One of the best parts about doing these articles every week has to be the amount of social interaction required. Whether communing with natives of Gwangju or transplants like myself, finding the best aspects of a city this dense doesn’t come without a little assistance now and again. It’s always a pleasure to hear about new locations or hearing about folks who have checked out a place after hearing about it here and sharing their views on it with others. This past week, a good friend invited me out to his neighborhood to take a more thorough appraisal of a location I’d passed by a couple times but never really explored. Let’s take a look together at Uncheon Reservoir.
Sangmu and the surrounding area are best known for two things: shopping and an extraordinary night life. What people tend to forget is that this part of the city still offers a great deal in terms of natural beauty among the parks and trails that dot the map. Uncheon Reservoir is one of those unique parks that can only be found in cities: a place where the urban skyline is juxtaposed by the tree lined islets set into the pond in such a way as to suggest this is how it was always meant to be seen. The paths along the water are great both night and day for runners and joggers but also for folks just looking to take a quiet stroll. To see the full spectacle of this place requires showing up around sunset, watching the natural light fade and seeing the surrounding buildings light up the horizon. On many nights, the lake also boasts a light show starting around 7:30 pm right on the water. Though I’ve just missed it the past few visits, I’ve been told it’s quite a lovely sight.
One of the great things about the Uncheon Reservoir is the sheer number of amenities surrounding it while somehow not intruding on the relative peace of the space. Along the outskirts of the trail, there are several cafes, restaurants, and convenience stores to purchase anything you may desire while you are there. On a hot night, picking up a couple cold beverages and some snacks for an impromptu picnic near the tall grass or on one of the islets in the middle of the water is one of my favorite ways to pass an evening in Gwangju. If you’re not keen to spending too much time outside but still want the view, nearly all of the proprietors around the lake have floor to ceiling windows offering a full panorama of this beautiful place.
Just outside the park, there is a small road directly behind Orga Coffee – one of the larger coffee shops near the water – that leads to something even I was surprised by. Tucked away in the heart of Sangmu are a number of trails that lead all around the district as well as a quaint temple built into the mountainside. The temple, whose name I was unable to find, boasts a number of traditional buildings and statues while having a different feel from many of the smaller temples I’ve visited. At the bottom is a restaurant that was intriguing and inviting while the top hosted a large plaque covered in traditional Chinese characters and a sleeping Buddha that seemed to simply appear on the grounds. Behind the temple, the trails stretch for a few kilometers with some views that, while nice in summer, will definitely be worth returning to in the winter when the leaves have passed.
The summer is in full swing now which means that, for those who love to be outside many of the mountain trails around the city can be a bit stifling even in the evenings. While I can’t say that Uncheon Reservoir somehow magically makes the humidity turn bearable, it is one of those rare places where finding a breeze is not an impossibility. Getting to Uncheon Reservoir is easiest via subway with its own stop or you can take the numbers 1, 20, 45, 46, 50, 72, 73, 270, or 760 buses to the Uncheon Reservoir stop. The best of both worlds is easy to spot from the far side of the crooked trail.