Finding Old Boy: The ‘Real’ Korea and Childhood Memories in Danyang County

You step off the bus to see a lone ajumma waiting as the only passenger for the next ride out of town. You cross the road where there are four sets of fishing overalls hung up next to a convenience store with a muddy inflatable raft propped up covering all but the entrance. Your motel is on the same block, opposite a huge river carved into the towering limestone of mountainous valleys. Welcome to Danyang, South Korea.

Located about a 2.5-hour drive from Seoul, Danyang’s central market showcases the town’s speciality, with an entire strip selling nothing but garlic. A simple lunchtime order of samgyeopsal saw the owner pop out on three separate occasions. The first time was to buy the meat from a nearby butcher, the next two to buy makgeolli bottles from the nearest convenience store. Coming from Seoul, a city teeming with heavily staffed, busy restaurants, this stripped-down dose of country life was stimulating in its simplicity.

I’ve always wanted to hop off a local bus in the Korean countryside and wander through the small, traditional villages. So, along with some friends, I did just that. Strolling through the organically grown dwellings, we saw all manner of giant insects and animals, from praying mantises, crickets and lizards to countless golden orb spiders and snake skins shed along the road.

We saw kids wading through streams with fishing rods, while others were completely submerged, hunting with spearguns. Families gathered together for the harvest holidays in bungalows surrounded by corn fields, pepper gardens and pumpkins growing on vines along loose stone walls.

travel dangyang-slater-PA070092-2

Whilst walking along rice terraces as the sun went down, the soothing sound of birdsong was a welcome refrain from the familiar and constant hum of the traffic back in Seoul. It was like hitting the reset button to all the stress of the city – a rewiring of the senses. The nature rhythms of the countryside acted as a cure for the mechanized sprawl of urban living.

A 30-minute bus ride from the town center takes you to the epic, sprawling mountainside temple complex of Guinsa.

Stepping inside a temple lets you step outside a sense of time. Maybe it’s the fact that people go there to escape the daily, external grind and attempt to find inner peace. The visually arresting architecture, which Guinsa boasts in abundance, can induce an altered state of mind, especially with the chanting of monks drifting through. With over 50 buildings and counting, this bountiful Buddhist retreat is a world unto itself.

The steep mountainside slopes, which the young and old alike endure here, are great for watching life unfold. It’s a physically challenging hike to the top, so one can only admire those toughing it out at a ripe old age, some soldiering along with walking sticks in each hand.

I watched an old man with cane in hand ascend one of the final flights of steep stairs. Yet, after following him around the corner, he vanished from sight. I looked around and saw a boy – same cane, same hat. Same guy?

When I asked him for a photo he jokingly pulled the crooked back pose with his own walking stick. An old boy. As a metaphor, this regenerative feat was apt. Danyang brought back a lot of childhood memories of the small, riverside, countryside town I grew up in. I still felt the physical presence of my adult self, but Danyang rejuvenated, to some extent, what the city had ground out of me.

Danyang is easily reachable by bus from Seoul, Busan, Daegu and other cities. Check the city website for further details: You can check out more from Simon Slater at The Secret Map:


Photos by Simon Slater

travel dangyang-slater-PA090306-2

travel dangyang-slater-PA090238-2

travel dangyang-slater-PA090354

travel dangyang-slater-PA090280-3

travel dangyang-slater-PA090273-4

travel dangyang-slater-PA090244-3

travel dangyang-slater-PA090243-2

travel dangyang-slater-PA080209

travel dangyang-slater-PA080206 travel dangyang-slater-PA080158-2

travel dangyang-slater-PA080151-3

travel dangyang-slater-PA080109

travel dangyang-slater-PA080101-5

travel dangyang-slater-PA070092-2

travel dangyang-slater-PA060078


The Latest Haps


Four Injured When Car Smashes into Hanyang Mart in Yeonje-gu

A vehicle smashed into a Hanyang Mart yesterday afternoon next to an apartment complex in Yeonje-gu.


China Threatens US B-1 Bomber Flying 70 Miles off of Jeju Island

The US supersonic bomber was in the controversial Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone.


City Wants to Reduce Speed Limit on All Roads in Busan

A plan to lower the speed limit on all roads in Busan from the current 60 kilometers per hour to 50 kilometers per hour will be promoted.


Subway Line 1 Connecting to Dadaepo Beach to Open Next Month

Subway line 1’s new extension from Sinpyeong to Dadae-po is expected to open on April 20th.


Ha Ha Hole Returns Friday With a New Theme

The monthly Ha Ha Hole returns this Friday night and it’s looking for female comics to take center stage.


New Zealand’s ‘Moses’ to Perform at Basement this Friday

Psychedelic shoegaze from New Zealand, Moses, will be performing in Busan Friday, March 10, on the Busan leg of their Whareama album release tour.


Up to 2,000 People Expected to be Involved in “Black Panther” Shooting

Around 2,000 people are expected to be involved in Marvel Comics “Black Panther” shooting in Busan.


4th Busan International Boat Show Begins Today

The nation’s favorite boat festival sets sail for the fourth year.


10 Second Korean: ~ 가주세요 [ gajuseyo ]

Easy and quick Korean expressions!


National Trivia Night Returns This Sunday

Test your brain against the best in the country as HQ Gwangan once again is hosting National Trivia Night this Sunday evening at 7 p.m.


BIWA to Host Mardi Gras Ball in April

The Busan International Women’s Association is hosting a “Mardi Gras Ball” on Saturday, April 22nd at the Haeundae Grand Hotel.


Paradise Hotel’s ‘Nampoong’ Presents New Dim Sum Course

The Paradise Hotel’s third floor Chinese restaurant ‘Nampoong’ has introduced a new dim sum course meal for spring.


Basement Celebrates its 15th Anniversary This Friday

One of Busan’s most legendary watering holes is celebrating its 15th anniversary this Friday night.


Jeju Air to Offer Big Promo on all its Flights From Gimhae

Jeju Air will hold a big promotional event with great prices on domestic and international tickets from the 23rd of March through the 5th of April.


Video: Busan’s Top Eight Spring Flower Spots

Check out this video from the city that shows the top eight spring flower spots in Busan.


Jinhae’s Cherry Blossoms Expected to be in Full Bloom for its Festival This Year

The opening ceremony of Gyeongnam’s Jinhae Naval Port Festival, the nation’s largest spring flower festival, is coming up in 10 days.


Sajik Stadium to Charge Parking From this Year

Drivers will have to pay for their parking at the attached parking area of Sajik Stadium starting from the next month.


Giants to Have Two Lee Dae-ho ‘Cheering Zone’ Home Games

The Lotte Giants, will have a special “Lee Dae Ho Cheering Zone” at the opening home game on April 4th and the first weekend home game on April 8th.


Guide to Trekking in Seoraksan National Park

What is the perfect season in the Korean peninsula to hike and camp in Seoraksan National Park?






HQ bar