Though the season is near its end, and for however often I can’t avoid hearing everyone everywhere mumbling ‘Choua!’ through clenched teeth while vigorously rubbing their arms, believe it or not, it is still autumn in Gwangju. Being from a city much smaller than this with far more open countryside, the one thing that always seems to be missing from the fall here are the vibrant colors of the leaves as they invite us to enjoy one of the most amazing natural spectacles, one of those rare things that actually makes the coming frost worth accepting. Obviously it is not possible to walk down any busy city street and find this living artistry framing the throngs of pedestrians or outnumbering the flood of cars but amazingly, just down the river a bit, there is a place where the city feels like a distant dream and the richness of nature nods a quiet sort of greeting. This is Sajik Park.
One of the most amazing things about this park is not only its beauty but its proximity to downtown. Most readers will have seen it at one time or another but far fewer have taken the time to venture into the heart of this wonder. People who haven’t been there might readily think that this is another park similar to Gwangju Park or the small exercise parks that seem to grow out of the sidewalk. Luckily for nature lovers, this is far from the truth. The paths, though not exhaustive, have enough visual treats along the way to find an afternoon gone without even noticing. Random sculptures and architectural anomalies dot the park and can even make for a fun game of tag or hide and seek… if that’s your thing. Which it should be because it’s a really good time.
The highlight of the park has to be the viewing platform at the top of the trail. At the very height of the park, there is a prominent building that, from a distance, can easily fool the eyes. When first noticing it, the mind bends with a bit of wonder as to whether or not it’s even there. The reason for this is that this odd little building is surrounded at short intervals by mirrors. Certain angles will make this stop on the walk nearly blend into the trees and structures surrounding it. Upon closer inspection though, it is both an outdoor viewing platform and an indoor lounge. Though it appeared to act as a convenience store as well, no one seemed to be manning the register during the most recent visit, but it is a comfortable place to warm up for a moment if the winds become a bit too much from the view up top.
Anyone who has been in this city for a week or two will easily be able to find this park. Starting downtown, go west on Wedding Street (the street with all the wedding stuff. Yeah, that one. Ok… the street with all the night clubs… ok, specifically Holic, Bubble Bar, Panfic) towards the river and away from Mudeung san. When you arrive at the river, go left (more or less south, away from Yangdong market). Once you arrive at the rainbow
bridge, that being the one with many colors about 2-3 meters over the railings, turn right and go all the way across the street, past the police station at the corner, up toward GFN. If you ever start feeling lost on the way, look for the radio tower that appears to be surrounded by trees. After a short hill, you have arrived.
Though it is the case that this excursion around this time of year is focused more on those who are willing to embrace the elements, it would be a disservice not to make others aware of this stunning place hidden in plain sight. Even if the next few weeks are a bit too hectic to swing by there this season, definitely put this on your list for the warmer months. In a city this dense, it’s a rare boon to find even a temporary retreat from the day to day pace of life in Gwangju, however amazing it can be. Don’t worry, though. Next week we’ll be warming up inside so for those who miss out on this little trek, we’ll sort you out next time. Take care. Hope to see you on the crooked trail soon.