South Korea in the Perspective of a Filipino Expatriate

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Cool Journey to the Underworld at Gwangmyeong Cave

Fantasy Movie Festival inside the cave

If Bruce Wayne has a man cave that houses sophisticated items like the batmobile, batcomputer station, a vault of Batman’s costume and other unspecified machineries, South Korea has Gwangmyeong Cave to top it all. Well, maybe not in the aspect of sophistication, but at least it’s a real cave with real things in it. Do you want to know what these real things are? Let me virtually tour you inside the cave.

Unlike any other caves, you don’t need to trek on high mountains or go to wherever forest in the far-flung provinces to access Gwangmyeong cave because it can be found right within the city. Yes folks, it’s a cave in the city. It was used to be a coal mining site and it has witnessed the colonization of Japanese as well as the evolution of the modern industries in Korea. The Korea Tourism decided to transform the cave into a museum and historical site and it was reopened in 2011 for public visit.
In the outside, it looks like just any other ordinary cave. For me, it doesn’t even look like a cave, it looks like a tunnel. Here in Korea, if you travel from one city to another, you would definitely pass through a lot of tunnels. Essentially, these are passageways built through the mountains. But Gwangmyeong was not built for a tunnel but as a mining site in the early 20th century.

There are other elements outside the cave referencing to what it used to be. There’s a statue of a miner with a cart of gold. Of course, these are not real gold, they put this just to show that they used to excavate gold from these mining sites a long long time ago.

Statue of a miner with  cart of gold outside the cave

Also, there’s a viewing cave on the other side. It’s some kind of an elevated area, so if you want to view city on the top view, you must climb up the wooden stair to reach the sky view. Well, there’s not much to see up there except for buildings and trees, but it’s worth a try and a climb.

Sky View

I was not prepared for the exotic experience I had inside the cave. It was cold inside, well lit and there were old photos displayed almost every 10 meters in the entrance area to show how the tunnel looked like during the era when it was still a mining site. For a second, I was confused if it’s a cave or a museum, but we can call it a cave-museum.

Museum inside the cave

I like how they made the lightings more interesting inside the cave. It’s so colorful and beautiful. There were LED of different colors, shapes and sizes adding mystery to the ambiance inside. I felt like I was transported into the future, where creatures are glowing and emitting bright and colorful lights.

LED lights everywhere

But what really amazed me was the fact that there’s a music and art hall inside. There’s this one area where you can see a stage, chairs for the audience, projectors and a lot more. Apparently, they hold performances in this area to entertain visitors of the cave. It looks like a theater house for me, better than the theater house I think. But wait, there’s more, we were actually treated for a show. It’s not just an ordinary show because the hall was suddenly converted into a magical room as the walls of the cave turned into a movie screen. It was some sort of a short movie with colors and shadows as actors telling a story about what the humanity has done to the environment as they aim for industrial development.

The walls inside the cave turned into a colorful show

 And who would have thought you can install a giant aquarium inside the cave? I kid you not, fishes are no longer in the sea, they’re at Gwangmyeong cave too. It was a little bit a strange sight for me, but apparently, people were actually enjoying it.  Fishes of different species and sizes and colors were there happily swimming in the aquarium.

one part of the giant aquarium inside the cave

There’s also a golden path, it’s a tunnel where all you see and touch are gold. I felt I was a King when I walked in that path. Everything in the golden path is shimmering and shining like gold.
At the end of the path runs a waterfall, a golden waterfall! And there are golden palaces too that make the place even more interesting.

The golden path

Other interesting elements in the cave were the wishing stations. Every now and then, there’s a statue, or some kind of lucky charms or even wishing well where people can touch and pray for whatever fortune they want in life, it could be money, prosperity, happiness, etc…. One example of these is this golden statue of Aisha. They said that if you touch the pieces of gold sitting in her hand, you will have a prosperous and happy future.

The statue of Aisha

One part of the cave is dedicated to Fantasy Movie Festival and they have coordinated with the Weta Workshop, the producer of “The Lord of the Rings”. So don’t be surprised if you’ll see the giant sculpture of Smaug and Gollum, I was surprised though.

Lord of The Ring

Not only that, there’s a garden inside!!! Plants of different varieties and species are displayed to give some lush green sight for the visitors. It’s quite refreshing to see the greeneries in the dark cold tunnel of the cave.

Garden inside the cave

I guess the highlight of our little trip at Gwangmyeong was a visit to the Winery or they call it a Wine Cave. We got to taste the wine of different types and it tastes so good. It’s like all the good wines in the world were gathered and……ok fine, I really don’t know anything about wine, haha… I was just impressed by the collections of wine available inside the cave.

The winery

I like how the staffs were so polite and they always make sure that everybody’s safe inside the cave. We were a little bit in a hurry because they will be closing the cave at 6 pm, but I can’t believe we were able to explore the whole area in just maybe about 3 hours.

So if you are looking for a daytrip, Gwangmyeong cave is the best place to visit because it is very accessible by public transportation. It is located at 142 Gahak-ro 85beon-gil, Gwangmyeong-si, Gyeonggi-do or you can take a subway and get off at Gwangmyeong Station on Line Number 1. Go to exit 6 and take a taxi to Gwangmyeong cave. It will take around 10 minutes to reach the cave from the subway station. The cave is open from 9 in the morning up to 6 in the evening during weekdays and 9pm during weekends. The cave is closed every Monday, Seollal and Chuseok.

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