|The Garden of Morning Calm|
One place to go sightseeing in South Korea that is well-known among Koreans but not very known among people that travel to South Korea is The Garden of Morning Calm in Gapyeong, South Korea. Koreans don't know the English name, so you can click on the link and find the Korean name in case you want to go with some Korean friends or if you want to search for it on Naver or Daum to locate where it is exactly.
|Me with my wife trying to keep warm|
The garden (translated as arboretum in Korean) is located in one of my favorite regions of South Korea: Gangwondo (Gangwon Province). Specifically, it's in the city of Gapyeong, which is home to Nami Island. Nami Island is a small island that couples like to go to to escape the big city, where the very Korean drama Winter Sonata was filmed at.
The Garden of Morning Calm is home to 5,000 plants, and 300 that come from Baedu Mountain (Baekdusan). Since the garden is open all-year round, you can get beautiful perspectives of the garden depending on the season. My wife and I went during the end of summer and saw different trees where the colors of the leaves were beginning to change. It was really beautiful and I took at least 50 pictures of the scenery.
Then we found out that all of these trees had lights on them during the winter time, so our goal was to come again. Fortunately, we were able to make it back using my wife's brother-in-law's car. We ate dinner at 8:00pm and then headed up to the garden. The parking was free and the GPS worked like a charm. During the winter the garden closes at 9:00pm on weekdays, 11:00pm on Saturdays, and 9:00pm on Sundays until March 26th, 2017. The lights turn on at 5:10pm everyday during the winter. Just beware that it gets cold! I wore a long coat, gloves, and ear muffs, and I was still shivering sometimes. When you take pictures with your phone, there will be times you need to just put your hands in your pockets so your hands don't get frozen. BUT, it was worth it! Since we went later, there were fewer people. I would say between 6:00pm and 8:00pm were the peak hours when a lot of people would be there. Going late actually worked to our advantage. And since my wife's brother-in-law drove us there and back, we didn't have to worry about leaving too early.
Not only will you see trees with lights on them, but you will be amazed at the creativity of displays and how the lights were used. You can see in the pictures below:
|My wife is peeking out of the window on the left and her sister and brother-in-law are peeking out of the window on the right|
|Kids and couples seemed to love this display|
The trek out here without a car is a bit difficult if you don't plan accordingly. When we came the last time, so many people were there because it was the end of their summer vacation season. My wife and I thought we could go to Jara Island (Jaraseom) and then go to the garden afterwards. We took a bus from Dongseoul Bus Terminal to Gapyeong Station, which took about 3 hours. We ate dalkgalbi for lunch and then took a 30-minute walk to Jara Island. There wasn't much going on there, since we found out that it was mainly for camping. Then we thought that we should check out the garden and tried to get a bus from Jaraseom in order to make our way there. We had a hard time finding a bus, so we ended up taking a taxi instead. It cost us W15,000 due to the heavy traffic.
If we had just picked the garden only, we could have gotten off at the Changpeyong Bus Terminal Station and then taken the 31-7 bus there. The garden closed at 5:00pm and we pretty much stayed until the end. Due to that, we missed the last bus. That cost us another W15,000 won, which is the taxi fare from the garden to Changpyeong Station. If you can take the bus to the garden and the taxi back to the station, then it's not as costly. Or if you get there early, you can take the bus to and from the bus terminal to the garden. Just remember these tips, and you will be fine.
This place amazed me so much during the summer, but even more so in the winter. I don't know how they manage to put all of these lights up every year and then take them all down. It's a lot of work. You can see in the next picture how well lined up each strand of lights are:
|Dolphins in the middle of the ocean|
Then we got to the main area of the garden. It looked like I was walking through the game of Candy Land or through Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. The lights were absolutely stunning:
The Garden of Morning Calm has a cafe, which is a bit expensive but when very useful when you're freezing and you just need a break from the cold. My cafe mocha was W7,000 but they also have traditional Korean drinks and tea. Here's a pic with me, my wife, her sister, and her brother-in-law.
Near the cafe there's a Korean pagoda that is very colorful during the winter. The lake was also frozen over. It was very pretty.
At the end of your journey you'll see a bridge that moves as you walk along it. My wife freaked out when I jumped on it, which was pretty funny. Even the bridge looks attractive with the lights lined up along side of it.
|The bridge at the end of the arboretum|
Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)