Chuncheon, South Korea: Of vanity, autumn and Koreanovelas (Naminara Republic, Nami Island, Namiseom)
October 12, 2011 9 Comments
One of the things that got me excited when my trip to Seoul got confirmed was the prospect of experiencing another season aside from the Philippines’ usual sunny and rainy. Having lived in a tropical country all my life, I was so eager to see the autumn colors of rust and amber. Alas, while the wind chill made it clear we were already in the Northern Hemisphere (it made its presence felt as soon as we stepped out of ICN), most of the foliage was still at its summer green. Bummed, I really was.
You know what made up for it? A place north of Seoul where we arguably spent the best day we had in South Korea: Nami Island. Let me tell you right now, it made up for it, big time.
Unlike the usual trips we’ve had so far, our journey to the island was not that straightforward. See, we originally planned on catching a shuttle at Tapgol Park that would’ve dropped us directly at the Nami Island ferry terminal. When we got to the park at nine in the morning, the shuttle was indeed there but we were in for a surprise. Little did we know that one, we had to reserve somewhere to get seats for that shuttle, and two, that the shuttle only had one trip for the day, and that trip we obviously we would miss. Fortunately, we met an angel named Yumi (a pretty English-speaking lady who was on the shuttle at that time) who did her best to explain to us how to get to the ferry terminal by train. With a pencil and a piece of paper, she jotted down key train stations we should look for to arrive at our destination. (Yumi, I hope you read this someway, somehow. Thank you sooo much!)
So here’s how the train adventure went.
From Jongno 3(sam)-ga station (Seoul Subway Line 1, Dark Blue) we dropped off at Hoegi station and transferred to the Jungang Line. From there, we stopped at Sangbong station and transferred to the Gyeongchun Line. Our final stop was at Gyeongchun’s Gapyeong station.
Whew! Simple right? That is if you consider a route that involves 21 stations, two transfers and almost two hours of commute simple. :-P If you can’t be bothered by all these details, then you only need to remember this: from any Seoul Subway Line, transfer to the Korail Jungang Line and then transfer again to the Korail Gyeongchun Line and drop off at Gapyeong Station. Here’s a good reference map you might find useful.
From Gapyeong Station, we took a cab that cost us 2,400.00 KRW (~92.70 PHP, ~2.15 USD) and in a few minutes (I think less than ten?), we were at Nami Wharf. Finally! We immediately went to the ticketing office and paid 8,000.00 KRW (~308.95 PHP, ~7.15 USD) for our Naminara Republic passport.
The rate was a discounted one for foreigners (regular rate is 10,000.00 KRW) that holds until the end of this year and it included entry to the island and round-trip ferry tickets. After boarding a ferry that leaves the wharf after every 10 to 20 minutes (one which transfers a looot of passengers at a time by the way), we were at the island in no time.
If I were to sum up my almost six hours in the island in one word, it would be with this: romantic. The experience really was something that came straight out of a Koreanovela. (If you haven’t figured out by now, the island is where the uber famous Korean drama Winter Sonata was shot.) True, we didn’t quite see the autumn colors we were gunning for, but the dreaminess of the island more than made up for it. The two-hour-ish train ride was so worth it and the place was not overrated at all.
But before all that, guess what we saw (yet again!) on our third day in South Korea?
Yep, another K-Pop sighting! Again, no clue at all who these people are, but all of a sudden, just as we were about to finish lunch at this grill within the island, a crew started setting up video cameras in front of one of the tables and five dolled-up “stars” were then filmed talking while cooking their food. At one point, they even dared each other to eat raw pepper. We understood squat but it was cute and amusing. :-P
Anyway, the hours we spent in the island seemed to just fly by after that lunch. We walked and biked the entire island but it felt like minutes! Time spent there seriously made me wish we had weather like that in the Philippines. The trees were so lovely! We caught a glimpse of the changing colors of some of them but the predominant color was still green. There were a lot of art installations too. I think this would have to be one of those cases where I let the photos do the talking as I am simply at a loss for words.
Di ba? Di ba? That afternoon was really special, so much so that when people ask me what place shouldn’t be missed in South Korea, I always say Nami Island. It did help that it gave me a venue for my vanity. Haha! I mean come on! Who wouldn’t want pictures taken here right? ;-) But seriously, this should be in any traveler’s must-see list, not only because it was made famous by pop culture but also because of the sheer, natural beauty of the place. Charming, dreamy and romantic, I guess it will take a long time for me to not gush about this island. I love, love, love it.