FEBRUARY 14, 2017 by Kirstie Hall
Sundays are fun days. They are made for mimosas, or adventures, or naps, or, if you’re like me, all of the above. With only three Sundays left in Seoul, I knew I’d have to suck it up, fight the urge to hit up the nap cafe, and get out and about despite the frigid temperatures. There are still so many places on my Korea Bucket List, and with the help of a new travel company in Seoul, I was able to cross three of them off this weekend.
Keep reading to find out how to zip-line to an island, prance around (the petite) France, and go to a garden rave all in one day.
I have been wanting to go to Nami Island, Petite France, and The Garden of Morning Calm for MONTHS – just ask my friends… I hassle them about it every other weekend. Unfortunately, though these destinations are accessible from Seoul, they’re not exactly the most convenient spots to get to. You have to take a train up north to Chuncheon or Gapyeong, (which are more than an hour away, depending on where you live in the city). Then, after arriving to your train station, you take a city bus to a stop somewhat nearby your actual destination… and then… you walk. I’d done all of the research on how to get to these places, how much they cost, etc… but, for these reasons and more, had yet to actually make it there.
Given that it’s still early February, it goes without saying that Seoul’s current temperatures are less than ideal for outdoor activities, but, it isn’t getting any warmer before I leave… so I found another alternative to walking around in the cold searching for these must see spots. On Sunday, I did something that, for me, is pretty unheard of… I joined a tour group… with actual tourists. KoreaTravelEasy… a company that, in my experience, absolutely lived up to the name.
The early morning tour left from Dongdaemun Design Plaza at 11:10. True to form, I arrived at 11:12, but, in my defense, it’s because I was meeting a girl who was buying a pair of my shoes and couldn’t find her way to exit 10. (The pre-backpacking purge is still in full force, so if you’re in Seoul & want cheap goods, let me know). Once arriving to the station, I breezed straight out of the exit and started looking for some sort of tour bus or van. Turns out, the guide leading the group was waiting for me AT the exit… Oops.
Eventually, I found my way to the bus and the rest of the group. I grabbed a seat in the back, and pulled out a stack of writing tests to correct while on the way to Nami Island. Productivity is key, and I must say, my time management skills are on point these days). I had the whole row to myself, so I was able to stretch out and get comfortable on the long ride.
Our first stop was Nami Island. Once we arrived in Chuncheon, we were given the choice between taking the ferry or zip-ling to the island. For me, this was a laughably easy decision. When given the choice between ferrying with the masses and zipping across by myself, I will zip every time. GoPro, snacks, laptop, and all, I was strapped in to the zip-line and breezing across the waterway in no time. In a little over 90 seconds, my feet were on the ground and ready to explore Nami. Though zipping in does cost a bit extra, and may take longer depending on the line you have to wait in… (or be freezing cold depending on which season you go in), the view was so worth it. On top of that, you enter Nami on a much quieter side of the island, and not within a herd of tourist cattle.
Before it was time to join the rest of the tourist cattle to hop aboard the ferry to leave that afternoon, I successfully walked around the entire island. There were certain areas that the masses seemed to flock to, namely Metasequoia Lane and Central Korean Pine Tree Lane. The island is home of some famous K-Drama filming locations, so I’m assuming that’s why these areas were so popular. I don’t actually know anything at all about that stuff, so, again, this is just my assumption.
The Forest Village and Bungalow Row Riverside Path were so quiet and relaxing, and, in my opinion, the best areas on the island. The other spots were beautiful, but they were kind of ruined by the fact that I had bob and weave through crowds so as to avoid getting smacked in the face by selfie sticks. On Pine Tree Lane, someone bumped my arm as I was putting my phone in my pocket… causing my phone to slow-motion fall face-down on to the hard, icy path. My glass screen protector is unscathed, but I cannot say the same for the glass underneath… (Is there some type of warranty for this? – because, seriously!? Wtf.)
After Nami we headed to Petite France, a cutesy, colorful little French cultural village in the Korean countryside. Aside from the pastel buildings, brief marionette show, and tribute to the French novel The Petite Prince, there wasn’t really anything too French about this place. It has also been the filming location of many K-Dramas and movies, which I suppose explains the sea of selfie sticks. I enjoyed wandering around the picturesque little town, and grabbed a milk tea that served as a yummy beverage and a hand warmer.
We left Petite France just before sun down and headed to our last stop of the day, the Lighting Festival at the Garden of Morning Calm. Over 30,000 lights cover the trees, bushes, bridges, and archways of the garden, making it Korea’s largest lighting festival. Despite being filled with selfie taking couples in matching outfits, the garden still had a really magical and whimsical feel. It was well worth the frozen fingers I left with. Before getting on the bus to head back to Seoul, I got the MOST delicious honey ginger tea from the coffee shop in the garden – seriously, it had little pieces of ginger inside and was SO good. 10 out of 10 would recommend.
SPEAKING OF THINGS THAT I WOULD RECOMMEND, THE ENTIRE TOUR WITH KOREATRAVELEASY WAS GREAT.
From creating a profile and signing up for the tour on their website, to getting to and exploring all three destinations, traveling with KoreaTravelEasy was just like the name says… easy!
My favorite part about the trip is how easy it was to get from point A to point B… and that when we got there we were left to explore on our own. I was worried that by going on this trip, I’d be stuck with the tour group all day, but that wasn’t the case at all. Once we arrived at each destination, we were given a time to be back at the bus, and spent the time in between wandering around doing our own thing. EVERYONE on the trip respected the time of their fellow travelers, and made it back to the bus on time every time, (which is not something that can be said for other tour groups I’ve been a part of in Korea).
I was the only person traveling solo on this trip, but I like it that way. If you’re someone who wants to meet new friends on tours, I would recommend going with a meet-up group instead. If you’re like me and want the traveling bit to be easy, but to do your own thing once you’re there, then you should absolutely consider taking this tour (or one of the many other trips offered) with KoreaTravelEasy.
The truth is, if I’d tried to do Nami Island, Petite France, and the Garden of Morning Calm on my own in one day, it would have been a big hassle. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with taking the easier route & traveling with a company that takes the stress of getting there out of the equation. Aside from cracking my phone screen, I thoroughly enjoyed my tour with Korea Travel Easy, and all three destinations on the trip. Check out the video below for more of the Sunday Funday Shenanigans!
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