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Hi readers, welcome back to the fourth installment of the Seoul Searching series!
 Despite having our energy drained from spending the entire day shopping yesterday, we were looking forward to visit Nami Island, the little gem of South Korea located in the outskirts of Seoul. It was a long journey to this half-moon shaped island, thus we had to set off early despite the exhaustion from the day before.

Nami Island

This precious gem that lies in the North of Han River, has garnered much attention internationally especially when it was brought to fame by the Korean hit TV series, Winter Sonata in 2002. The quiet and cozy island that gives off dreamy vibes is made perfect for a romantic getaway!  Sounds perfect for a typical Korean drama fairytale setting especially when the melodrama sets in where you will observe awkward kissing scenes, sudden hugging from the back or piggy-back rides. 

 The subway ride from Cheonggu station to Gapyeong took around 30-45 minutes and we were mostly standing throughout the journey as all the seats were occupied. The surge in the number of subway passengers as well as visitors to Nami Island was probably because weekends were about to begin. After the long train ride, we took a bus from Gapyeong station to Gapyeong wharf. During the bus ride, I took a look at the brochure about the Naminara Republic, a culturally independent micronation. This little republic even has its own national flag, postage stamps, and anthem. The island’s name was derived from General Nami, a courageous military commander who died young at the age of 26. In 1965, Mr. Byeong-Do Minn rebuilt the landscape of the island by planting thousands of trees. His efforts had aided in the preservation of nature, which we can still experience till today.

Gapyeong Wharf
 Prepare to board the ferry
Nami Island greeted us in our national language

Upon reaching Gapyeong wharf, we took a ferry to Nami Island. If you are feeling adventurous, you may try the zip-wire mode of transportation.  Since Nami Island is a self-governing republic, we were required to obtain a visa prior stepping foot in there. With a fee of 8000 won (~RM28.32) which includes both visa fee and ferry fare, you are good to go! During our ferry ride, we saw many fun water activities such as banana boat and water-skiing, being held along the Bukhangang River.
Nami Island greeted us with its beautiful and green scenery, flourishing bountifully in nature. You may enjoy the breathtaking views of the island while touring around by bicycle or train. The orderly arranged rows of blooming tall trees were planted at both sides, making a path in the middle for us to tread. As I was making my way on the aisle created by the rows of towering green trees, I was admiring the beauty of the nature surrounding me and trying to feel the serenity of this place. This island may be a getaway from the busy city life, but it did not feel reclusive enough for a perfect escape. In fact, this popular vacation spot was congested with crowds of exuberant visitors, both local and international.
 Borrowed someone's bike as a prop. It looks like a Korean drama setting, doesn't it?

There were many noteworthy spots that should not be missed such as the metasequoia lane, gingko tree lane, baekpungmilwon maple garden, and many more. The famous metasequoia lane was bustling with the most visitors, thus brace yourself for dodging the crowd and photobombing. You may also see Gingko biloba trees, the sole living species of the Ginkgophyta division here in Nami Island.

 Of crowds and photobombs
The famous metasequoia lane.

 Noticed the fan shaped leaves? Like what we studied in Biology
 Gingko Biloba lane

One does not simply leave Nami Island without getting a taste of the local food here! There were many restaurants to choose from, and we went for Café Yeonga Jiga that serves the unique shaking lunchbox rice. Dosirak (lunchbox) can relive childhood memories for Koreans, as it was once a famous meal eaten during lunch breaks in school. To us, it was a whole new experience!

Shake, shake, shake, and shake
 The old fashioned metal lunchbox contained rice, egg, kimchi, and cheese! There were many variations of dosirak to select from. When it was served, we were ready to put on the gloves and shake, shake, shake, and shake while it was still hot. After we had enough shaking, the dish looked like a mess. A delicious mess. The cheese dosirak goes pretty well with the savoury taste of kimchi. The reasonably normal portion dosirak left a satisfying feeling in our tummies.

Address:1, Namisum-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do
How did we get there?
From Cheonggu take Line 5 (Purple) to Gunja
- Transfer to Line 7 (Dark Green) to Sangbong
- Transfer to Line Gyeong-chun (Blue Green) to Gapyeong
Take Gapyeong City Tour Bus-> Gapyeong Wharf
From Gapyeong Wharf, take a ferry to Nami Island.
Admission fee
8000won (ferry & entry visa)
38,000 won (zipwire & entry visa)
Coupon worth of 5000won in the booklet obtained from Korea Tourism Organisation. Keep the ticket for round trip

Petite France

You may relish in the medieval French experience at Petite France, a French cultural village in Gapyeong. Similar to Colmar Tropicale, the Malaysian counterpart in Bukit Tinggi, this village houses many exotic and colourful French-styled buildings. While admiring the picturesque view surrounding us, we can feel the French romantic vibes dancing in the summer air. It really did feel like I was just teleported into another country. However, I did not forget that I was in South Korea after watching some scenes from the 2013 Korean TV series, My Love from the Star, which was played on the TV screen in Petite France. Highly popularized by the Korean drama, many Kpop fans put Petite France in their itinerary, hoping to reenact the romantic scenes of Do Min-jun and Cheon Song-yi.
 Petite France consists of guesthouses, museums, souvenir shops, and galleries that gave visitors a traditional French cultural experience. Also, they have scheduled performances and demonstrations. We were very fascinated with the Marionettes, the traditional Czech dolls that came to life and danced energetically to every beat of the music. They were so friendly that they interacted with the audience! The talented puppeteers are totally worth watching and you may catch them performing at the amphitheater.

We only visited certain highlights of the French village as it was getting late. The European dollhouse was my favourite, as they featured almost 300 dolls collected from Europe. I found it oddly fascinating having such old and precious collections safely kept behind glasses, though it may look creepy, as if there were hundreds of dolls staring at you.

Address: 1063, Hoban-ro, Cheongpyeong-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do
How did we get there? Take Gapyeong City Tour to Petite France
Admission fees: 6000won after discount (coupon obtained from Visit Korea Committee website)
Operating hours: 09:00-18:00 (Last admission: 1 hour before closing.)

 Banpodaegyo Bridge

We finally settled down for a beautiful night view of the Banpo Bridge, a two tiered bridge over Han River, the major river in Seoul. From Hangang Park, we can also witness Moonlight Rainbow Fountain, the world’s longest bridge fountain equipped with an array of colourful lights and 380 water jets that move along with the rhythm of a song, creating wavy water patterns. The fountain only operates from April to October, and the schedule varies according to months. When the music started playing, we stood by the Han River and watched the fountain performance. It was not like what we expected, as the fountain did not look as vibrant and colourful as was captured in the pictures.

 Hangang Park is known for its recreational activities such as jogging, cycling, and other leisure activities. We even saw many groups of energetic youths skateboarding at the park. We indulged in the sight of the magnificent city nightscape while listening to the therapeutic sounds of the river waves. It is also a perfect dating spot for lovers and a place to chill after a hectic day at work.
Address:Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul-si
How did we get there?
Walk out of exit 8-1 at Express Bus Terminal Subway
Station (Lines 3 & 7). Walk straight 300 meters then at Banpodaegyo Sageori (Intersection) walk towards the Han River until you reach the underpass. Take the underpass. Turn right then walk 600m to entrance of Hangang Park.

We have seen the locals having their fried chicken delivered to the picnic sites by the Han River. Although we did not have the chance to experience the Korean picnic style, we ordered Kyo Chon fried chicken with the help of our hotel receptionist!

Stay tuned for my final post about my summer trip to South Korea.
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