Seoul 2019 Day 11 – Nami Island, Ganchon rail park and Garden of Morning Calm

It was a tour day today as I have booked a driver through Klook to get us to Nami Island and it’s surrounding. Had agreed on the meeting time the day before to change to 930 instead of 9 because it seemed impossible to get the family out by that time which the driver had agreed through whatsapp.

Everyone was awake and preparing early except K that slept in till 9 as we wanted him to get rested as much as possible. The driver had arrived early and sent a picture of the location where he was parked. By the time we got to the ground floor, it was 935, still late! I sent a picture of where we were and he drove there to pick us up. It was a mad rush to get everyone into the Hyundai Starex as there were 10 of us but it worked out fine and soon we were 1hr40mins to our first destination.

Our ride

As the journey was long, the initial lively conversation with the Korea born Chinese driver didn’t last and everyone was dozing off. We arrived finally at the restaurant for lunch as I have preferred that we ate first before going to the island as there might not be food choices there.

Chinese speaking driver
Saw an Olympics stadium during the journey

This restaurant served stir fried chicken and we had 3 tables in which 2 had spicy and one not, for the kids. The chicken was fried by the staff and had vegetables in them too. When the chicken was done, the rice was then added in and fried on the same plate to absorb in the sauce. It was quite delicious but K didn’t appreciate the food and was almost puking at some point. Maybe the food chunks were too big. The driver paid on behalf and we left for Nami Island in which the driver also helped to get tickets on our behalf (as he had an additional 5% discount) and helped take a photo for us before bringing us into the island.

Parking lots for visitors to Nami Island
Where we had lunch
Before complete cooking
The spicy version
Can choose to zipline into the island
Cruise boarding to Nami Island

We were left to roam the island as he left with the instructions on where to meet up. Following the map, we walked towards Winter Sonata filming location. It was a 500m walk there which but it took a while as we stopped by here and there to chase squirrels, play at playground, see ostriches and Merlion and tried pumping ground water out from the ground using an old pump.

Arriving at the disembarkation location
View after gettiing off the cruise
A choice of taking the bus or train or walk for free
Many water bodies on Nami Island
Ostriches on the island
Playground for the kids to stop and play
Very tall trees lined in parallel
Close up shot of a squirrel near the playground
A Merlion?!?!
A wild bunny
Panoramic view of a village in Nami Island
A pond within the village
Steamed bun over traditional log fire
Plain bun

When we finally arrived, we had to jostle with the many people there that came in a tour group before my parents could take a photo in front of the photo (think the actual shooting location was further down as we didn’t get there). Walking back to the ferry after our 1.5hrs there was way faster since we didn’t stop but there was already a huge line of people waiting to board the ferry back.

Left Nami island the same way we came

Returned to the vehicle after a restroom visit, we travelled about 30mins to the Gangchon rail park for the next destination. K fell asleep on the way there and thus we left mommy and K while the rest took 2 rail bikes of 4 persons each to ride. Again there were quite a lot of people despite the poor weather and we had to queue here too. The driver was very helpful to get the tickets and helped us with the tickets and even a video of us going off. Later he drove the vehicle at the end point to meet us with mommy and K.

Gangchon Rail Park
Display inside the park
Many rail bikes parked and ready

This rail bike experience was unlike the previous one I had in Yeosu. This was 8km in length according to the guide and had 3 tunnels and pretty good scenery along the way. Longer distance meant that I had to paddle more and it was indeed a workout for my thighs as I was seated with my parents and my aunty! But it felt great anyhow as they get to experience something different, heard them laughing a great deal along the way. The ride here made the one in Yeosu looked like a kids ride, as we made thru 3 different tunnels of different displays, one with bubbles, one with slow music and lights and the other with heart thumbing disco music!

A much longer journey than the one in Yeosu
One of the tunnels with dancing lights

After riding about 40mins, we disembarked at an intermediate platform to take a slow romantic train back to Gangchon train station. The train arrived after some time while people were going to the toilet, getting something to eat from the cafe, taking photos of the surrounding or simply just seated in an enclosed tentage. The train had 2 sections, one closed off from the elements with windows and the other was opened. We took the closed off ones to avoid the cold and the train rolled slowly to our final destination. Upon arrival at the end point, I managed to snag a few photos for my sister before the staff chased us out of the area.

Midpoint waiting for train.
The toilet was at the end.
Panoramic view of the scenery at the midpoint.
Train to the end point.
Disembarkation point at the end.
A bridge at the end point.

Boarded the drivers vehicle parked next to the road and found K still asleep with mommy. We then proceeded to the next location while the drizzle started to increase in intensity.

It was about a 40mins drive from the rail park to the Garden of Morning Calm and the drizzle didn’t stop even when we finally arrived at the carpark. We opted to skip this to go for a great dinner instead since it would be too cold to visit without an umbrella and the view will be quite dreary too. We requested for a place with good Ginseng chicken and the driver knew where to bring us.

Plants at the entrance
Not going further then the entrance of the Garden of Morning Calm

After a toilet break and some eating of some snacks bought from the stores, we were on our way, 2hrs drive back to the samgyetang restaurant.

The journey was long due to traffic jam probably contributed by rain and peak time traffic. K, who had slept too much, couldn’t go to sleep and was moving so much that he got road sickness and was puking a few times.

We had made it to the Tosokchon Samgyetang restaurant, still drizzling and the driver helped get everyone off and into the restaurant before going to park his vehicle. We ordered 8 portions to share and a seafood pancake. There were also ginseng liquor available for purchase. I thought the soup tasted pretty good, and the chicken with the glutinous rice was delicious. The pancake wasn’t fantastic though. The free ginseng alcohol was quite flavourful and tasted even better after the dinner. The total costs of the dinner was about 166k.

Tosokchon restaurant
Ginseng alcohol for sale
Thich broth of the Samgyetang
Ginseng alcohol

The drive back to the accommodation was a quick 30mins and after the driver parked just under the block, we paid the driver who had taken care of the entire day’s spending for the meals and the tickets by paying in advance. That came up to about 527k inclusive of the discount already but it was a surprise for us as we didn’t prepare a lot of cash. My mom paid off first with 500k and the rest I topped up but now we were left with not much cash. Should have paid with credit cards for the meals at least.

We returned to the accommodation tired from the days’ activities and night proceeded as usual. I dozed off for a bit while mommy and K was spending time with granddad and then lights off happen some time later.

Escape Plan to South Korea & Hong Kong March 2019

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to South Korea and Hong Kong:

Total duration 18D17N
Singapore is 1hr behind of Korea and same timezone as Hong Kong.
Flight time is 4hrs 5mins on Cathay Airlines from Singapore to Hong Kong, a 50mins transit followed by a 4hrs 50mins time on Cathay Airlines from Hong Kong to Incheon Airport Seoul.

Return flight is 3hrs 55mins on Cathay Airlines from Hong Kong to Singapore.

Friday night flight on 29th Mar at 810pm and arrival in Hong Kong in the morning of the 30th Mar at 1215am followed by a flight at 105am and arrival in Korea in the same morning at 555am.

Return flight from Hong Kong on the 15th Apr at 230pm and same day arrival in Singapore at 625pm.

Day 0-1 Flying and Gamcheon Village in Busan
Day 2 Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival and arrival into Geoje
Day 3 Cruise to Oedo Island, Tong Yeong Hallyeosudo cable car and Junggang market
Day 4 Hakdong beach, Windy hill and drive to Yeosu, Odongdo island
Day 5 Yeosu Rail bike, Aqua Planet and Teddy bear museum
Day 6 Drive to Jeonju, cheese theme park and Jeonju old town
Day 7 Explore Jeonju and drive to Wolmido
Day 8 Fairytale land, Chinatown and back to Seoul
Day 9 Yeouido park, Noryanjin Market and Myeongdong
Day 10 Lotte World Adventure theme park
Day 11 Nami Island, Gangchon rail park and Garden of Morning Calm
Day 12 Dongdaemun and Lotte Outlet
Day 13 Strawberry farm, Pocheon Art Valley and Herb Island light festival
Day 14 Seoul to Hong Kong
Day 15 Sino Center and Hysan Place
Day 16 Hong Kong Space museum and shopping at CHKC
Day 17 Home Sweet Home

This escape plan was the first time in donkey years that we travel with my extended family. It was not an easy itinerary to begin with, having to plan different flights for my wife, my parents, my aunt in HK and for me and my boy, as we were flying different times, for reasons such as for business, for best price and for breaking the trip. There was also trying to plan a bit of something for my parents and for the kids. Glad that everything turned out well.

Budget nature: Rather Expensive 

Costs of living in Korea was quite high especially in the cities, car rentals was expensive too. This was offset by the optimisation of squeezing into Airbnb units in Seoul and getting the better deal through Klook and utilising discount coupons from tourism book brought over from Singapore.

Complexity: High

Due to different flight times (5 different tickets) for everyone, we had to get all the dates and times right before purchasing the tickets. Travel by car outside the city was still fine but met with heavy traffic when in Busan. Thankfully for the Hyundai Sonata in-car GPS, it was a little easier to navigate as Google maps do not work, and Naver app wasn’t driver friendly. Travelling via public transport in Seoul was easy but not so in a taxi as we were easily lost in translation, and getting taxis for a big group was a challenge itself, as the taxis can only take up to a certain number of people.