Day Trip: Heungryunsa Temple, Songdo, & IKEA
Since this was a holiday weekend, we decided to rent a car for the day. A friend who lives in Songdo (near Incheon) recommended a hike to Heungryunsa Temple 흥륜사 (인천). Alex and I planned on spending the morning hiking up to the temple, then lunch around Songdo City, before heading to IKEA for dinner and shopping (because what day trip would be complete without a trip to IKEA?).
We got off to a bit of a late start because we couldn’t figure out how to install the car seat we rented, in the rear-facing position. (The car rental guy said, incorrectly, that it was only forward facing… the car seat laws in Korea are wishy-washy, and not enforced at all… In fact, we’ve seen young kids just playing in the backseats of cabs — no car seat, no seatbelt. And I’ve heard of people driving with their babies in their laps — no joke!)
When we finally hit the road, around 10 AM, we were stuck in traffic. There. Is. Always. Traffic! We drove up several extremely steep roads and parked right next to Heungryunsa Temple. The temple was fairly well maintained (one of the better ones I’ve seen). And it was “active” — meaning there were many people chanting along with a monk, in prayer. Alex and I walked around the temple grounds but couldn’t find a hiking trail going up any further… Maybe we could have parked at the bottom of the hill and hiked up to the temple? The view from where we were would have been great on a decent day, but the air quality was poor (surprise, surprise). Actually, Alex and I both had scratchy throats and irritated eyes! I don’t think it was psychological…
It was probably a good thing we didn’t hike up to the temple, because we managed to drive to downtown Songdo, just in time for lunch. The NC Cube Canal Walk is an outdoor area with shops and restaurants lining a manmade canal. It’s separated into four sections (each one named after a season) — unfortunately, even though each section itself is pedestrian only, you have to cross a street to get to the next section. My other complaint about the layout is that many of the restaurants (and some of the shops) are only accessible from the “outside” (street side) so if you’re just walking along the canal, you won’t see all the restaurants.
Alex had his heart set on an Italian restaurant serving Neapolitan style pizza, called Giani’s Napoli. The pizza was *almost* great. The crust was chewy, but the sauce was a little too runny (making the topping slide right off of each slice…). Baby M really enjoyed the pizza though! After lunch, we walked around and found a cafe serving cold brew coffee (Alex’s latest obsession).
Our next stop was Songdo’s Central Park. The last time we were in Songdo (back in January), we didn’t have a chance to explore the park because it was so cold. This time, we wandered around and saw the deer enclosure and bunny island (I was a bit disappointed we could only see the bunnies from afar). The boats (motorboats and canoes) looked like fun, but Baby M was napping in her carrier, so we decided to walk to the next park, Sunrise Park, in the hopes of extending her nap. We took the steps up to the top of the hill, where we had a nice view of the entire park (didn’t seem like there was much to see — Central Park is much nicer).
After Baby M woke up from her nap, we tried (in vain) to catch a glimpse of the Jack Nicklaus golf course (when we drove by in January, it was already pitch black) — where the 2015 President’s Cup was played. This time, we drove around in daylight, but the area is so fenced off we couldn’t see much at all.
And finally, we arrived at IKEA just in time for dinner. Baby M really enjoyed the Swedish meatballs. We let her eat two, but I have a feeling she could have devoured many more. The showrooms were mobbed, as usual, so I ended up carrying her around in the Ergo (it felt safer than having people run into her in the stroller). Alex and I were very excited to think about how we would furnish and decorate our apartment in the U.S. (location of which has yet to be determined)… All we know is that the IKEA we’ll visit in the U.S. won’t be nearly as crowded as the one in Korea! Before we got back in the car, we had to get some IKEA soft serve ice cream (sooooooo creamy!). Baby M tried ice cream for the first time, and there’s no going back. She knows what it tastes like now, so we won’t be able to enjoy it without giving her some!!
So, that sums up our almost-perfect day trip. Sometimes, it’s just fun to get out of Seoul for a day!
My post about our previous trip to Songdo back in January 2016: If You Build It, They Will Come… Maybe
NC Cube Canal Walk: Keep your receipts! And remember where you parked! On your way out, show the parking attendant your receipts. If you spend a certain amount of money (cumulative, not per store), you can park for a set number of hours for free. See picture below.
Central Park: Street parking seemed to be free (we parked there for a couple hours with no problems)… If other cars are parked somewhere, chances are you’re ok.
We did see paid parking as well (parking lots) but not sure how much they cost.