Gwangju International Community Day!

The Gwangju International Center is yet again helping to organize the Gwangju International Community Day (GIC Day). It will be held October 15th and 16th, 2016 at the Gwangju International Center (Saturday) and the Asia Culture Complex (Sunday) downtown. Put on by both local and international residents of the city, this multi-cultural event is now in its 22nd year in Gwangju, South Korea and features a talent show, concert, cultural and community booths as well as food booths. 

Day 1
Time: 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Location: GIC Hall & Global Lounge, Gwangju International Center
Events: GIC Market, Special GIC Talk, GIC Concert, GIC Day Talent Show Trial

Day 2
Time: 11:00am – 5:00pm
Location: ACC Democracy Plaza (downtown Gwangju)
Events: Global Food Booths, Global Culture Booths, Global Community Booths, Talent Show, Flea Market

By far our favorite thing about the Gwangju International Community Day is the food booths! Gwangju residents from different countries make some of their traditional foods and sell them for only 1,000 won – 3,000 won a serving. Since it is so affordable we sampled food from more than 10 different countries one year! This year the food booths will include representitives from Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Syria, Indonesia, Japan, Camaroom, Canada, Thailand and Philippines. We will be there representing the Philippines and selling maja blanca (coconut custard with jackfruit), flan, buko pie (young coconut pie) and brazo de mercedes (soft meringue with custard filling). Come on by and say "Hello"!

Gwangju International Community DaySetting up 2014

You can also enjoy watching the performances at the talent show, pick up a treasure at the flea market and meet people from all over the world who you might not realize live in Gwangju too! At the Global Culture Booths you can learn about the home cultures of some of Gwangju's international residents through their traditional games, clothes, handicrafts and songs. The Global Community Booths will introduce visitors to a variety of local organizations, clubs and services such as "English Language Childbirth Services" by Vanessa Reid – Birth & Breastfeeding Services. Another group that will be there is Global Families of Gwangju (GFOG). GFOG will have information about their organization as well as a preview of their upcoming Halloween party including games, prizes and a photo zone. You will also find Gwangju Animal Care Humane Institute (GACHI) at the event with information about the first animal welfare non-profit in this province and a doggie photo booth.

Gwangju International Community DayPhoto via GIC

GIC Day holds a special place in the hearts of our family as it was where Danny and I had our first official date back in 2007 at the 13th Gwangju International Community Day. We hit a tiny bit of a snag though as Typhoon Nari happened to make landfall at the Southern tip of Korea that same weekend. The 13th GIC Day still continued and so did our date! Everyone who showed up was given a free rain poncho and we huddled under the tents chatting and eating. Not a bad beginning to a relationship I think! If we’ll brave a typhoon for a first date, we can take on anything!

Gwangju International Community Day typhoon nari

Over the years we have made a point of attending each GIC Day. We started off as attendees but more often than not Danny would get pulled into a food booth to help with cooking.

Gwangju International Community Day

Photo via GIC

Gwangju International Community Day

In 2012 we decided to help run the food booth for the Philippines with some of our friends from the Gwangju Filipino community while I was 8 months pregnant! A year later we were back with our son as visitors only for his first GIC day in 2013. It was where our son first tried some traditional Filipino games and was able to run and play with other children from international families who call Gwangju their home as well.

Gwangju International Community Day
Gwangju International Community Day

Photo via Farther East Photos

The following year all 3 of us were back working at a food booth! Whether running a booth or just enjoying the event, the Gwangju International Community Day always promises to be a good time to make new friends, experience different cultures and eat your fill of foods from around the globe!

Gwangju International Community DayPhoto via GIC

7 Must See Places Near Gwangju this Fall

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This summer has been a long and unbelivably hot one but fall is in the air! Maybe you're looking for a place to see the fall colours or somewhere to visit over the Chuseok holiday. The Damyang House, Compass Korea  and Family in Faraway Places  have you covered with our favorite places to visit near Gwangju, Jeollanamdo during the autumn season in Korea!

1. The Gwangju Lake Eco-Park (광주호수생태원)

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The interconnecting boardwalks and walkways inside the Eco-Park offer spectacular views of the lake and are designed to accommodate visitors of all ages.  The park is very popular and can get busy, especially on the weekend during mid afternoon.  The secret is to arrive just before dusk when 90% of the visitors are leaving, sneak in a bottle of wine and your dog, and enjoy the sun setting behind the mountains on the far side of the lake.  Better yet, arrive in the afternoon and explore the rice paddies adjacent to the park before catching the sunset.  Follow the service road behind the 7-11 in the parking lot into the rice paddies and enjoy the uninhibited views of Mundeung National Park and the surrounding mountains.  Not only are these small farming service roads pet friendly, they are virtually empty except for the occasional farmer.   Even still, for some of the best views of the lake and Mudeung Mountain, you can walk up road 887 (main road following the lake) and find one of several trails used to access the lake by the local fishermen.  Bring your camera AND your fishing rod because the bass fishing is just as good as the views.  


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Check out more about Gwangju Lake Eco Park, from The Damyang House here!
Fishing Trails


2. Baegyangsa (백양사)

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Part of Naejangsan National Park, Baegyangsa was established in 632 AD. Once you arrive it is a short and easy walk from the parking area to the temple. The walkway takes you along the river and past little shops selling fresh persimmons and roasted chestnuts in the fall. As you approach the temple you are greeted with the spectacular image of the temple at the end of the river with a backdrop of red, orange and yellow leaves framing the mountain’s rock formation. This spot is a favorite location for tourists and locals during the autumn season and during the best weekends to view the fall colors it can get busy! There is plenty of space to find a nice little quiet place to yourself and paths to hike but take the crowds into consideration. The first time we went we were a bit naïve about how bad the traffic would be on a peak weekend. The trip that usually takes 35 minutes to an hour, took us nearly 3 hours! Arriving early or on weekdays can help you to avoid the crowds nearly all together.


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Check out more about Baegyangsa from Family in Faraway Places here!
Baegyangsa


3. Guemseong-Sanseong Fortress (담양 금성산성)

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I’ve hiked and traveled all over South Korea – and lots of Asia – and the Geumseong Fortress in Damyang is a spot that continues to impress me to this day. I can still vividly remember climbing out the trees the first time years ago – not knowing what to expect – and coming face to face with the imposing stone gate towering over me. Just awesome. The appeal of Guemseong is that the reward is so high for such a short hike. After 30-40 minutes on a gradual ridge you get to explore an impressive mountain fortress. I definitely recommend it to everyone coming to the area.


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Watch a video of Damyang and the Geumseong Fortress by Compass Korea here! 
Geumseong Fortress


4. Shikyeongjung (식영정)

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Shikyeongjung is a small group of pavilions just across from the Eco-Park and right next to the Poetry and Literature Museum.  This small park doesn’t look like much at first glance, but keep in mind these are functioning pavilions.  Grab some snacks from one of the cafes or a bottle of makoli from the 7-11 and find an empty pavilion to relax in and enjoy the fresh air.  The pavilion on top of the hill even has a working Hwangto-Bang during the colder months (red clay brick room heated via small cast iron stove under the floor).  This park is especially popular with the local photography clubs during the fall months when the trees offer a colorful backdrop for the traditional pavilions.  What most visitors don’t know is that there is a pet-friendly trail behind the aforementioned pavilion on the hill that leads up the mountain to a scenic overlook offering beautiful views of Mudeung National Park and the surrounding valley.  It’s a steep 25 minute climb, but well worth it.  


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Read more from The Damyang House about what you can find around Shikyeongjunjg here!
Jishil Valley


5. Suncheon Bay (순천만습지)

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One of the best day trips in all of Jeollanamdo is to explore the beautiful eco park of the Suncheon Bay. Stroll on boardwalks just above the mudflats and listen to miles of reeds swaying and rustling in the breeze. In the summer the six-foot reeds are a vibrant green, but in the fall, when the feathery seed heads are full, they change to brown and gold, looking more like wheat than tall grass. Plus, if you go in the fall you get to see the flocks of migratory birds that rest and feed in the Suncheon Bay.


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To see Suncheon Bay upclose, watch this video by Compass Korea here!
Suncheon Bay


6. Songgwangsa (송광사)

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Songgwangsa is one of Korean’s best known temples! Found in Jogyesan Provincial Park, the temple is only about a 45 minute drive from Gwangju and is a popular destination to celebrate Buddha’s Birthday, join a temple stay program or to just enjoy the autumn scenery. When you arrive at the parking area you will find some small restaurants and vendors where you can grab a meal or a snack. The main gate where you purchase your ticket is also there but the temple is about a 15 minute walk away! We were not expecting such a long walk but the pathways follow a beautiful river and take you through a quiet pine forest. We found ourselves wishing that we had packed a picnic lunch to enjoy under the trees like many hikers were doing. Songgwangsa is quite large with many buildings to explore and lots of space to spread out in and so it never seemed crowded. 


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Check out more about Songgwangsa from Family in Faraway Places here!
Songgwangsa


7. Sosaewon (소쇄원)

sosaewon 2Descriptions of this private garden tend to be overly dramatic, but the fact that's it's 500 years old, has been passed down for 15 generations, and the current owner lives in our village just two doors down is pretty impressive.   It’s also included on just about every “top 10” list focusing on Damyang so it’s worth checking out.  The entire garden is surrounded by a bamboo forest and is split by a small stream, with pavilions on either side.  Small walkways and bridges connect everything and guide you through the park.  It's not big and is unfortunately made even smaller by the unusually large crowds.  Sosaewon is only about 1km from Shikyeongjung, but walking along the main road isn’t always the most comfortable.  To avoid this, start your afternoon here and after checking out the park exit Sosaewon via the little-known and underused back entrance.  This trail will follow the ridge up the mountain and around the valley and take you to the overlook previously mentioned and ultimately down to Shikyeongjung and the Eco-Park!  


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Check out more near Sosaewon, from The Damyang House here!
Rice Paddies


A big thank you to The Damyang House and Compass Korea for collaborating on this article!

Gwangju South Korea Lantern Parade for Buddha’s Birthday

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I love the lanterns that are put up around Korea around temples for Buddha's Birthday each year. Quite a few cities across the country also hold lantern festivals and parades. Over the years in Korea I've made it up to Seoul twice for the big lantern parade and I've also seen the lantern festival once before in Gwangju. The Gwangju event is hard to catch. Outside of the temples it doesn't seem to be advertised very much.

We really wanted to take our son to see the parade this year since he is old enough to really enjoy it. In the weeks leading up to the event I had asked around at different organizations to see if and when the parade would be happening this year but noone knew. We just happened to be lucky enough to come across it the day of the event. Here are some of the highlights:

Free food!


Decorated Taxis usually begin the parade










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