DAY TRIP OUT OF SEOUL
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
When I was in Seoul last summer, we made an impromptu decision to go on a day trip and barely made it in time to board the last shuttle bus heading towards Nami Island. We spent half a day exploring the island, which, in my opinion, was more than enough. Not wanting to repeat the same mistake (and also because we wanted to explore more places this time), we went ahead and book a shuttle bus tour via Indiway.
Since our Airbnb accommodation is located around Seoul station, we opted for the nearest pick-up point at Myeongdong. The bus arrived promptly and we were sorted into various groups, each led by a tour guide (there were other groups with slight different itineraries). After a two-hour breakfast and chit-chat session, we reached our first stop — Petite France.
As much of a city girl I am, I very much relish the scenic nature and laid-back lifestyle of a countryside. Naturally, I'm drawn to Petite France and have been wanting to visit for the longest time. I love how the multicoloured houses juxtaposed with the vast plain greeneries and mountainous terrains. Strolling casually around the charming cultural village certainly felt as if I had been teleported to a quaint French hamlet, even if it's just for a day.
We were given an hour of free time to tour the vicinity, which we initially didn't think was sufficient. Surprisingly, we ended up with some spare time towards the end of our journey (the miniature village did look huge on the map). Out of the sixteen buildings, my favourite has got to be the antique gallery. Besides housing an array of dainty ornaments and decorations, there's also an entire wall featuring exquisite antique plates. I've seen images of them on the map but unfortunately didn't manage to find it until a quarter to our scheduled departure time. Needless to say, we spent our remaining time in the air-conditioned enclosure (it was very, very sunny that day), admiring the antiquities before heading out to grab an iced coffee.
Now moving on to the next stop,
In less than thirty minutes, we were transported to Gapyeong Wharf where we'll be taking a ferry to our next stop — Namiseom. Besides the fifteen-minute ferry ride, there's also an unconventional option of zip-lining (which cost ₩30,000) to the crescent-shaped island. To all the adventurous souls out there: notify your tour guide beforehand and he/she will bring you to the zip wire station (note: the queue can get a bit out of hand sometimes and that'd affect the amount of time you have to explore the island).
Nothing's changed since my last visit and it just felt calmingly familiar to be back. We were practically starving when we arrived so we made a beeline through the Korean pine tree lane to the love village where most of the restaurants are located and had kimchi rice at Yeongajiga lunch box restaurant. We then went on to explore the rest of Namiseom, and occasionally dropping by cafés to get snacks like hotteok & bingsu (which we devoured within minutes after spending a whole day under the scorching sun).
My favourite part of the island? Hands down the ginkgo tree lane! Even though it's my second visit, I was still super thrilled to be surrounded by two rows of magnificent ginkgo trees. I can imagine how mesmerising it's gonna be when the leaves finally turn yellow in autumn. Another hidden gem would be the Baekpungmilwon garden which is filled with maple trees — arguably one of the best photo spots in Namiseom.
We were supposed to gather at the Gapyeong Wharf after three hours thus there was ample time given for lunch and to walk around the filming spot of "Winter Sonata". Note: be sure to give yourself at least 30-45 minutes before the meeting time to take the ferry. Fret not if you reach the Gapyeong port early because there's a café selling pine nut ice cream (try it, it's amazing!). During my trip, there were a few latecomers who made us wait thirty minutes, and that's not cool because our whole schedule was delayed. Thankfully, despite the shortcoming, the shuttle bus reached our destination at Dongdaemun on time and we managed to get dinner as well as do some late-night shopping.
And the last stop,
It started drizzling when we were on route to our final destination — The Garden of Morning Calm. We were caught completely off guard by the unexpected rain. Most of us didn't bring our umbrellas with us but thank god, our tour guide was well-prepared and had raincoats for everyone, how heartwarming is that? Because it was pouring really heavily, we didn't manage to go around the whole garden, but instead, found ourselves a really cosy spot in the café where we both went live on Instagram for the first time hahaha. When it was time to leave (after an hour), the rain finally stopped and we managed to snap a few pictures on the way back. Even though we sadly didn't get to see much of the garden, I'd love to visit again because I'm someone who loves all kinds of flowers and lush greeneries.
I'd definitely recommend this shuttle bus tour to anyone wanting to visit these attractions. Everything about it — the booking process, the shuttle bus ride and our tour guide — was impeccable. Also, I'd say it's rather convenient to go to all these attractions via a shuttle bus instead of by public transport because the infrequent bus schedules can make the whole journey rather time-consuming and inflexible. If you fancy visiting other attractions other than this, there's a whole list of day tours for you to choose from! You can thank me later :-)