Thursday, March 30, 2017

Winter in South Korea (Day One)

If on the previous post about South Korea "Portraits: Stories of Faces on a Trip to South Korea (Day One)" I am talking about the people I travel with or people whom I met along the journey and matters related to them, now will you let me write about the travel experience itself?

I arrived at Incheon International Airport at about 8.30 am and immediately went to the outskirt of Seoul. Because I was traveling with my mom which is less adventurous than me so then we got to join a tour group for the sake of ultimate safety and comfort of her. On my first day the tour group was planning to visit Petite France and The Garden of Morning Calm at Gyeonggi Province, and Nami Island at Gangwon Province and at the end of the day all of the plan was checked. 

1. Petite France, Gyeonggi Province. Ticket entrance fee: Adults 8,000 won.

       Petite France Exterior

Ahjussi playing Accordion

Maison de Marie

This Petite France is a thematic park built on a hillside facing a lake located on the way to Nami Island. This buildings of french village of houses is dedicated to Saint-Exupery, the author of Le Petit Prince, a French literature. 

Upon entering the front gate of the theme park, I was lucky enough to enter the place at the right time and be welcomed by a performance of a street musician Ahjussi playing accordion. So, I automatically felt like I actually walk on a winter afternoon Paris rather than somewhere in South Korea. It felt warm. Then I continued to walk along the little souvenir shop and cafe which somehow was very tempting consider it was winter and they sell such warm delicacies like warm bread, warm corn, coffee, and hot chocolate. 

I walk and stumble upon Maison de Marie, a room which is decorated with rare original furniture which was used by the French upper class. It is filled with an elegant furniture and knick knacks I love so much. Hmm so that is how it is like to live as an upper French Woman in The South of France? Can I be a French Woman in The South of France, please? 

Walk a little further and I found Orgel House which displays various forms of Orgel, Marionette Museum which if I am not mistaken perform a marionette dance performance in some scheduled hour but too bad the schedule did not match my timing, and also I found a Puppet Play but the schedule also did not match mine... Maybe later when I got the chance to visit it again then I would spare a longer time there. I also found some little shop which sell beautiful souvenir and just like usual I always can't keep my eyes from postcards! 

Note: If you wish to visit Petite France and want to experience it deeper, it is better to check and match the schedule of some performance they perform. 

2. Nami Island, Gangwon Province. Ticket entrance fee: Adults 10,000 won (including ferry boat ticket, for there is no other way to enter the island).

Can you feel the comfort ambience reflected by those couple above in the last picture at Nami Island? I do not know who they are, I only saw those middle aged couple passing through me walking, sightseeing the beautiful landscape of trees and lake around them, while talking. Then, I wonder that maybe that is what makes a place divine. 

It is the ambience created by passerby leaving their marks on a place which makes a place divine, rather than the place itself. Maybe...

It was about 4 degrees celcius when I arrived at Nami, quite cold because it was already afternoon, yet, as you can see the sun still shone so brightly it created a perfect kind of day to spend with your dear ones walking, exchanging conversations, running, and playing as free as you would like in the vast garden of Nami. 

Make famous by one of a korean drama series, Winter Sonata, which took their scene on Nami Island, this island is famous for its footpath surrounded by beautiful trees, amongst them are metasequoia, gingko tree, cherry tree, Korea pine tree, tulip tree, and reed woods. I guess it is also not hard to find conservation park in Indonesia, yet the way the founder and management of Nami take care of this tiny island do amaze me. In this island, when the night comes, all of the lights are turned off so that visitors can harmonize with nature enjoying the moon light and stars. They also allow people to work in Nami Island until the age of 80 if they wish. That is such a considerate decision I guess, for I believe no matter how old you'd be, a positive work will improve your quality of life rather than enjoying your old days doing nothing. 

Note: If you wish to visit this island and enjoying it to the fullest, spend a longer hours here and do your favorite outdoor activities whether it is playing with your family or child, or teaching your child about plants and animals. If it is me, I would love to spend a minimum 3-4 hours on this island, walking, taking photographs, reading my favorite book, and enjoying a cup of coffee.

3. Lighting Festival at The Garden of Morning Calm, Gyeonggi Province. 
Ticket entrance fee: 9,000 won.

Garden of Morning Calm is a private garden which opens all year round but is more busy at blooming season. And when it is winter, they hold this Lighting Festival I visited. Start from 6 pm, the lights are turned on on all of its garden. This Garden of Morning Calm is a house to 6 garden, amongst them are Hakyung Garden, Hometown House Garden, Bonsai Garden, Moonlight Garden, Sky Path, and Garden of Eden. 

The name of this garden is inspired by a poem from Sir Tagore, an Indian poet, which describe Korea during the Joseon Dynasty as "The Land of The Morning Calm". And indeed, this garden is calming even at a -2 degrees celcius night. As I walked around the vast garden I could not take my eyes off of the beautiful lighting on the trees and flowers, and sometimes here and there they created a special shape by the lights like the sailboat one above.

After an hour and a half I walk around the garden, yes yes the garden is that vast and it takes time to walk around them all, I finally stumble upon a warm coffee shop and of course by seeing warm lights on that cold night, it was love at first sight. I think this garden will bring a different ambience when visited in the morning, so maybe next time on a spring time when I get the chance, I would love to visit it again.

Note: If you wish to visit The Lighting Festival, which is held on a winter night, it is better to be fully prepared with your outfit. Make sure you wear a comfortable layer of clothes with heat technology therefore you could enjoy and stare at the lights in a minus degrees celcius winter night comfortably and as long as you wish. 

Now, I grew to be those type of traveler who does not like having detailed itineraries to be checked because the list always burdens me, prevents me to enjoy the current place I visit because my mind would be wondering about the next places to tick and whether or not I could make it. A journey with too much places to tick and unflexible itineraries ruin the "enjoying the moment" joie de vivre and ruin the possibilities of finding something you never know about yourself and the world out of impulsiveness and the unknown. 

Because I joined the tour group so nothing could be done about the itineraries. But at least my tour group did not pack too much places to visit in one day, therefore I could still enjoy it. And after the tour group ended at the end of the day, usually around 7 pm, I managed to have me time, just wandering around Seoul alone or with my brother and stop by at some random places, parks, or cafe. 

How about you? What kind of activities and style you would like to suit into your traveling journey?

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