Yesterday, I took the bus out to see my new town for the first time. The little town of Hongnong-eup (-eup just means "town"), in Yeonggwang-gun (-gun means "county"), on the northwest corner of Jeollanam-do (-do means "province"). I was intending to meet with my fellow "foreign teacher" who is working at the same school that I will be; however, she ended up having a last minute errand to run, so I was left on my own at the bus station of Hongnong. I walked the length of the town in about 10 minutes. And then I was back at the bus station, with nothing to do.
So… I did what I always seem to do, when at a loss as to what to do. I took a long, long walk. I think I walked about 10 km. I walked south of Hongnong, through the rice fields, and ended up at a place called "백제불교문화최초도래지" which roughly translates as "Baekje Buddhist culture first arrival place" – it is the spot in the Korean peninsula where Buddhism first "arrived," probably in the 500's or early 600's CE.
The location has the feel of something like a cross between a national monument and a Buddhist theme park, with flower gardens, trails over and around the mountain, lots of statues, chanting from speakers mounted on lamp-posts, gift shops, temples, etc. It was, in any event, very interesting. I had forgotten to take my good camera with me, but I snapped a few photos with my old cellphone (which I carry around for it's pretty-good electronic dictionary function). I'm having some trouble downloading those photos, now, but when I do, I'll add them here.
I then walked into the town of 법성 (beopseong), an industrious-seeming little fishing port on the inlet in the coast, there (geomorphically, a "ria," or submerged river valley, I believe). I saw at least ten thousand stores selling "gulbi" which is the local species of croaker fish, very popular to sell to the tourists, apparently.
By this time, it was getting toward 7 PM, so I decided to just come back to Gwangju, since I'm not so into wandering around randomly once the sun sets. I found the Beopseong bus terminal and got on the next Gwanju bus, and I felt very efficient and knowledgeable when I was able to walk out of the bus terminal and immediately climb onto the correct bus number (1187) that would take me back to the east side of the city to the mountain where my hotel is located. I got back by 9:30 or so, I think.
I really love just walking around places. You get such an "honest" feel for how the place is. You see all of its aspects. You don't truly know a town, until you've walked down each of its connecting roads at least as far as the next town. When living in big cities, I often wander for long stretches on public transportation. But in rural areas, such as will be my new home, the best thing is to wander on foot.
I plan to do a lot of that, over the coming year. I'm off to a great start.