|▲ A Tribune reporter (right) and her friend at the entrance of Balsan Village|
While travelling to famous tourist attractions, tourists usually focus on visiting hot places in their destinations without considering the locals living there. It is the most popular travel style that affects the everyday life of residents and may even do serious damage such as tourists being noisy or leaving garbage. To solve these problems that tourist visitations cause, sustainable tourism is rising in recent years. It is a travel style that tourists try to ensure the coexistence between tourists and local communities by staying at local resident-operated accommodations and eating local food in their destinations. Last August, a Tribune reporter made a sustainable trip to Balsan Village that is one of the tourist attractions in Gwangju.
The Village of Youth and Arts
One way to take a sustainable trip to a certain place is understanding its history. Balsan Village was a town of Yang-dong which was full of the vitality of many workers from all over the country working at nearby textile factories In the 1970s and 1980s. It had declined due to the downfall of the textile industry and the urban hollowing out phenomenon in the 1990s. However, this village has been revived as one of Gwangju’s urban regeneration sites to implement various cultural programs with residents and young people over the past four years. There are alleys that are decorated with colorful murals and public design works. The Town Museum of History and Culture shows the past of the village figure with pictures and objects.
|▲ Students in front of a wall painting in Balsan Village|
While this trip was going on, the reporter could actually communicate with villagers and felt that this place had its own atmosphere. One grandmother watering the greens in ‘Grandma’s Vegetable Garden’ asked to take a rest in the senior center. Like her, the villagers were very nice to tourists. A senior resident who we met on the way to the observation deck on the top of the village recommended the wall paintings. A couple of villagers who manage café ‘Flong’ looked leisurable and their relaxed mind made visitors comfortable. ‘Youth Messages’ written on the walls were impressive and meaningful as they transferred elder villagers’ advice to the youth. It even felt like I was communicating with them while reading the messages.
What to Do Before Heading to Balsan
This trip taught me that the sustainable tour trying to communicate with locals is so fresh and warm. But the reporter made some mistakes. Visitors need a reservation to experience some programs including handicrafts but this reporter missed it. If you have a plan to go on a sustainable trip in Balsan Village, you must check and make a reservation in advance at least one week before. Especially a neighborhood camp which is a two-day program staying at the village in the last weekend of every month which is suitable for a sustainable tour. During the camp, visitors can have a meal that village residents prepared, experience craftworks with the instructor and make a desert with villagers. It would be a good opportunity to experience the recent rising tourism trend and communicate with local residents. The sustainable or responsible tour is not as difficult as you might think. Anyone can do this kind of trip. How about trying to experience this type of travel in the near future?
|▲ Students on the stairs in Balsan Village|
Recommendations for Sustainable Tourism Destinations in Jeonnam Province
There are some recommendations for sustainable tour programs in Jeonnam Province. Yeosu’s “Islands Trip School” is a travel program to learn about islands while enjoying the travel experience. Through this program, participants can design the village on an island by drawing wall paintings or sleeping in a local resident’s guest house. In Gokseong, a local travel agency “Seomjin River Toad” operates travel packages to find Gokseong’s hidden charm in every season. This agency is composed of residents who moved from cities because they love the county and there are lots of programs related to local people like experiencing handmade souvenirs with villagers. If you want to go on a sustainable trip to these regions, just contact the following numbers. (Islands Trip School: 010-2500-3362, Seomjin River Toad: 061-363-5650)
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