Nami Island & The Garden of Morning Calm
Last Wednesday was Election Day, and during the weeks leading up to it, we were constantly accosted by loud speakers blaring candidates’ messages (which could be heard from our high rise, with the windows closed!), people with posters on street corners and in front of subway station entrances, and messages from candidates in our mailboxes. Most people had the day off so that they could go vote (why don’t we get Election Day off in the U.S.?), and since we can’t vote, we rented a car and went on a mini road trip.
Since we had to return the car by 7 PM, we were limited in where we could go. Alex suggested another trip to IKEA, but while I do love IKEA and meatballs, I wanted to explore outside of Seoul. We settled on Nami Island (https://namisum.com/en/), made famous by a Korean drama called “Winter Sonata” – which I haven’t watched, and The Garden of Morning Calm (http://www.morningcalm.co.kr/_ENG/html/main.php).
We left our apartment at 8:30 AM (everything takes longer with a baby!), and arrived at the ferry terminal before 10 AM. According to the official website, Nami Island is “culturally independent” from the Republic of Korea. In fact, it is a micronation, with official name Naminara Republic 나미나라공화국, and it has its own flag. So, after we got our “visa” (entrance ticket) and went through “immigration” (staff checked our tickets), we went on a five minute ferry ride to the island (and were amongst big tour groups from China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines – big Korean drama fans, I guess!). Another option for getting on the island was via zip line – maybe next time… 😉
Not expecting much, Alex and I were pleasantly surprised (Baby M didn’t have any expectations). It was nice to stroll along the pine tree-lined paths and along the water. We saw squirrels! Why is this exciting? Because 1). I love squirrels (what am I, a dog?), 2). there are NO squirrels in Seoul (even in parks). There was also a place to pet ostriches (or emus?). Besides nature-y things, there were cafes, restaurants, little shops, and bicycle rentals. After having some lamb skewers (they really know how to cater to Chinese tourists!), we had lunch (dak galbi 닭갈비- spicy stir fried chicken- is a local specialty) before taking the ferry back.
Nearby Garden of Morning Calm (half the signs along the road read “Graden of Moming Calm” – wish I could have taken a picture! Although, to be fair, “r n” does look a lot like “m”!) was also packed with tour groups. There were tulips of every color (guess it’s tulip season?). We skipped some of the lookout points and the greenhouse because of all the steps (probably should have left the stroller in the car). After doing a loop around the grounds, we entertained the idea of driving to IKEA, but since it’s on the other side of Seoul, we decided to take a leisurely drive through the countryside instead.
We drove by many interesting looking pension hotels (think individual pods, or shipping containers converted into lodging) as well as fancy coffee shops (in the middle of nowhere). After stopping for coffee, we found a rooster and a chicken wandering around the parking lot. The country roads were hilly, and unfortunately, our little Kia Morning had some trouble getting up the hills! (Alex compared it to our crappy Skoda that struggled to make it up any sort of incline in Scotland and Ireland.) By late afternoon, it was time to head back to Seoul (and then we were stuck in traffic for a while). This was our third time renting a car in Korea, and the most enjoyable trip so far!