Written by Wilhelmina Asaam
Photographs courtesy of Roller Gaja
Have you noticed that your favorite cuddly-toy-snatching machines have stopped filling you with excitement? Are your norae-bang (노래방, singing room) days firmly behind you, and are you in desperate need of a new way to spend your fall evenings? You know how it goes in Korea, trends pop in and out, and you don’t want to be left behind.
Having heard about the new roller-skating rink that opened in Sangmu in July, Gwangju News sent me on a mission to test it out and diligently report back to you all. Roller skating could easily be the latest trend in cool evening activities for us in Gwangju!
My brief days playing roller derby made me think I was the best person for this role. Whilst my skills definitely aren’t up to par anymore, this joint definitely is!
It is situated close to the 5.18 Memorial Park, just to the left of the large E-mart store in Sangmu.. You’ll see the flashing disco lights and big skate logo up on the top floor of the building. Don’t make the mistake we did of entering through the back entrance; the real way in is beside the sushi restaurant, and you can get the elevator all the way up!
Instagram advertises prices as ten thousand won for two hours; however, at less busy times, they let you stay for an unlimited period at the same price. I was lucky enough to enjoy this privilege when I arrived on Friday night at 8 p.m. to check it out with a friend.
As soon as I entered, the atmosphere got me excited and ready for a party. The violet lights, loud, current music, and young staff made me feel like I was about to hit the club and let loose. This definitely eased some of the pre-skate nerves that I had started to feel.
After paying, we were directed to the suiting-up area! They had a variety of sizes for all the necessary safety gear: helmets, wrist guards, and knee pads. Then of course… the skates, with Westerner sizes available. Just make sure you know your size in millimeters!
There were Polaroid photos on the wall as a how-to guide on wearing the gear. However, I would have liked a member of the staff there to offer guidance. If you’ve never worn a wrist guard before, chances are you’ll put it on backwards.
The arena itself is gorgeous. The previously mentioned violet lighting, the disco balls, and the DJ booth in the center all serve to make you feel like you’ve just stepped foot into an updated retro music video. There are several plush leather sofas placed behind barriers that you can skate to whenever you need a break. For the Instagram-lovers, there are quite a few good selfie-taking spots, too.
Once you’re tired out from skating and in need of some refreshments, you only need to duck out of the rink right to their “Rollertop” café. This café is fully stocked with a variety of snacks from ramen to Haribo!
The actual café menu includes quite a few items such as mandu (만두, steamed dumplings), hamburgers, ice cream, and coffee. This is pretty convenient and keeps you from having to head to the convenience store for your snacks! In other words, you have more time to keep skating.
Roller Gaja was a fun and stylish experience in a trendy part of Gwangju. You can do some skating and then grab dinner and drinks in the Sangmu area to try something other than the usual downtown night out. Alternatively, it can be a fun daytime activity, especially as the summer comes to an end and the outdoors becomes less appealing.
I recommend checking it out as soon as possible, as word will inevitably spread and this can quickly become a popular spot.
ROLLER GAJA 롤러가자
Address: 5th floor, 253 Uncheon-ro, Seo-gu, Gwangju
광주 서구 운천로 253
Operating Hours: Every day, 11 am to midnight.
How to get to Roller Gaja:
– By Bus
Take any bus stopping at the 5.18 Memorial Park stop or the City Hall stop, and then it’s a short walk from either.
– By Subway
Line 1: Uncheon Station – Exit 3.
Self-proclaiming as a “bit of a hippy,” Mina moved to Gwangju in the pursuit of new experiences – which she believes keeps her present and truly living her best life. She can be found vlogging about these things on YouTube as MinaTheNuevist.