A Day Trip from Seoul to Gunsan, Korea
On a hot Friday in July, I decided to hop on a bus heading south and explore the city of Gunsan. The ride is about 2.5 hours from the express terminal in Gangnam so I headed out early and arrived in North Jeolla Province around 11am.
Gunsan is known for its Japanese architecture, as it was an important port during the Japanese occupation. It wasn’t damaged too much during the Korean War (other than the train station and a few other buildings) so compared to the rest of the country, it has an incredible amount of preserved history from the early and mid 1900s.
The bus dropped me off at the Gunsan Express Bus Terminal and I immediately got on a bus over to the Shinheundong (신흥동) neighborhood, where most of the wealthy Japanese families lived. My first stop on this hot summer day was Cafe Teum where I could figure out my plan for the rest of the day and get some cold drink in my system.
Cafe Teum (틈) is an old grainery that eventually became housing and then fell into disrepair. In 2013 it became a cafe that is filled with antiques and is completely covered in vines. It feels like you discovered a little time machine.
I had the iced yuja tea (delicious!) and the black sesame pound cake (even more delicious) and my tray came with a little bouquet of yellow baby’s breath. I sat there for a bit to get situated and then started walking south, deeper into the neighborhood.
Cafe Teum (틈)
Location: Gunsan-si Yeonghwa-dong 11-9 (군산시 영화동 11-9)
Hours: Everyday 10am - 10pm
Shinheungdong is filled with signs and tourist information spots for you to grab a bit of a history lesson as you walk around. The theme of the town is “Hello 1930s” and there are lots of activities like old photo booths and Japanese-style rickshaw rides.
My first stop was the Hirotsu House, a two story home built in the 1920s with a full Japanese garden in the back. It was under construction inside so I could only explore the grounds around the house, but there were huge windows so you could see a lot of the home from the garden.
The house, like many of the houses in Gunsan, is known for being featured in many dramas!
After wandering this neighborhood a bit, I walked down to Dongguksa. This is the only Japanese style temple left in Korea and is clearly unlike the multi-colored Korean temples we’re used to seeing. It is very monotone and set in front of a stunning backdrop of bamboo.
There is a small tea house here as well if you want to stop and catch your breath and lots of information in English which is always a plus!
Next I went to a more tourist-y destination: Gyeongam-dong Rail Road Town. I was only there for a few minutes because, to be honest, it was not my kind of thing lol. If you want to dress up in old school uniforms and take cute pics this is a cute little area but the shops sort of sold junky toys and that’s it. There were lots of old school snacks though which was fun!
I decided to get on a bus over to see the water!
The water was blocked by a bunch of old coast guard boats and military vehicles so I gave up on seeing the harbor and settled for seeing one museum before I got on my bus home.
I went to the Modern Architecture Museum and I was pleasantly surprised by how great it was. There was so much information in English and it was much more than just architecture - it was really the whole modern history of Gunsan.
I highly recommend it even if you just want to go in and look at the photos - they have a ton of old photographs that are hard to find anywhere else. I learned a lot and the building was beautiful too :)
Then I hopped back on the train to Seoul!!!