South Korea - Gwangju - Yeosu

Yeosu - World Expo in 2012 complex Credit: Wikipedia licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Gwangju has a thriving art scene, evident even at our hotel. Above the reception desk a sculpture where each segment spun around, finally to reveal the current time.

Variation of Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup poster by Philip Colbert; our hotel (Credit: holiday-inn-gwangju); Bottom Left and Right - the quirky clock; Bottom Centre - tasty Korean food. Photos: Jane

We continued south, a very wet day and not ideal to visit the Naganeubseong Folk Village. Inhabited since the beginning of the first millennia, it became a fortress village in the early 10th century (Goryeo Dynasty) flourishing in the late 1300s (Joseon Dynasty).

This was one of more than 330 fortress towns across the Korean Peninsula at that time. During the Japanese occupation, most were destroyed, however Naganeubseong remained intact.

Naganeubseong Folk Village. Photos: Jane

Today residents continue to occupy these homes and live a traditional lifestyle. The houses remain with their thatched roofs (which require additional thatch every 6 months or so), mortar free stone work, no plumbing, and living spaces that are much smaller than the average home today.

The day improved with a few glimpses of sunshine as we headed to Yeosu, a picturesque seaside city, which hosted the World Expo in 2012, as can be seen in the opening image.

The city is also known as the home of Admiral Yi Sun Shin, one of the two most famous figures in Korean history – along with King Sejong, who created Hangul, the Korean alphabet (and known for his wise reign).

Here is an excellent article about the King Sejong:

King Sejong the Great
King Sejong was a wise and benevolent ruler. Korea today enjoys many other lasting benefits of his rule.

Getting back to Yi, he was a naval commander during the Imjin War, and rose to fame for his underdog victories against the Japanese from 1592 to 1598. Before these battles, he moved to Yeosu, where he made massive upgrades to the navy, including the now famous turtle ship, said to be the first iron clad ship in the world.

For most Koreans,Yi is comparable to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and every famous US military leader wrapped up in one.

Statue of Admiral Yi Sun Shin, in the town centre and his turtle ship. Photos: Jane

We ended our day visiting Yeosu Art Land perched near Somisan Mountain offering great views across the water with a fabulous sculpture park.

Like every city in South Korea, residents occupy apartments in high rise buildings; view from Art Land; Hand of Midas and other sculptures. Photos: Jane

Such a diverse range of art works - I loved the multimedia tunnel at the entrance and the Hand of Midas is stunning as it extends out towards the sea - queues form to scale the narrow ramp and stand in the palm of Midas' hand - its one of the most photographed spots in South Korea.

Art Land: More sculptures, jelly fish lights adorn the ceiling; multimedia tunnel. Photos: Jane
More of Art Land: sculptures, jelly fish lights adorn the ceiling; multimedia tunnel. Photos: Jane

Leaving Yeosu and the rain, we started the day driving through pretty glades of blossoms.

You may have guessed from my beanie and thick jacket it’s cold! It's supposed to be spring but the temperatures were unseasonably cold with lots of rain, most unusual, but finally we saw beautiful cherry blossoms. Japan is renowned for their spring blooms. In South Korea they are just as beautiful, with a lot less crowds.

Cherry blossoms. Photos: Jane

Tomorrow we head to the port city of Busan,