Exploring Chuncheon – not your usual itinerary

It’s been more than 4 months since I’ve returned from Korea and I seem to be taking forever to blog about my trip. Well as mentioned in my earlier posts about Korea, my adventure to South Korea this spring was really random and anyhow whack as we didn’t explore the usual tourists’ attractions. In Chuncheon, most people visit places like Nami Island, Petite France, Garden of Morning Calm, Gangchon Railbike etc. On the other hand, I haven’t visited any of the above-mentioned places because.. I know I’ll go there someday and.. these places can wait.

Transportation

Seoul – Chuncheon
We travelled from Seoul to Chuncheon via the ITX from Yongsan Station. As we were travelling on a public holiday in Korea (we kind of forgotten about it), we couldn’t get the earliest ticket out of Seoul as the tickets were sold out and we didn’t bother buying beforehand (cause I wanted to not be tied down to any fixed itinerary). We had to buy a free-standing ticket as the seated ones were sold out till a lot later. Nevertheless, we were chiong-ster enough to get the foldable seats near the door (there’s 6 at every door if I’m not wrong). Alternatively, if you do not have a seat, you can comb the carriages and sit on any random empty seat, until someone comes by with a paying ticket. The journey was about 73 minutes and it was a very scenic route.

Chuncheon – Sokcho
After 2 nights in Chuncheon, we moved on to Sokcho for the 1 night that I’ve booked prior to the trip. The reason why I had to book the night prior to the trip was that it was a public holiday and you should not depend on walk-ins on such occasions because chances are you will not get anything. The bus ride from Chuncheon to Sokcho was about 3 hours and we booked our tickets the day before (you cannot leave anything to chance on public holiday). Sokcho is a little confusing – there are two bus terminals but I’ll share more about it in my blog post about Sokcho.

How many nights do I need in ChunCheon?

Most people who prefer to do a touch-and-go or perhaps been-there-done-that itinerary will keep ChunCheon as a day trip. They will cover the main places – Nami island, Petite France, Garden of Morning Calm, Gangchon rail bike plus eating dakgalbi at the popular myeongdong dakgalbi street (actually all these places will take you about 2 days) but I guess it is a preferred option as you won’t have to deal with the hassle of changing hotel every night (We changed accommodation 10 times in 11 nights) if you just stayed in one location in Seoul.

If I could re-plan my itinerary, I would spend at least 3 to 4 nights in ChunCheon – but that’s because I like to take things slow and easy. I would want to do a half or full day leisure cycling around ChunCheon (and perhaps suffer from muscle ache), chill at 2 more cafes with superb scenery, do the Gangchon railbike which I’ve yet to do plus zipline to Nami Island, visit Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm (filming location for moonlight drawn by clouds + many other dramas). #imisskorearightnow

Where did we stay?

3 nights prior to our somewhat planned visit to Chun Cheon, we were at Gunsan (a random city we anyhow whacked) struggling to find a decent accommodation. It was only after our first rejection of ‘no available rooms’ at a somewhat decent looking motel, did we start panicking about the accommodation for the rest of the trip. We travelled during the semi-golden week of Korea (in May – Labour Day, Buddha’s Birthday and Children’s Day) and accommodation was scarce plus slightly pricier than usual.

For the first night, we stayed at Goodstay Grand Motel ChunCheon (a very average somewhat aged 3-star motel; not the worse) costing us 78,000W. Cause the motel ain’t awesome, we didn’t see the need to stay an extra night and my friend successfully booked a room via instagram DM at 5inn @ 55,000W (a newly refurbished motel – photos from http://blog.naver.com/qwr75689/220994476007) which was situated near Namchuncheon station (which was also walking distance from the bus terminal – which we departed to Sokcho the following morning). I don’t think this accommodation is available on the usual booking websites yet so.. I’m not really sure how can you make a reservation if you can’t call them.


How do I get around Chuncheon?

Option A (Public Transport – bus) – There are not much train services within Chuncheon (only 2 stations served by the ITX) and the bus lines are only frequent in the main area. For the less popular places we explored, the bus timings were kind of pathetic (maybe 1 per hour or 1 per 2 hours) and we couldn’t get the bus timings at all (it doesn’t appear on naver/kakao maps). There were a couple of times we sat and the bus stop, waited for damn long and give up when we see a taxi (sometimes it takes multiple taxis to waver our cost-saving agenda).

Option B (The preferred option – Just Cab/Taxi) – The places that we explored in Chuncheon were not very accessible by transport. Although we see occassional bus stops along the way, we hardly see the bus. Well, the conclusion is that if you plan to travel alone, Chuncheon might be pricey if you have to cab to the less touristy places.

Option C (Walk) – While staying in the city center, we explored the areas by foot in the evening. Well, public transport is pretty pricey for short distances (i think it was between 1,100 to 1,400W) and it wasn’t really worth it. Thankfully, the weather in April was cooling enough for us to just walk.

Option D (Cycle) – I haven’t tried this option yet but it will definitely be something I will attempt in my next trip. I do see bicycle rental places at the station and the sky bridge area. The price is about 12,000W for a day rental – I thought that this price is pretty affordable.

Detailed Itinerary

extracted from http://www.flyhoneystars.com/2017/06/13/south-korea-may-june-2017-full-itinerary/ plus more details

Day 9 – Wed – 3 May 2017 (Buddha’s Birthday)

[11:15am] Check out of Seoul Accommodation
[12:00pm] Arrived at Yongsan Station and bought ITX tickets (Free-standing @ 6,200W)
* Note: Reserved seat tickets were sold out as it was public holiday
[1:00pm] Board Train to Chun Cheon
[2:18pm] Arrived at Chun Cheon Station
[2:36pm] Boarded a bus in the wrong direction
[3:06pm] Alighted near a famous Dakgalbi Restaurant (waited 60+ queue numbers)
[4:01pm] Lunch (Dakgabli + Makguksu) at Tong Namu Jib Dakgalbi 통나무집닭갈비
*Note: This place is not near the main area of Chun Cheon.
(Address: 763 Sinsaembat-ro, Sinbuk-eup, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, South Korea)

Okay so what happened here was that the weather was quite hot in Chuncheon and I was feeling a little.. somewhat.. frustrated with the sun. We only managed to locate one bus stop near the station so I conveniently assumed that all buses will bring us to the main area (where dakgalbi street was) and we could drop off our 4D3N bags at the motel before exploring. So, a bus came and I.. decided to hop on. 

The bus went further and further away from the main area we wanted to venture and it wasn’t long before I realise that we were heading in the wrong direction! So there were two options – 1. Get off the bus and look for the bus stop in the opposite direction and continue with the original plan. Well, I wanted to choose this option but I was trying to look for the bus stop with the nearest ‘opposite direction’ but the bus was drivng at quite a fast speed and I didn’t want to walk too far so I kept waiting and procrastinating the alight. We ended up on option 2 after I realised that we were reaching this other ‘STAR-ed’ location in my google maps – some highly rated Dakgalbi shop. So, we were like.. instead of wasting another bus fare back, might as well settle lunch at this highly rated restaurant before we go back. So, we alighted.

Well, we kind of forget that it was Buddha’s birthday (a public holiday) again and..we spent the next 90 mins waiting for more than 60 queue numbers. Since I was so confident that I could survive in Korea without my friend who knows Korean, she made me figure out what to do myself and.. oh yea – I got a queue number. I think the guy said something like wait.. ii-bon (meaning #2).. call you. For a moment, I thought I had a special priority since I was #2 but.. it turns out that they reset the number after 100. They were only calling #40+ when I was getting a queue number.

Look at the crowd -_- They even have a waiting area with benches for people to sit and wait – but nope, there ain’t enough seats.

My friend was telling me how the surrounding people was probably judging my huge backpack – wondering what I was doing with it. I guess 95% of the people would have driven to this restaurant so this awakard somewhat possibly korean/asian looking girl with a huge bag doesn’t seem to make sense. I kind of have the ‘i know korean’ look so they might think that I am local and what sorcery brought me here with my huge bag.

Anyway, the wait took about 90 mins and I was not shy in acting or perhaps just being a tourist. I spent the time looking at the giant maps we picked out from the information counter near the train station.

Finally, it as our turn! You need to have really good hearing to realise that they have called your number. We ended up ordering dakgalbi for 2 pax (min. order is for 2 pax) plus a bowl of makguksu (since it was a specialty of chuncheon too). To be honest, I can’t really describe the taste since it has been so long ago but.. it was delicious – both the noodles at the dakgalbi. I did remember saying that I will return and their dakgalbi has some sort of sauce which is different from the usual ones that I’ve eaten. I can’t explain what it was but.. its some secret ingredient that makes it really tasty.

The best thing I like about Korean restaurant is that they do the cooking for you; in front of you. I really like this service and it was pretty hilarious as the staff waited for me to turn on my GoPro before moving his hands. I guess he would like me to get that perfect footage but I’m sorry – I don’t think I will ever have time to edit..

[5:00pm] Random walking to some dam cause we were too full

Alright, so we obviously ate too much (1.5 servings each) and in order to digest the food (while carrying our bags), we started walking along the stretch of road – in the direction of Soyang Dam.

Well, we didn’t reach the dam but along the way, there was this beautiful yet random pension. Would have been quite peaceful to spend the night in such a secluded area (minimal civilization).

Sadly, we couldn’t stop for coffee as I wanted to catch sunset at this Gubongsan Observatory area. We ended up trying to flag a cab at the roadside (somehow failed) and my friend ended up entering some restaurant and get the staff to call a cab for us. We ended up cabbing to our next location (which was about 20 mins car ride away).

[5:38pm] Flagged a cab and went to Gubongsan Observatory
[5:50pm] Arrived at Gubongsan Mountain Observatory – A Twosome Place
(Address: 139-57 Janghak-ri, Dong-myeon, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, South Korea)
< taking photos and watching the sunset >

I wanted to visit this place after I saw a really cool photo on instagram – this random glass floor thing which was a good photo spot.

It was at the rooftop of the “A twosome place’ cafe.

Since it was a public holiday, there was like a queue for photo taking. The haze/yellow storm was a little disappointing (like how it has been for my entire trip) so the photos didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to be.

Along the stretch of road, there were other cafes with other vantage point. I wanted to visit the Santorini Structure but we were a little tired and the place looked super crowded (it as public holiday after all) that we just gave up the thought. Well, I will return (on a day with better weather) so I guess it’s fine to give it a miss for now.

    

Despite the hazy skies, I still managed to see the orange yolk setting. There’s something amazing about sunrise and sunset – maybe its due to the significance or start and end or perhaps I just think too much. I’m always amazed at staring at the sky (both in the day and night) and I can spend a long time doing it. And so we waited until the sun was fully out of sight, before proceeding out to hail for a cab.


[7:25pm] Cab to Goodstay Grand Motel
[7:45pm] Check-in at Motel
[8:25pm] Got out of Motel and walked for very long
< Visited Myeongdong Street (in Chuncheon) + bridge + random park >

Since we dropped up bags off at the Motel, we can now venture further and faster. From the motel, we could walk to the popular Myeongdong Street (probably the Orchard Road of Chuncheon) and we kept walking and walking until we spotted some LED lights.

At first, we wanted to keep walking to this placed called “Sang Sang Ma Dang”, recommended by a cab driver but we decided to drop the idea as the road to get there was very dark and isolated. To be honest, I never knew how quiet Chuncheon was.. There were not a lot of people or cars on the streets at the area we were at. The public transport was infrequent and it’s not as convenient as I imagined it to be. I guess I’m still pretty much a city girl after all.

[10:40pm] Arrived back at Motel

Day 10 – Thu – 4 May 2017

[9:15am] Check out of Accommodation

We did not stay in the same accommodation for both nights. The second accommodation we chose was cheaper and new. Thus we decided to make the move.

[9:45am] Went Chuncheon Bus Terminal to buy tickets for Sokcho (for the next day)
Note: We decided to buy the tickets early as 5th May was a Holiday (Children’s day).
Please do not forget to buy your tickets early on public holidays. Otherwise, your preferred timings will be sold out and your plans will be disrupted.

[10:20am] Deposited backpack at Accommodation – 5inn
This accommodation is not listed in any international booking website. We booked via instagram direct message (in korean).

[10:50am] Lunch (Stired Fry Chilli Pork with Rice) at random place near train station

[11:50am] Took an anyhow whack bus
[12:02pm] Alighted at somewhere random and started walking along the bicycle path

We wanted to visit some cafe whic was near a dam. Since the frequency of buses were so bad, we boarded a bus which was going near the place we wanted to go (not that near, bout 15-20 mins walk) instead of waiting for the other bus which we have no idea how much longer we had to wait. We ended up alighting near some temple and walked along a somewhat dangerous road with fast moving cars (without footpath for pedestrain). Then, we found some bicycle path and continued walking along the river.

Anyway, I do plan to return to Chuncheon some day for cycling so I guess this map will come in handy when the time comes.

This was the emptier side of the dam.

This was the other side of the dam. I was kind of hoping that the flood gates will open right before my very eyes but sadly, nothing happened. Then again, it was a public holiday (on our date of visit) so I guess no one is working.


After taking photos at the dam, we decided to continue our exploration to the cafe. We stood and waited for at least 20 mins at the bus stop but.. there was no bus. We tried to search for the bus timings online but there we couldn’t find the bus number or the bus stop. Then, we decided to hail for a cab but there wasn’t any cab. Thought of hitch-hiking but.. my friend said it wasn’t a common thing to do in Korea.

So.. we walked to a cafe (at the other side) and asked the staff to help us call a cab.

[12:51pm] Finally board the cab
Well, the cab ride was shorter than the 20 mins we spent waiting for the bus which didn’t come. right.

[1:01pm] Alighted at a beautiful cafe – 어반그린 Urban Green (which we found off instagram)
(Address: 578-5, Hyunam-ri, Seo-myeon, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do)

Being in this cafe made me feel so relaxed. Apart from the great scenery and weather, I like it that it was somewhat empty (despite being their holiday week). There were only 2-3 tables occupied and the chill vibes were awesome. It also made me re-think about my idea/concept of holiday. Not all holidays should be super pack and rushed to complete the attractions. The reason why I could visit this place was that I didn’t have a plan which gave us 100% flexibility to visit anywhere on the go. I guess I will be keen on going for more of such laid back and chill out holidays in the future. Goodbye planning. You got to be lazy to discover the gems.

[2:40pm] Took a taxi (booked by cafe staff)

Well, we wanted to take public transport out of the area but by the time we asked the staff (who had a laminated printout bus schedule in the drawer), she said the bus just left and we had to wait another hour or so for the next bus (seriously?). Well, we succumb to the easy way out of taking a taxi again.

[3:08pm] Visited a glass-bottom Uiamho Lake Sky Bridge

This was kind of like a new skywalk (i cannot understand their concept of skywalk because this is simply just a glass bottom bridge or vantage viewpoint) and it is free! All you have to do is to remove your shoes before you step on the glass. As you walk, sometimes you feel the floor moving underneath you but I guess if you don’t run or jump, things should be fine.

After we are done with this place, we followed some signs and continued walking along some path (not know whing where it will bring us to). There were many beautiful sights along the way and the weather wasn’t too harsh on us. Thank you for spring.

We found a bus stop (after walking for about 2 to 3km) and waited at the bus stop. As expected, the bus took forever to come and.. we flagged for the cab (who parked strategically in front of us). I guess the driver was smart enough to know that people won’t usually have enough patience for ths bus. At the same time, we were slightly doubting the bus availability simply because there wasn’t anyone else at the bus stop. Perhaps it was holiday week and the drivers dont work?

[4:00pm] Flagged a cab to a place which the cab driver (from the night before) recommended

[4:08pm] Arrived at Sam Sam Ma Dang (some artsy place)

The previous night, a driver recommended us to visit Sam Sam Ma Dang. It turns out to be some artsy place (perhaps a gallery or a cafe on top of the hill).

This place is really pretty and I’m kind of certain that it was a filming location before. If it hasn’t been one, I’m sure it will be in the future.

 

There were some recording studios within the building.

We could have gotten another cup of coffee but this place was far too crowded than the one before. View was pretty good too.


Random area to sit and look at the lake. Chuncheon is indeed a romantic city..

After we are done with the place, we decided to give the public transport (bus) another chance. Since this place was more crowded, perhaps the bus frequency will be higher?

So.. this bus stop has a screen which display bus timings. However, the bus that we had to take did not exist in the arrival timings at all. We kind of guess that the bus probably haven’t even left the terminal. Right. Even the online apps (which we scanned a QR code for) doesn’t show any bus arrival timing. Why, Chun Cheon, Why? (I believe the frequency of the buses in Chun Cheon is 1 hour)

We were back on our best friend – Mr Taxi and continued our journey.

[5:20pm] Cabbed to the famous Soyanggang Skywalk of Chun Cheon

When we arrived at this skywalk, we were shocked at the amount of people present. There was even a queue to buy tickets (2000W). Since we visited the other smaller and free skywalk a couple of hours ago, we decide to give this crowded skywalk a miss. Took a couple of photos and off we go.


[6:25pm] Finally found a bus stop with buses that brought us to our destination

Finally, we successfully boarded a bus in Chuncheon. I guess it was because we were back in the main city area – where the bus frequency had to be more accountable against the crowd.

This is what their bus arrival screen looks like. It will even show you which bus stop the bus is at.

[7:05pm] Dinner (Charcoal Dakgalbi) at Myeongdong Dakgalbi Street

Since I was on a ‘No Repeat Korean Food Challenge’, I did not eat the usual Dakgalbi (since we already ate it the day before). We found a restaurant which sold charcoal dakgalbi with cheese dip. That’s how we decide on our food choices. Traveling with me is not easy cause I will do lame stuff like this.. >_<

Cheap and good Fruit Juice from Juicy. I think I drank a total of 3 cups in Chuncheon.

Walked around the shopping street. There wasn’t much to buy but I remember there was like this big Artbox opposite Juicy.

[9:04pm] Took a bus back to accommodation (I guess the buses appear in the city area, not in the random outskits we explored)

[9:20pm] Check-in at accommodation – 5inn

Day 11 – Fri – 5 May 2017 (Children’s Day)

[7:30am] Check-out and guesthouse owner fetched us to Bus Terminal <3

While we were checking out of our guesthouse, the owner said that the bus terminal that we were going was on the way to her bathhouse. So she kind of hitched us a ride!

[8:00am] Took the bus from Chuncheon to Sokcho
[10:00am] Arrived at Sokcho Bus Terminal

*** THERE ARE TWO BUS TERMINALS AT SOKCHO and they are pretty far apart (like you need to take a bus, not within walking distance)

  • Express Bus Terminal
    • Bus from Gangnam Express terminal
  • Intercity Bus Terminal
    • Bus from Chuncheon will arrive here
    • Bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal will arrive here

I shall continue my adventure in Sokcho in a separate post. Please be patient (maybe two months or less) for my next update.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below! I’ll be glad to help =)

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