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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

First Time in South Korea

First Time in Korea
Check out Nami Island

I booked a ticket bound for Korea 3 months ahead of time. I was still fortunate to land on a promo fare but it wasn't that cheap as planned. Make sure to book your flights ahead and plot your annual leave ahead of time too. My sister has been assigned in Korea for 9 months and we planned to be together there before she flies back to US. It was supposed to be a free and easy trip with her, free lodging at her place and all. However, a month before my scheduled flight there were some changes it turns out that I needed to find a place to stay and be on my own for 5 days. First 5 days of my trip comprises only me and my backpack while the other remaining 5 days will be tag along with my sister. I considered it as another adventure, my second unplanned solo trip in the Soul of Asia in a country named Korea. 

The moment I arrived in the airport everyone was running, i thought maybe they needed to catch another flight. Later on I realized they were actually trying to get in first to the train which transfer us to the airport immigration lobby. When I arrived in the lobby oh my the queue was long, that's when I fully understand the chaos of being first on the train. I just waited patiently showed my passport with the attached visa and that was it I was legally allowed to enter Korea. Even thou I travel a lot yet when it comes to the immigration area I still get the nerves of running away, of being impatient and the possibility of being question. I hate that feeling. Once I was out from that mayhem I immediately navigate the airport and looked for the information counter. 

Purchase the T-money card at 7'11 or G25 for 4,000 won. Stores are located on both sides of the airport lobby. Top up at least 30,000 won. Take the Elevator and proceed to Basement 1. Follow the sign that leads to KTX Trains. I arrived in the evening so I made sure to be out from the airport to catch the train before it closes down, and to give me some time to navigate my guesthouse. 

Seoul Incheon International Terminal 1 to BoA Travel House
How to get there: 
By AREX(Airport Express train) : Take the subway, Airport Railroad and get off at Hongik Univ. Station/Hongdae Station. Travel time: 47minutes /4,050won
1. Exit 4 at Hongik Univ. Station/Hongdae Station.(Airport Railroad, line2) 
2. Go straight towards "K2" store. Cross at the crosswalk in front of LG Electronics Inc. Keep walking around 30M for GS25 convenience store.
3. Cross at the crosswalk in front of LG Electronics Inc. 
4. Keep walking around 30M for GS25 convenience store.
5. Turn left at Bizeun(빚은, rice-cake shop, The Premium Riceteria) 
6. Once you spotted a small uphill road Then, you'll see BoA travel house on your left. Check In : 14:00~24:00, Check Out : Until 11:00 a.m.

Check in BoA Travel House
Address: 510-14, Changcheon-dong Seodaemun-guSeoul 120-836 Korea (Sinchonno 1-gil 15) Tel 02.323.6255
3 days 2 nights: 48,000 won / 50 SGD
Deposit :10,000 won 
Balance pay on arrival:38,000 won
Free Light Breakfast

I woke up quiet late the next day to recover from the tiring flight the previous night. My plan that day was to have a relaxing day in Nami Island, I wanted this trip to be as relaxing as possible. From my guesthouse the nearest train station that leads to Gapyeong station is in Yongsan Mrt Station. 

How to get there: Seoul to Gapyeong
Two options: Yongsan or Cheongyangni Station Station , then take the ITX train. 

I choose Yongsan Mrt Station as its closer to my guesthouse. 
1. Boa Travel House From Hongik Univ. Station (Green Line and Light Green Line), Take the Light Green Line to Gyeongui-Jungang Line all the way to Yongsan Station (3 Stations) Travel time: 9 minutes. 
2. In Yongsan Station  (Seoul Subway Line 1) ,buy ITX-Cheongchun tickets at the train ticket station to Gapyeong Station. Ticket fare: 4,000 won
Travel time: 45 minutes

In order to purchase ITX train ticket you need to get out from the Mrt station and proceed to the nearest ITX machine located nearby the station entrance. Afterwards, you don't need to tap in back, proceed to the train officer in the corner or the Ajhussi and show your ticket, he will let you in then find your way to the ITX railway platform. Keep your eye for the ITX train sign its a bit confusing because the Korail Train or the normal train is around the area as well. The ITX trains is a 2 storey vehicle and has more comfortable seats, it precisely comes on time according to the ticket purchased in the ITX machine. Both trains uses the same railroad so be attentive to where you hop into and make sure to check the platform if you are at the right car number, these details  is found on the right side of the ticket, the digits there will show you car and seat number. 

I wasn't really sure if I was at the right platform for the ITX train yet the signs pointed me to the same direction for the Korail trains. It turns out that I just need to wait for my scheduled time and board the ITX train. I didn't know that the Korail and ITX train shares the same railway and station. Good thing I came across with this  lovely Korean couple where in the guy was friendly enough and seemed to know a little bit of English, so he tried to explain to me to just wait for my train, he even go the extra mile to ask passersby if I was at the right platform. He asked me to wait and he went to the train officers office to get some real information, when he came back he gave me an assurance that I was on the right track and I don't need to transfer to any other platform. When I boarded the train surprisingly the couple also took the same train but to a different train stop. We laughed and I said my deep gratitude with all flying colors. He even gave me my first ever Korean roasted eggs, it was delicious and was even more fulfilling due to his kind gesture. Aside from that there was two Ajhussi who tried to helped me too, they pointed the number on my ticket and the screen which was in Hanggul to tell me that its not my train and just wait. I'm really amazed with their friendly approached, they were open and was kind enough to help a lost tourist. I'm starting to love Korea. Saying thank you in their language also made a big difference, keep in mind to say Hello for "Annyeong Haseyo" and Thank you for "kamsahamnida." 

Once I arrived in Gapyeong Station, I went out and proceed to the tourist information center located outside the station nearby the bus stop. It's advisable to purchase the bus tour ticket especially if you don't have your own vehicle besides the fare is already for the whole and you can hop in and out from the bus to go to other places in the island. I took the bus and alighted at the Namiseom Zip Wire which is also alongside the Namiseom Dock if you intend to take the ferry. 

Take the Gapyeong Tour Bus in the bus stop: 5,000 won, purchased the ticket once you board the bus. 
Tour Bus Schedule: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm (hourly interval)

or normal BUS
From Gapyeong Station or Gapyeong Bus Terminal, take Bus 33-5 to the Namiseom Dock. 
From Gapyeong train station to Nami Island Entrance for 20 minutes. 
or TAXI 
From Gapyeong Intercity Bus Terminal or Gapyeong Station, take a taxi to Gapyeong Wharf or Namiseom parking lot. 
Taxi fare: 3,000 won
Travel time: 5-10 minutes 

Two options to Nami Island : Zip Wire or take the Ferry. 
Namiseom Zip Wire 940 meter long
Ziplining from Gapyeong Wharf to Nami Island for 38,000 won/47 SGD (including entrance fee and return ferry)
Closed every 1st and 3rd Monday of each month.
Opening Hours: 9:00 - 19:00

Ferry Route: from Gapyeong Wharf or  Namiseom Dock to Namiseom Island. 
Round-trip fare (including entrance fee to the island: 10,000 won
Ferry Schedule: 07:30-09:00 (30min intervals), 09:00-18:00 (10-20min intervals) and 18:00-21:40 (30min intervals)
Travel time: 5-6 minutes

Bike 5,000 won - 10,000 won (30 minutes-1 hour)

I wanted to experience a thrilling adventure going to the island so I choose the Namiseom Zip Wire that goes straight to Nami Island. It's fast,safe and an exciting way to reach the island, my backpack was placed in front of me and I zipline all the way down. I leisurely walk around when I got there, taking my time and taking it all in. The place was beautiful with towering trees lined perfectly parallel to each other. Some of the trees has started to embrace the winter season, leaves were falling and the ground was cushion with crispy,brown leaves. I sat in a bench, took out my camera and started goofing around with myself.  

In the afternoon I rented out a bike, I cycle here and there, I even made it as my tripod in taking pictures of the beautiful scenery and with my jump shots. In other words, the bike became my partner. Nami Island is actually famous for lovers, couples flock here in numbers to have their pictures taken. The island was made more popular because of a Korean series with an Endless Love Season-themed entitled "Winter Sonata." Looking back I've never really thought about visiting the island thou it was a perfect place for couples to stroll around and have some relaxing day together. But I was already in Korea and Nami Island is one place that should be visited in this beautiful country. 

Being alone wasn't that bad, I got to see the island at my own pace, find my own chill out spot and some peace of mind with nature. I spent the whole day in Nami Island mesmerize with its beauty so I didn't manage to check out the other places besides The Garden of the Morning Calm was still not open until Dec 5 during my visit. Mange your time wisely, hop in the tourist shuttle bus and check out other attractions like: Petite France and The Garden of the Morning Calm.

I went back to Seoul to my guesthouse and had my first official Korean Bibimbap Meal at this small restaurant located just a few metres away from Boa Travel house. Nothing beats the authentic taste, where else would you find the best tasting Bibimbap in the whole world? well only in Korea. I tried the best bibimbap ever in Jeju Island , I'll tell you about it with my upcoming post soon.

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