I’m taking a quick break from my NaNoWriMo novel (30,000+ words now!) to write about something different now. This past Saturday we took a day trip to Nami Island and the Garden of Morning Calm, two picturesque places right outside of Seoul, both known as ideal places to get away from the life of high rises and the city life.
Nami Island is a leaf shaped island on the Han River, formed as a result of the construction of the Cheongpyeong Dam in 1944. It was named after General Nami, a famous Korean warrior who died at the young age of 28. While General Nami’s body was never discovered, a pile of rocks were placed where his supposed body lies. While no one dared to move the rocks as it was thought of as bad luck, a tour company bought the island and turned it into a tourist attraction / a site for the bonding of nature and culture. In 2006, Nami Island was declared it’s own Republic. It has it’s own flag and everything.
While yes, it was a bit of a tourist attraction (I wouldn’t call it a trap, but probably because I really enjoyed it), there were a lot of people on the island by the end of the day. We spent roughly four hours there, exploring the island on our tandem bike, checking out the little shops, and taking in the gorgeous views of the fall foliage. There were a lot of hilarious and random animals on the island such as ostriches, chipmonks, and squirrels with furry ears.
Renting a tandem bike was my favorite part – not to mention a hilarious character-building experience with Michael. We both had never ridden one before, and we may have almost ran into a couple of trees. At one point we were laughing and screaming so loudly that some Koreans were filming us on their phones. I suppose watching some goofy Americans trying to ride a bike together provides for high quality entertainment.
Our next stop was the Garden of Morning Calm, which is a giant flower garden that is open year round and is located about 40km northeast of Seoul. It’s a private garden, conceptualized by Professor Han Sang-kyung, and is one of the largest in all of Korea. Professor Han’s goal was to make a Korean garden that would be world famous, and the inspiration for it stemmed from a poem written by Sir Tagore, an Indian poet during the Yi Dynasty who described Korea as “The Land of the Morning Calm.” Every month they provide festive activities, including a light show around Christmas.
It was a chilly afternoon walking along the garden paths, but it definitely was a beautiful place to explore. Much like Nami Island, there were a couple of souvenir shops (helpful for Christmas present shopping) as well as a few restaurants. We sat down in the Tea House (how “Lizzie” is that?) for a quiet cup of tea, in which I decided to try the “Pine Needles Tea.” I had never heard of it before, and while it sounds disgusting, I decided to give it a try, and it was one of the best cups of tea I have ever had. After exploring the gardens, admiring the flowers, and watching Koreans take a million selfies (I’ve never seen a culture so attached to their phone, and this is an American talking…), we ended the day properly with a corn dog covered in French Fries for dinner. No regrets.
Kisses & Kimchi,