Though I may not have said it outright, I have certainly alluded to the fact that I am most at home when near fresh water. Whether it be rivers and streams cutting a clear line through an overgrown forest or a small pond marking out a target to work towards on a grass soaked horizon, I never feel more at peace than when I can catch the scent of fresh water mingling with rich soil to make the world the inspiring place it is. This sense of the natural and beautiful is what drove me in the direction of the Pung Am Reservoir during the festival of roses.
The Pung Am Reservoir is located close to the World Cup Stadium, just a bit southwest of it, and is fairly easy to find from many of the nearby main roads. Arriving from the east, the first thing I noticed were the tremendous number of gardening shops nearby with a variety of flowers and many other plants on sale. Coming from a neighborhood more focused on auto shops and grocers, this was a surprising turn for a street to take. Just past the rows of greenhouses and fields is where the park really begins to show its colors though.
The rose garden at the entrance is something you have to see to understand. Having been to both tulip and cherry blossom festivals in Korea, I’ve come to truly appreciate the uncanny skill with which the people who call this country home can handle anything with roots. It wasn’t until I witnessed this rose garden that I began to understand the true artfulness of this talent in full. Though there are certain qualities a rose may not exhibit better than every flower, the sheer depth, texture, and versatility exhibited in a rose make it easy to understand why it has often been considered the standard by which all other flowers are represented. Bearing a range of colors that would make a rainbow jealous and a size that is mind boggling, the myriad rose displays at the entrance to Pung Am Reservoir is in a class of its own. Sadly, these roses will not last long so please take it in while you can. Also, take some antihistamine as beauty often will leave a person weak in the knees but more often weak in the eyes, nose, and throat.
Even if you aren’t into roses, this reservoir is a great spot for some simple hiking or cycling. Wrapping around the reservoir is a short but scenic trail where the city goes quiet on the far side of the water. Along the interior trail, there are a number of small footpaths that I hope soon to check out so if you get a chance to take a peek, don’t be afraid to let folks know what you find because some of those spots looked awfully tempting. Also on the main trail there are numerous spots for photos, copious amounts of shaded seating, and a lot of lovely trees and simple flowers lining the reservoir. Add the occasional fowl to this and there is a scene as pleasant as any of the multitude of great parks in Gwangju.
One of the great features near this park, as was mentioned to me by our resident food connoisseur before I struck out on this particular adventure, is the selection of street food on the main street nearby. Some of the snacks on offer were genuinely surprising with roasted chestnuts and cinnamon filled flatbread being two of my favorites that I tend to be only able to find during the colder months. Staples like cotton candy and steamed corn were there as well with quite a few others. For being so far from downtown or a university, seeing this many food carts happened to be a welcome treat.
As a quick side note, I’d like to also mention the Chosun University Rose Festival currently underway on the university’s main campus. Though the display itself is not quite as sizable as the whole of the park at Pung Am, the beauty of the roses alone is at least equal and definitely worth a look. With food and beverage tents lining the quaint garden path at Chosun University, this is a must see for gardeners and flower lovers in Gwangju.
To get to Pung Am Reservoir, the 1 and 45 buses as well as a few others will take you directly there. Another easy option is to take a bus to the World Cup Stadium or alternately take a bike ride to Hoejae-Ro. I suggest looking at a map if you don’t know exactly where this street is as it’s one of the few major roads that has very few cross streets from the north making it easier to deal with traffic and also having minimal major intersections. No matter how you get there, it isn’t far from most of the city and worth the trip regardless of where you’re coming from.
With summer only a handful of days away, it’s nice to get a chance to see what gifts the spring rains have left us with even if they are so fleeting and delicate. Without these places for moments of peace and reflection, either on our own or shared in contemplation with others, a great deal can be lost in the rush of the day to day, that ability to still feel awe and wonder at the absolute majesty of the world around us. It may sound cliché, but it may be about time to stop and smell the roses lining the crooked trail.