Gongju(공주) is very famous for the Baekjae(백제) Dynasty, a Royal Family that governed Korea from 600 AD-670AD. A lot of Korean cultures and scholarly achievement was developed during their ruling years, even playing a part in the influence upon Japanese architecture and its culture. The annual Baekjae Cultural festival (공주백제문화제) is a big event for Gongju residents and many in the Chungbuk province never miss it.
The town is always packed for two weeks solid during the festival in late September/Early October, where a motorbike slipping through its traffic seemed a more sensible idea. I always feel sorry for the families packed like sardines in metal tins on wheels, edging along the roads and taking an hour to find parking. For me on the ‘favoured hog’, a ride anywhere in Gongju was less than 10 minutes away, and parking is always available anywhere with a bike.
The town itself is quite small, surrounded by farms with no major supermarket or department store. It has a few restaurants and bars geared towards the students and two local taverns that a few foreign residents or visitors can enjoy. Both are distinctly different from one another, an underground cosmopolitan feel in 'The Cage' , located in the downtown area, to a creative, community student bar in ' Art Bar' , located just down from Kongju National University(공주대학교).
It’s predominately a University town, lively and active in the semesters, but almost a ghost town during vacation periods, yet attractively peaceful too. Coffee shops and hotels cluster the rest of its map and a new hospital is located across the river. In this historic town, the famous museum and Kong’s tombs also attract a lot of visitors all year round.
This ‘Korean Style Shire’ has a special place in my heart and always will when I ride through again one day. From the summer morning breakfast memories, just before escaping to my beach on the coast an hour away; or the river swim down the road, to sunbathing on the balcony; or that special beer and barbecue moments, overlooking the spectacular back yard of Gongju Gongsanseong Fortress.
Forgetting those late-night summer rides, ‘ripping it’ fast and far off into the dark and empty space, with smooth flat roads on ‘Beucephalus’ (my Honda custom bobber, 600cc) would be an impossible task. The 32 motorway stretches for hours; blasting a head full of grunge biker music, whilst darning a skull theme helmet, brought out the inner child in me!
It’s a shame I have to leave this town for better working conditions, but will always make an effort to return to what was so much fun for the last two and a half years, also known as Liam’s Town, a little joke for the Freshmen English language learning students at KNU.
More info about Baekje Cultural Festival (백제문화제)
Promotional video of the Baekje Cultural Festival
Google Map of Gongju Art Bar
Google Map of the Cage
[About Liam Roper]
He was experienced in working as an Assistant Directing Departments in the UK Film & TV industry.
He is a passionate bike rider and also a rugby player and currently a visiting professor at Gongju University.