Photos by Lorryn Smit
If you have ever woken up and fancied a beer and a spot of bowling, then Korean rock bowling might be right up your alley. While having a pint while you bowl may not seem particularly revolutionary, this Korean-style of bowling really makes you question why it has not caught on yet back home. That is to say, rock bowling is more like being at a club than at your regular bowling alley.
The origin of the name is unclear and may just be an example of Konglish, considering neither “rock” nor “bowling” in the given context has a direct translation in Korean. One can only assume it comes from “rock and roll” and therefore to “party,” and given the atmosphere, this certainly makes sense.
In a nutshell, what you should expect from a night of rock bowling is music, beer, and bowling (granted, the last factor should not come as a surprise). And for those who think this sounds like an odd mix, it is not such a terrible combination. I believe it to be a solid start to any Friday or Saturday night, certainly if you plan to continue drinking into the early hours downtown.
If you find yourself craving a rock bowling session, then I highly recommend Sangmu’s Kingpin bowling alley, which is fairly simple to find, even if you do not know the area well. Walking away from Sangmu subway station with the King Sejong Outlet behind you, walk until you hit the Ramada Hotel on your right-hand side. Remain on the main road with the Ramada on your right and walk a block. Turn right and a rather large bowling pin will appear in the skyline, and there you will find the entrance to Kingpin. Bowling is in the basement, and as you descend, the decibels increase until you are met with a room so dark and so edgy you might forget you are in Gwangju. It reminded me of a bar I would go to in London. There was a live DJ playing decent music and willing to take requests in perfect English (although he did lack any music from the UK grime scene), comfortable sofas while we waited to be assigned a lane, friendly bar staff serving a good selection of beer, a darts board, and some arcade games.
I arrived between 8:30 and 9 p.m. on a Saturday and had to wait perhaps 20 minutes before there was a bowling lane available. While we waited, we made the most of the bar activities provided and got a beer. Compared to the bars in downtown Gwangju that foreigners frequent, the price of drinks was slightly higher, around 6,000 won for one beer. Personally, this did not offend me so much, as it was what I was expecting, considering the style and general feel of Kingpin, and if I am being totally honest, it is what I would expect to pay in the U.K. if I went drinking at a popular club/bowling alley (if one existed), so no harm done.
We played two games (the total we were permitted to play, as it was a popular alleyway with people waiting for their own turns), but this was more than enough. Rock bowling cost 10,000 won each (excluding alcohol), a very reasonable price, I believe, and considering the time, day and location, I was surprised it was not more. I would totally recommend rock bowling to anyone looking for an unusual twist yet safe bet to start their night, and equally to those just looking for a fun activity to fill a couple of hours on the weekend. I know there are other rock bowling alleyways around Gwangju, but I would look no further than Sangmu to fulfill your bowling needs and your beer cravings on a Saturday night.
광주광역시 서구 상무연하로 50
Eco Noble Building UG 1-2F, Sangmuyeonha-ro 50, Seo-gu, Gwangju
Open daily 10 a.m. ~ 6 a.m.
For inquiries and reservations call 070-8805-0592/ 010-3202-3026