Having seen Dongguk-sa, one of the main reasons to come to Gunsan, we then took the rest of the day to look for anything else worthy of taking in.
We didn’t find much.
Our first intended stop was the Jinpo Marine Theme Park, within walking distance of Dongguksa and a fast-fading food street that only had a handful of places open on a Saturday afternoon. The sculpture above marks the entrance.
Gunsan’s history of being a port town necessitated plenty of railroads to connect the city to the rest of the country. There’s quite a few abandoned rail lines, however, now overgrown and relegated to subjects for abstract photography.
A few of the boats in the harbor – you’ll see dozens of boats on the way to the marine park.
Behold, the Jinpo Marine Theme Park (진포해양테마공원) – full of war machines and a couple ships (not pictured). If you’ve been to any other war memorial in the country, you’ve seen this setup already. The ships are a little novel, but sort of necessary to qualify the place as a marine park. If you enjoy getting pictures of yourself inside military vehicles, this place is a candy store. Otherwise, it’s good for about 15 minutes of walking around before you’re ready to move on.
We had read the Old Chosun Bank was nearby, and the map confirmed the date as being from 1923. After finding the spot, we found the building… under construction / renovation. It looks as though the site had been meaning to get underway for awhile and that actual activity was still fairly recent, but the place was still closed to visitors. Nearby was this consolation prize:
The old Gunsan customs office (엣군산세관 – yet-gun-san-se-gwan) - designed by the French or German and built in 1908, the bricks were imported from Belgium. It’s supposedly used as a “Honam tariff exhibition hall” – the doors were locked, so there was no verifying that for ourselves.
We then tried to reach the last place that sounded intriguing: Haemanggul (해망굴) – a cave that looked to be a dead end on the map:
Except that it was a tunnel – a tunnel that cars couldn’t drive through. The 131-meter-long tunnel was built in 1926 to connect the road to City Hall with the surrounding neighborhood. A Japanese shrine was once nearby, but that area is now an elementary school. Not pictured to the left was Heungcheonsa (흥천사) – a pleasant enough looking temple, but nothing that matched our criteria of being weird or unusual.
While on our way back, we ran into a couple of fellow foreigners who told us the oldest bakery in Korea is a couple blocks away. That sounded weird enough, we thought, and off we went.
Welcome to Lee Sung Dang (이성당), Korea’s oldest continually-run bakery. First opened during the Japanese occupation, the place continued to run as a bakery in 1945 following World War II. This place is hella busy, and makes most other bakeries look small. The cashier have some of the fastest hands I’ve ever seen. If you’re up for trying something different, look for something called danpatppang, a sweet roll filled with red bean paste. Robert Koehler over at the Marmot’s Hole has more on the history of the bakery and baker.
There’s some other stuff of note in the town, including the renovated Hirotsu House (which you can learn about here) and Wolmyeong Park. By this point, however, we were a little disheartened by the area, and time was running out anyway. The bakery was a pleasant little surprise, however, and makes a good place to get a snack before heading home.
Ratings (out of 5 taeguks - How do I rate destinations?):
Ease to arrive:
Worth the visit:
Directions: Getting to the general area is simple. It’s easiest from either of Gunsan’s bus terminals – the express and intercity terminals are right next to each other. Exit and walk left to the bus stop about 250 meters away. Hop on bus 1 and ride it to the 군산세관 (Gun-san-se-gwan) bus stop. You’ll see the Old customs office (엣군산세관) on your right. Bus 7 also works (you’ll get off at the 김이비인후과 bus stop, just after a left turn).
For the Jinpo Marine Theme Park (진포해양테마공원), bus 1 or 7 to the 예수한방병원 (Ye-su-han-bang byeong-won bus stop – 2 or 3 bus stops away. Keep walking in the same direction as the bus was going to the intersection, then take a right. 군산시 장미동 1-4
For Haemanggul (the ‘cave’), bus 1 to the 도선장 (do-seon-jang) bus stop. Follow the main road around to the left, and you’ll see it on the left. 군산시 금동 26-85
For Lee Sung Dang (이성당), put your back to Haemanggul and walk straight for about 800 meters. You put your back to the Marine Theme Park and walk straight for about 500 meters. Either way, it’s at the corner of the Joongang intersection on your right. 군산시 중앙로1가 12-2
A taxi from the bus terminal to any of these is 3,000-4,000 won, and will be faster than a bus every time.