It's officially summer vacation for me- woo hoo! Mel still has to work for a few weeks at her incredibly organized summer camp so I just plan to spend my time off relaxing and doing a little light traveling within Korea on the weekends. On Saturday we met Shanda at Cheongnyangni Station and caught the train to Gapyeong.
Train tickets were sold out but we did manage to buy standing room tickets. There were so many people stuffed onto the train (whyyyy? really- why were so many people going to Gapyeong of all places?) but we still found a corner to squat in while our ass cheeks went numb over the 80 minute train ride.
This is what Gapyeong looks like outside of the train station. Again- WHY were so many people coming here? We went to a very dodgy tourist information booth where a hand drawn map directed us to the bus station where we could catch a bus to Chuncheon, about 30 minutes away. Chuncheon is a much bigger city than Gapyeong and there was some sight-seeing we wanted to do in that area. After we bought our bus tickets we were immediately confused as to which bus we should board to go to Gapyeong so we attempted to board all of them until a kind ajumma pointed us to the correct bus. She really wanted to chat with us but only spoke Korean and all I understood was "where are you from" and "bus-uh go go go".
In Chuncheon we tried 5 or 6 different love motels until we found one up to my standards, AKA one that had a whirlpool. I literally just went to each hotel, approached the desk, said "whirlpool?" and very politely walked out of every hotel that replied in the negative. From the looks of Chuncheon I had a feeling we were going to need a cool room to provide some entertainment for the night. The guy who worked at the hotel we chose brought up a mat for us for the third person to sleep on on the floor, then we researched some touristy sights online and left.
Shanda really wanted to go a white jade mine that she'd read about online. The city website lists the mine as one of its top attractions. So, imagine our surprise when our taxi drops us off at a small jade jewelery shop in the middle of nowhere with no mine in sight. The store had some brochures about the mine so we showed it to the clerk and asked where we could find the mine. She laughed and said "anio", as she made an X shape with her arms. So why the hell are they still promoting this destination on the tourism site??? FYI, that's the state of the mine in the picture above. I wonder why they aren't accepting visitors?
The shop had a few slabs of white jade that you could touch. It's supposed to have healing qualities so I rubbed my moobs on it to see if they'd tighten up but no luck.
We got the store to call another cab for us and we asked it to take us to dakgalbi daero (which is not at all the name of the street), a popular alley full of restaurants selling only one thing: chicken galbi. Chicken galbi has been one of our favorite foods in Korea since we moved here and Chuncheon is said to have the best stuff in the world, so we were pumped to try it.
We were told to go to the restaurant with the line- it would be worth it. Well, none of the restaurants had a line but only one of them was extremely busy inside so we went there. Man, we were not disappointed. This was the best chicken galbi I have ever tasted. Chicken galbi is chicken, cabbage, rice cakes and sweet potato stir-fried at your table. It's usually really spicy and results in a swift trip to the can after eating, but this galbi wasn't so painfully spicy. It's as if the spice was there to add flavour rather than cause pain! We were given so much food but finished every bite and even made friends with our waitress ajumma who was very happy that we enjoyed our meal and that we loved Cass.
Within minutes of our arrival a line had formed out the door and around the corner for our chicken galbi restaurant. A sure sign that it's good, but I'm glad we avoided that line!
After Shanda made a new friend at Cold Stone Creamery (he juggled her ice cream for her) we took a taxi to the citizens park where there was a large lake and two parks. We rented a swan boat for the THIRD time this summer (summer of the swan!) and relaxed in the water for an hour as every swan that floated by gasped and said "Hi" to us.
After we got off the swan a man came up to Mel and presented her with a 4-leaf clover and then disappeared just quickly as he'd came (leprechaun?)
Korea must be the #1 purchaser of statues so naturally there was a statue park.
The second park across the bridge was lined with these cool lit-up trees.
We took a cab back to our hotel and walked to a Family Mart for some snacks and drinks for the rest of the night. The clerk at Family Mart gave us each free melon popsicles after I correctly answered the question "where are you from". When we got back to the hotel I had trouble hooking up my karaoke machine to the space age entertainment system we'd been provided with, so I asked the guy at the front desk to help me by presenting him with the cord and saying "help". I asked him if he liked karaoke and he said "No. I like dance." He hooked up the machine in 2-seconds flat: the people in Chuncheon are truly the salt of the earth.
Just like a trio of white rappers, we then drank our bubbly around the hot tub, listened to music and ate beef jerky. We were truly living the dream.
The next morning we had a quick E-Mart lunch and then took a taxi from Gapyeong to the Nami Island ferry terminal. We took the taxi to save time, but I would recommend spending a few minutes to figure out the bus situation because the taxi was 30 bucks! Regardless, at the terminal we went through "immigration" just like at the English Village, since Nami Island is a self-proclaimed independent nation. There were approximately 500,000 people waiting in line to get on the ferry with us, and somehow we all fit.
Boats run constantly and each one seemed to have a million people on it being shuttled to this speck of an island above. I realize I'm one of those people, but- really- WHY??
The island was easily traveled on foot in under 20 minutes from one end to the other, and it is scenic enough in that there are actual trees and it does seem like you're a million miles from Seoul. All of the shops and restaurants resembled wooden cabins that gave the whole area a real rustic feel. The prettiest parts were probably the tree lined paths as seen in the above photo, but it was spoiled a bit by the fact that you were sharing the path with thousands of other people. We were there on a Sunday, which was our own mistake, but if you're planning on visiting I'd do it on a weekday if possible.
Nami Island became a tourist destination after the most popular Korean drama series ever was filmed there. The show was called "Winter Sonata", and I'd never heard of it. Most of the sights on the island are in relation to the show and we attracted a small crowd when we posed with this statue of the lead characters embracing.
Nami has a lot of recycled art on display and eco-friendly products for sale in it's gift shops, as well as a small museum featuring some very awesome statues that I'm not mature enough to take seriously.
It was hot as balls on Sunday so we escaped into a little cafe to enjoy a beer on a table made from an old tire and some glass. We had planned to rent bikes and cycle around the island for a while but the bike rental line must have had 75 people in it and the line did not appear to be moving so we gave up on that idea. We then wandered around the island a bit more until we saw a couple of ratty looking ostriches roaming around freely. The one in the above picture seemed to be BFFs with the construction workers, walked right up to us and even ate a grape out of one guy's hand. I didn't realize ostriches could be domesticated but these ones don't seem to care to much about all the tourists.
And with that, we decided to go back to the train station to head home. After our "standing room only" trip to Gapyeong we'd tried the day before to get seats on the way back but they were already sold out. However when we got back to the train station we checked the automated ticketing machine to see if seats were available on an earlier, higher class (40 cents more) train and there were. So, we asked the station attendant if we could exchange our standing room tickets for seats on the other train and he said "no seats". When I pointed to the automated ticketing machine and said "this say yes seats" he typed something into his computer and printed out three new tickets for us with seats. Woot!
When we got home we decided to watch an episode of Winter Sonata to see what all the fuss was about. We won't be downloading any more episodes, but it was still a fun weekend :P