October 25, 2017 (PM)
Nami Island was truly an excitable destination. There is simply no word that could describe it. And into the day, I am still floating in Cloud Nine because of the experience. But isn’t the only amazing destination in Chuncheon City. Another popular destination is the Garden of the Morning Calm, which is about an hour away from Nami Island by bus. My friends and I skipped visiting Petite France, another popular destination, because we felt that it was a tad too commercial for our taste. Besides, we’ve already overstayed at Nami Island.
Before going to the Garden, we had our lunch first. In all honesty, my friends and I were shell-shocked at the price of one full meal in Korea. Although we wanted to taste all the wonderful flavor that Korean cuisine is known for, we have to tighten our grip on our wallets, especially for the two of us who are going to stay for nearly two weeks. We were then left with no option but to feast on food sold at convenience store and bakeries. While waiting for the bus going to the Garden, we munched on our lunch which we bought at the nearest convenience store.
At around 1:00 PM, the bus bound for the Garden has finally arrived. There is no mistaking it this time as we successfully rode the express (tour) bus and not the regular bus. Along with us are some foreign travelers who opted to travel using their own itineraries rather than obtaining the services of travel agencies. There were some Filipinos in the mix as well. Nevertheless, Korea’s efficient mass transportation system ensures the safe commute of travelers.
The bus ride is very picturesque as the bus followed the outlines of the river. The mountains and the river are such refreshing sights, in spite of the afternoon sun. About an hour after departing from Nami, we finally reached the Garden. The Garden was already teeming with activities as a throng of visitors have converged at the Garden. If “Winter Sonata” placed Nami Island on the traveler’s map, it was “Love in the Moonlight” that put the Garden on the consciousness of the global travelers.
The Garden of the Morning Calm is a private garden conceptualized by Professor Han Sang-Kyung of Sahmyook University. Home to 5,000 different kinds of plants, it is open all year round and is a great place to relax and heal. However, before being allowed into the garden, everyone must first pay the entrance fee of 9,500 Won (for adults). For teenagers, admission fee is 7,000 Won while for children it is 6,000 Won. A travel guide and map is provided for free at the ticket office.
Past the entrance gate is a gallery showcasing the history of the garden. Different pictures taken during its development are on display. The gallery is free of charge. From the gallery, we climbed to the greenhouse which housed different flowers in full bloom. The chrysanthemums were particularly eye-catching because of its vivid colors. There were other flowers as well. Different butterflies freely roam around the greenhouse.
After having our fill at the greenhouse, we simply walked around the garden, with no particular plan or destination. Like natural-born backpackers, we simply followed where are feet directed as to go. We even climbed a small hill where a gazebo is located. The hill provided a wonderful overview of the garden and of the surrounding mountains. Navigating the garden is easy enough because of the pathways. If you are too lazy to look at the map, simply follow the tide of people ahead of you.
All over the garden are different flowers, all in full bloom. Even though the autumn breeze could be harshly cold, these plants seem to have adapted. The gardeners have obviously taken keen interest in the upkeep of the flowers and the plants. The garden is dotted with numerous topiaries and bonsai trees as well. However, it was a challenge taking individual pictures because of the number of visitors going about. It is then that my friends and I decided to take the less crowded paths.
From the main path, we trudged down to the brook side. The other side of the brook is covered in thick autumn foliage. Unfortunately, visitors cannot cross to the other side. We had to satisfy ourselves with just taking pictures. We then followed the brook upstream which led us to the pond. The pond is the part of the garden that friend has been looking forward to. And who wouldn’t? It is very picturesque. Well, the garden is filled with numerous idyllic spot.
The pond is surrounded by several structures such as a Korean traditional house. A walk further up to the opposite direction brought us to the other end of the garden where a souvenir shop and a café is located. At the souvenir shop, numerous items such as refrigerator magnets, hand fans, and miniature porcelain statuettes are for sale. However, we skipped the café because we already bought snacks at the snack store located before the pond.
From the pond area, we climbed up to the upper portions of the garden where a mini-chapel is located. We just followed the rocky trail and in a couple of minutes, we reached the top of the hill where the chapel is located. Just like the other parts of the garden, the spot is ideal for photographers. It reminded me of a picture I saw of Mt. Data Chapel although in all honesty I have never been there (ironic because I am a son of Mountain Province). The chapel can accommodate a very limited number of visitors but thankfully, the number of visitors have thinned out already and we had the chapel to ourselves. It is not surprising because the garden at 5 PM and the last admission is at 4 PM.
When we’ve taken enough pictures at the chapel, we went down again to the entrance area only to find the garden largely deserted. Except for some late visitors, there were very few visitors left compared to the number of visitors when we’ve first entered the garden. Not to pass on the opportunity, we took our time taking pictures around the garden. Like kids, we ran from one spot to another. We even had a chance to do jump shots. With the thick autumn foliage, it was the perfect spot for the perfect jump shot.
As it was already getting late, my friends and I decided to wrap up our visit. While waiting for the express bus, I’ve noted that I have misplaced my ticket. Tried as I might, I cannot locate it. In the end, I opted to pay again for the fare. It was a foolish mistake to misplace the ticket (later on, when I have already paid, I was able to find the ticket on one of my jacket’s pockets, argh). Unlike on our way to Gapyeong, we decided to ride the subway at Cheongpyeong station as it was closer to the Garden.
In about an hour, we finally reached Seoul. For a quick shopping, we returned to Insadong. Because we no longer have the luxury of time to shop in the coming days (we are attending a temple stay), we proceeded to the Lotte Mart at Seoul Station. A myriad of food items is for sale and my friends can’t help but fill the shopping carts with these items. Originally, I didn’t plan on shopping but I ended up shopping anyway. After filling our shopping carts and paying, we proceeded home to rest. We are to have another early call time for our fifth day itinerary.
So do watch out for it! Annyeong for now! (Shuts down the lights).
Here’s more pictures taken at the Garden of Morning Calm.