A Day in Chuncheon

Day trip from Seoul? Nami Island is almost always the answer. It is indeed beautiful, an iconic filming site for many dramas and movies, and is often crowded with tourists. But do you know that getting off the train just a few stations from Gapyeong (the gateway to Nami) would bring you to a whole new world?

It’s so awesome that ‘riding a train to Chuncheon’ landed the second spot in this Korean song called Things I Want to do If I Have a Lover haha! That’s how I found out about it actually. But honestly, there were more families than lovers there. A lot of tourists, but very few foreigners. And my sister and I enjoyed watching how Koreans spend a typical weekend.

First stop, Gangchon Rail Park.

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Monday couple jjang!

The first time I saw it in Running Man, I knew it was going to be a part of my next trip to South Korea. Trains and railways! These old tracks went out of use years ago, but were re-invented to showcase the beauty of SoKor’s countryside.

We booked a two-seater railbike through Funtastic Korea two weeks before. Being a popular tourist spot for locals, there’s a great chance you won’t be able to get the time slot you want if you buy tickets onsite.

Before the ride, a speaker gives a  number of instructions, all in Korean, so we didn’t get much. But context clues and experience thought us these: keep a 20-meter distance from the railbike before you, always keep one of your hands on the brake (located at the left-hand side of the right rider), keep seat belts on at all times. I’m sure there’s more but these three should keep you alive throughout the ride!

The journey was too beautiful to explain in words, so I’ll just let these photos speak for themselves.

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This is the view during summer. I could only imagine how much more beautiful it is in autumn and spring. If you can handle the cold, rides are available in winter too! And with the 20-meter distance between rail bikes, lovers can enjoy some ‘alone’ time. Well except the couple before us. We lightly bumped into them a couple of times at the beginning of the ride (when we still didn’t know there was a break), so they spent the entire journey looking over their shoulders, making sure we were keeping our distance. Haha sorry!

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But as beautiful as the scenery was, the highlight for me was really the tunnels – with bubbles, lights and sounds, they could make anyone go ‘UHHHHHHH.’ One particular tunnel offers virtual reality experience, for an extra cost. Kuripot as I am, I intentionally forgot to tell my sister about it. She was quite pissed haha! Turns out (if my research is correct), it only costs W1,000. What an idiot. So don’t forget to ask for it when you get the chance!

Too soon, we’ve reached the end of the trail. But the adventure doesn’t stop there. A train will take you the rest of the way to Gangchon Station. You could take a seat inside or pick one without a roof. Either way is awesome!

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From the old Gangchon Station, a free shuttle bus will take you back to the starting point. All in all a fun and hassle-free way to explore rural South Korea!

How to book: Visit FunKo . You can also book directly through the Gangchon Rail Park website, I think it’s cheaper there. Note that it’s all in Korean.

Cost: W27,000/2-seater bike

How to go: Take the train to Gimyujeong Station (approx. W2,850). I recommend taking the normal train, as the ITX is so much more expensive with only a few minutes time difference. From the exit, turn right and follow the signs to the Rail Park.

Tip: If you really want to go to Nami Island, you can simply take the train back to Gapyeong Station (4 stops away). But why go back when you can go further into Chuncheon?

Next stop, Dakgalbi Street.

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Starving, we went straight to the iconic Dakgalbi Street. Dakgalbi – or spicy chicken stir-fried with cabbage, sweet potatoes, and perilla leaves, among others – is a dish that originated in Chuncheon in the 1960s. It is such a huge favorite across the country that a whole street was made just for it.

We were so hungry we didn’t bother looking around and just picked the first decent looking resto we found. They say you can’t go wrong here anyway.

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We order two servings of dakgalbi with extra rice cake (tteok) and one cheese fried rice (chiji bap). Be prepared with sign language here because very few people speak English, our server certainly doesn’t. But they’re also very kind and patient with taking orders.

Part of the experience is watching them cook the dish for you, all the while making your mouth water.  Once that’s done, they put the dakgalbi on the side and fry the rice on its sauce. They then sprinkle a load of cheese on the fried rice, fold it as if it’s a sandwich, and allow the cheese to melt inside. A couple more minutes and it’s chow time!

I’m no foodie and I can’t describe the taste for you but one thing I’m sure of, it was sooooooo gooooood! Although with 300 grams/serving, it was quite a lot. We were both full even with our pan still half-finished. “Take out” remains to be an unpopular concept among Korean grilling restos, so we were surprised to find out that they give out disposable tupperwares so you could take home your leftovers! Sulit!

How to go: From Chuncheon Station, take bus #63 to Chuncheon’s Myeongdong. Takes about 10 minutes. You can also walk – just cross the road then follow the perpendicular street for about 20 mins. Easiest way would be to take a cab (around W3,500).

Cost: Dakgalbi W11,000/serving
Tteok W2,000
Cheese fried rice W3,000
Total: W27,000

Tip: You might also want to try an order of mukguksu, another Chuncheon original. It wasn’t available in our resto though.

Last stop, Soyanggang Skywalk.

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A transparent glass, 156 meters long, stands on Chuncheon’s Uiamho Lake. It’s a sort of observatory, where you can enjoy the view from all sides, top to bottom. We buy tickets at W2,000 each, then wear the protective shoes that prevent the glass from being scratched.

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There was a weird feeling as we walked in, as if we were going to be swept away by the water below. But we were soon distracted by the fine breeze, and the majesty of nature. A kind lady insisted on taking photos of us together, then asked us to pose on all sides of the bridge, making sure the background was nice. So adorbs!

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It was a Sunday, and the Skywalk was brimming with families and a loooot of kids. My sister badly wanted a nice photo but every time we get a square meter of free space, a kid comes running!

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They seemed to be so obsessed with the water below. Any fish?

Nope! Just a lot of water.

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But what a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Cost: W2,000/person

How to go: From Dakgalbi Street, take a cab (approx. W3,800). If coming from Chuncheon Station, you can also take a bus. But it’s too near so I suggest you take a stroll. From the station, turn left and follow the road until you reach the lake (15-20mins).

Tip: If you want some quiet time, do not go on a weekend. But if you enjoy people-watching, weekends would be a great time to observe how closely-knit Korean families are. You’d see how crazy the kids are, and how their parents support their weirdness haha! They’d make you wish you have your whole family with you.

 

I would have loved to stay the night in Chuncheon. It was so quiet and peaceful, no one seemed to be in any hurry, the total opposite of Seoul. But there were more adventures waiting for us in the city. Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye.

But hey, stick around for more stories off the beaten track!

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