Just a short walk from my in-laws house, I spotted a Ferris wheel and never one to pass up a good view we headed in the direction only to find ourselves at an abandoned amusement park. I have never been one to enter places where entrance is clearly not permitted, but this was different. The front entrance wasn’t fenced off in any way and the signage didn’t make it sound too serious if we did enter. Actually, the Gimhae tourist website still lists Gaya Land as an amusement under the Family Travel Course heading.
Set at the foot of Shino Mountain, the park is “equipped with total leisure sports facilities including a golf range” and “offers adventure, fantasy and a dreamful world to children”, the website explains. The website even goes on to say that they “invite you to take a half-day journey into the forest where it provides unique pleasure of the total leisure town equipped with various kinds of convenient facilities”. I have to say the facilities were lacking, don’t expect to use a restroom, though they are all open and unlocked, but the website is correct in that they will provide a unique pleasure.
Apparently, the park was open up until at least 2008 and for W1,500, visitors could enter and enjoy the rides. The rides have since become rusty and probably quite dangerous to ride, but they haven’t been secured in any way. The park is “guarded” by a few dogs, not the scary kind, but those small yappy ones you see everywhere in Korea and one huge white fellow I wouldn’t venture toward just in case. In his enthusiasm, he’s bound to bowl passerby over. They were all on leashes as we approached and it was easy enough to stay out of their way. Interestingly, as we walked up they barked their heads off, but as we left they made not a peep. A worker in a blue truck drove past us as we took photos and didn’t stop to say “go away” so, we took that as a sign that exploration wasn’t forbidden.
As we approached the Ferris wheel it began to turn as the wind blew and with the dogs barking behind us, the whole scene made my heart beat faster as if I had entered into a scene in a movie where an ax murderer starts chasing the main character. The grasses were tall and long vines with leaves were taking over the paved sidewalks and steps clear proof that the park has been forgotten. The once clearly bright colors have faded and the smiley faces of the toys and signs don’t look as happy as they used to, but look forlorn and lost.
For my first abandoned area visit, it was a good one and a strange one. Seeing rides that used to amuse children with a rush that now sit rotting and amuse abandoned lot seekers is weird and left me with questions. Why did it close down? Why weren’t there protective fences up to stop children from finding this place and hurting themselves? Who feeds the dogs? Is this what happens when amusement parks die?
Location: Gimhae, Korea