For the last weekend of my parents’ month-long stay in Korea, the three of us took a trip to Danyang, a county in North Chungcheon Province, right in the middle of Korea.
I have to admit, I went into this trip with more than a little trepidation. Even though Lonely Planet had called Danyang “a little gem,” or words to that effect, I’ve had enough experience travelling around Korea to know that some ebulliently promoted towns and countryside spots can turn out to be crushing disappointments. Indeed, in my time as a writer/editor, I once wrote a travel piece about a grindingly dull Korean island that made it sound like some kind of long-lost, bucolic Eden.
Without doubt, though, Danyang really is a treat. Accessible via a three-hour train ride from Seoul, it’s easy to get to and fits a load of great scenery into a fairly compact area. More surprising is that the small town of Danyang itself really isn’t that bad. That may sound like pretty weak praise, but unfortunately, due to the ravages of colonialism, war and progress-obsessed dictators, very little of Korea’s traditional architectural beauty survives; as a result, the country’s small towns and villages can be pretty depressing places.
Anyway, we had a pretty laid-back itinerary, so we didn’t get to see everything in the vicinity (including, sadly, the Ondal Fortress). Again, in stark contrast with caves I’ve seen elsewhere in Korea, the Gosundonggul Caves were really splendid, littered with vertiginous drops and mind-bending rock formations. The river cruise was great, with lush mountainside scenery that really made it worthwhile. And with it being in the early throes of autumn, Sobaeksan National Park, which we entered via the Darian entrance, looked really pretty. Here are a few pics (the cave ones are on my dad’s camera, so I’ll hopefully be able to add them later):