Korea is known for having breathtaking autumn/fall scenery. With this in mind, I set off to Nami Island on the invitation of my friend, Gillian. We spent a magical weekend in this wonderland and returned home tired, but satisfied.
Here’s how we got there and where we stayed:.
We took the bus to Seoul and from there took a bus to Chuncheon, getting off at Cheonpyeong bus terminal. This is centrally located in the middle of this small town. We got some amazing rotisserie chicken from a street vendor, got some wine from the mart and took a taxi to our guesthouse.
- Egg house – Guesthouse in Cheonpyeong
This guesthouse is more the size of a boutique hotel than a guesthouse. It is very cute and ran by a lovely lady named Hyera. The guesthouse is part of a franchise and is decorated in a simplistic Ikea style with little pops of yellow and orange. You will also find the cute egg mascot hidden in many spots across the room, bathroom, and corridors. The best part about the Egg house? Location! It is very close to the train station, about a 5 minutes walk. It is also next to a river and has a beautiful view from the room window. Check it out at Egg House Bookings.com
Here’s what we saw and did:
2. The travel bus, A Route
How to get on the bus:
Get the brochure (see picture below) and see which stop is closest, most convenient for your time, place of departure and destination. Go to the indicated stop and look out for information boards with the bus time table. Usually, the bus stops at the regular bus stop. Identify the bus by the schedule and picture posted on its sides.
From our guesthouse, the closest stop was at the Cheongpyeong Station. On the route, this is indicated as the second to last stop. This suited us well since we wanted to spend the morning at the Garden of the Morning Calm- which turned out to be the next stop on Route A.
3. The Garden of the Morning Calm
The garden is an absolute must if you are a lover of colors, nature, photography and tea. It has breathtaking views of flower fields, a bonsai tree collection, bridges and water features galore. Despite it being very busy, it never felt as if we were getting trampled. The garden is huge, so there is more than enough space for everybody to move comfortably. You might have to wait in line a minute to take a special shot in front of a million-year-old tree, but it’s totally worth it. The garden has a gift and curio shop, a restaurant and a lovely tea house. At the tea house you can drink authentic Korean hot teas served in beautiful hand crafted Korean inspired pottery mugs and cups. You can buy these as a souvenirs or gifts.
4. Petite France
As the name suggest, this is a ‘small France’. Even though it looks the part, it felt and tasted nothing like anything French I’ve ever experienced. I was longing for fresh baguettes and wine, instead, I had to settle for a pizza slice and coffee. The actual place is small, with little imitation shops and houses you can walk through. French cafe style music plays everywhere, and people line by the hundreds to take pictures at the mini Eiffel tower. I have to say that I really enjoyed the live puppet show, it was well put together and well executed. I bought some cute Petit Prince (Korea is obsessed with ‘The little Prince’) postcards at the gift shop and waited in an extremely long line to get back on the bus to visit Nami Island. Heads up, all workers and bus drivers will refer to this attraction as “pootee prantsuh”. I give Little France a 2.5 / 5.
5. Nami Island, take one.
We left Petite France at around 2 p.m and arrived at Nami Island just before 3 p.m. We were excited but tired. We got off the bus and tried to figure out where to go in the mass confusion of buses, people and traffic regulators. It was busy, overwhelming and lines were kilometers long. I have never seen so many Koreans in one place. To be honest, I feel that tourist sites in Korea are catering for Korean tourists and not foreigners. After the initial shock subsided we walked to the ticket office to buy our ferry and island day pass. We were met by a sea of people. The Kilometer long line I referred to earlier was in fact not the line for the ferry as I initially thought, it was the line for the ticket office. Without much hesitation we decided not to take the trip, time was running out and the chances were that we would buy the ticket and stand in line for about and hour, get to the island and have maybe one hour of daylight left. To get back to our initial starting point we had to take the tour bus going in the opposite direction. This was also confusing since we were directed to make a line on the opposite side of the road, away from the bus stop. At the end, after a long bus ride back we just decided to get more rotisserie chicken, wine and have a quiet night in. We ended up having a dinner party with some other guest, which lead to them offering us a lift to Nami Island the next day. We suggested leaving at 7 am so that we arrive at 8 am in the hopes of missing the rush…Here’s how that went:
Nami Island, take two.
As mentioned earlier in this post part of the inspiration for going to Nami Island was to experience the beautiful Korean fall and changing of the leaves. We got to do that in abundance at Nami Island. It was lovely!
When we arrived at around 7h45 the lines were already busy and there was a crackle of excitement in the air (I’m not exaggerating). We bought our tickets after about 5 minutes in line, and we got a bit of a foreigner discount. Afterward, we went to the coffee shop, which was very cutely decorated with the Nami Island Mascot (The cutest snowman ever…). Here I got to do a bit of light reading about Nami Island. It’s a pretty cool concept: Naminara is a micronation, and the “visa” issued by Naminara is required in order to enter Namiseom (Nami Island). The history of Nami Island is rich and includes war, wrongful convictions, K-pop dramas, Music stars and child care projects. Follow this link to read more about Nami Island.
We got on a very crowded ferry but still got to stand at the rail and feel the breeze on our faces. When we arrived at the Island it was cold and a little foggy, which made for some beautiful pictures. As it got later the sun started shining and more people arrived. Pretty quickly the island became alive with children, doggies (no pets weighing more than 5kg permitted), and photographers. Don’t be surprised seeing people in wedding dresses, costume or color coordinated outfits. Nami Island is a photographer’s dream.
Visit the Art exhibition, take the Unicef mini train, visit the music hall and eat lunch at the Nami Coffee House. You can rent a bike for the day, or even take the Zipline from the mainland to the Island. Make sure that you keep hydrated, you will walk much farther than you realize. If you are into arts and crafts you can take a glass blowing or pottery class at the Art Center. Remember to take photo’s of the iconic K-drama statue, and also the mother and child. Keep in mind that the Island gets more busy later in the day, and that the line to take the ferry back to the mainland gets very long. You might have to stand in line for anything from 45 minutes to an hour. Be prepared for that. If you do not want to wait, you can take a water taxi back which will cost about 15 000 – 20 000Won.
I would highly recommend Nami Island, and rate it 4.5 / 5.