the trees. It’s quite an experience and feels like a tree house.
In Search of Lovers’ Lane
Honestly, we weren’t keeping tabs on the names of the trails and were just walking around. Lovers’ Lane caught my attention and I thought it might be an interesting trail to follow.
Somewhere along the Trail
Now, we struggled to find Lovers’ Lane and stumbled upon these interesting bamboo structures. There was a steady influx of people and we didn’t want to stick around for too long.
We couldn’t get a picture with this scenic spot because it was hard to keep up with the different groups waiting in line.
Damyang Bamboo Festival is held in the month of May and it might be nice to participate in the festivities of the region. Damyang Bamboo Forest has made it to the Top 100 Must-Visit Tourist Spots in Korea for 2019 list.
Old Memories Lane
I gave up on Lovers’ Lane and walked along the road that sloped downwards. We decided it’s time to find a way out of the bamboo forest.
Turns out that we were walking along Lovers’ Lane. This cute (Jukrim) waterfall is the last sight on this trail and there’s a children’s play area here. Another path leads back to the front entrance.
This observation point boasts of a stunning view of the vicinity. There’s a cafe and boards with explanations on the the kinds of bamboo.
You get an idea of all the places around the bamboo forest and if you have the time, you can spend a whole day wandering around.
The long line of vertical trees at Metasequoia-lined Road look stunning in summer. They would look spectacular in autumn when the leaves turn yellow.
Crossing Damyang Stream
We crossed the stream and walked along the other side. It was a beautiful day with powder-puff clouds and blue skies.
They were all Yellow!
The stream was covered in yellow and green floating aquatic plants. It made a pretty sight with the green trees and blue skies.
Cycling along the trail looks popular, but we didn’t have time to try it.
We had to wait for around 10 minutes for our bus to Gwangju and we succumbed to a bamboo flavoured ice cream to beat the heat.
Lunch at U Square
We reached U Square by 1 p.m. and went straight to the dining area. There are many options to choose from and we might have eaten more than we should have.