Autumn in South Korea – A 4D3N Itinerary

It’s going to be a very long 4 months until we welcome 2021 — HOPEFULLY with a vaccine, or a very good idea of how to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Still can’t believe there isn’t going to be any Korea for me this year. I miss the Han River. I miss window shopping for skincare. I miss foodtripping in Myeongdong. I miss caramel macchiato with a view. I miss the handsome oppas on the subway. HAHA

But I’m going to try my best not to mope! I’ve had some really good memories in Korea and as August nears its end, I am reminded that autumn is just around the corner. Where will I be if things were “normal” this year?

There are so many places I want to go back to in South Korea, lalo na for autumn! Iba kasi talaga ang colors, sobrang nakaka-fall! ‘Di man ako makakabalik pa for now, ‘di naman masamang mangarap. Here’s my 4D3N wishlist for autumn in my second home!

Day 1 – Let’s take it slow in Seoul

There was never a visit to Seoul that did not lead me to Han River, so of course, that’s where I’m going to be on my first day.

Seoul Forest & Han River

I’m going to take the subway to Oksu Station, rent a bike for free, and breeze my way to Seoul Forest. I’ve been there once in summer, but can you imagine how all these leaves look like in fall?

My backpack’s going to be full of food – take out kimbap, maybe a dosirak (packed meal) from a convenience store, a bottle of Coke, some junkfood. I’ll sit on one of the benches or the cold grass and just enjoy the view while listening to IU and Soyou!

How to go: First, how to to get your free bikes at Oksu Station: Take line 3 (orange line) to Oksu, get off at Exit 2. Once outside, turn left. You should be able to see a short row of cafes and restaurants. Walk straight for a few meters until you find the first pedestrian lane. Cross the street. You should find the bike rental station on your left.

Present your passport (1 passport per group, you have to leave it at the office), register on their logbook, and sign a couple of stuff. (I don’t know what really, it could be a waiver or a contract selling your soul haha) Then pick which bike you like. Confirm with the person in charge how long you’re allowed to rent the bike. Common rule is 2 hours, but we were allowed to have it for 3 last time (wohoo!).

For how to go to Seoul Forest after getting your bike, check out this Han River guide.

Haneul Park

Where next? Haneul Park (or Sky Park) is the top Seoul destination during autumn! Look at that foliage! Nothing shouts autumn more than these colors. These pampas grass make for the best photo op too. If only I didn’t forget my tripod that day!

Really hoping I can go back here and play around the golden fields!

How to go: Take the metro to World Cup Stadium Station, Exit 1. When facing against the stadium, turn right until you reach the main road, then turn right again. Basically, you’ll be circling the stadium. Walk straight until you find the intersection. Cross it and then cross again to your left. You have reached the foot of Haneul Park! From here, you can take the stairs going up or you can ride the shuttle bus!

Dinner at a Pojangmacha

Seven times in Korea and not once have I tried eating at a pojangmacha. Unbelievable, I KNOW. I always get intimidated by the enclosed tents and very little space. Also, the ahjummas and ahjussis who probably only understand Korean.

I have been practicing my Hangul a lot lately though! And would really love to exchange stories with the store owners — while eating tteokbokki, odeng, gyeranmari (egg rolls), and spicy stir-fried pork!

Where to find a pojangmacha: It’s not that hard to find a pojangmacha in the streets of Seoul. But I think (I’m not sure of this), they are more common in Jongno, near Ikseon-dong. Here, you will find rows and rows of pajangmacha every night! Interestingly, they’re always fully-packed!

How to go: Take the subway to Jongno 3 (sam) – ga station, Exit 4. You should already see them outside the train station at night!

Day 2 – Chuncheon

Early start today because I need about 2.5 hours to reach my first stop – Gangchon Rail Park in Chuncheon.

Gangchon Rail Park

This is another one I visited in summer. It was already beautiful then. In autumn? I can’t even begin to imagine. An hour that I would never want to end!

Tickets sell out fast here though, especially on such a beautiful season. If you plan on going too, make sure you book a rail bike ticket beforehand. It’s available on Klook! (No, this is not paid advertising. Haha!)

How to go: From Seoul, take the train to Gimyujeong Station. 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.

Lunch at Chuncheon’s Myeongdong

I’ll be starving after all that pedaling. Lunch will be at Chuncheon’s Myeongdong AKA Dakgalbi Street. Do you know that they make the best dakgalbi (marinated chicken)? Best combined with chijeu bokkeumbap (cheese fried rice).

Easily the best meal I’ve ever had in Korea… Except for that meat we had in Hongdae last summer… And that barbecue in Busan… UGGHHH OKAY EVERY MEAL IN KOREA IS THE BEST BUT I SWEAR YOU HAVE TO EAT DAKGALBI IN CHUNCHEON. IT’S NOT THE SAME ELSEWHERE!

How to go: After your rail bike experience, head back to Gimyujeong Station and then take the train to Chuncheon Station. I think there’s only one exit here and that takes you to the main street.

You can 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. It’s quite near so you should only need to prepare the minimum taxi fare or so.

Nami Island

Now that I’m full, I’ll have enough energy to travel around 1.5 hours by train to Nami Island! I’ve been there… thrice, I think? But never in autumn. What have I been doing in Korea all these years? A lot, okay??

I swear, the next time I visit Nami will be in peak autumn. I wouldn’t even mind if there are tons of people around. It will still be gorgeous. Photos here and there. Picnic. Biking, of course. That’s the best way to explore the island!

I’m going to stay here until late afternoon before taking the ferry back to the mainland. Then the train. Long ride, lots of transfers. As always on the way back from Nami, I’m going to be asleep HAHA!

How to go: There are a few ways to reach Nami Island from Seoul. The train is my favorite! Even though it includes several transfers, their all very comfortable, especially if you’re going to Nami on a weekday. BUT if you’re going on a weekend, the trains will be PACKED so definitely take the bus!

The nearest train station to Nami Island is Gapyeong Station. Outside is a bus stop where you can take the bus to Nami Island. Note that you only need to pay once for a bus ride. So if you’re going around the Gapyeong area (Petite France, Garden of Morning Calm, etc.) or on your way back from Nami Island to Gapyeong, you only need to present your bus ticket. So don’t lose it!

When traveling in Seoul and nearby cities/provinces, I highly-recommend downloading a Seoul Metro App. This way, you’ll know which station to transfer to/from. There are many versions of the app, most of them very good, but my favorite is KakaoMetro!

Day 3 – Naejangsan

Naejangsan National Park

Naejangsan was my main goal back in 2018. Sadly, I arrived a week too late for its peak foliage and this was all that was left.

Okay and maybe two or three trees still with plenty of leaves attached!

This is another want that I badly want to revisit in peak autumn. There will be a long line from the park entrance to the peak, but I wouldn’t mind. It’s going to be so beautiful, and beauties like this are best viewed when shared.

From Seoul, a one-way trip to Naejangsan already takes 3.5 hours. Seven hours on the road back and fort? Fine with me. Naejangsan is worth it!

How to go: From Seoul Express Bus Terminal, take a bus to Jeongeup Intercity Bus Terminal. And then, transfer to Bus No. 171 and get off at Naejangsan Bus Stop. From here, you’ll have a bit of a walk to the foot of the mountain.

Hongdae + Chicken & Beer

I’m not leaving Seoul without having chicken & beer! Chi-maek they call it. We had a really great chi-maek in Hongdae back in 2018. I’d go back there for my last night in the city!

Wondering what’s in Hongdae? It’s a hippie artsy student district in Seoul. Its streets are always fully packed with students, street performers, and tourists. It especially comes alive at night! So if you’re visiting Seoul, may it be autumn, winter, spring or summer, make sure you spend one night in Hongdae!

How to go: Take the metro to Hongik University Station, Exit 9. You’ll be at the main street. Turn left and just go with the flow! Hongdae is always packed with people (both students and tourists).

Day 4 – Seoulfall last day

It may be my last day in Seoul, but nothing can stop me from exploring it to the fullest. As always, my flight is not until the evening, so I’m going to enjoy the entire day!

Achasan

Achasan was one of the most beautiful surprises when I visited Korea in late autumn of 2018.

That time, I woke up late and had planned a lot of places to visit on that day. So instead of going up Mt. Achasan, I had to settle for the park at the foot of the mountain. Luckily, it was already so gorgeous!

Next time though, I will wake up early to complete that hike! It’s not that high after all (just 287 meters), and a fairly easy climb (according to blogs I’ve read). The hike up only takes an hour or less, but they say the views from the top are amazing!

How to go: Take the metro to Achasan Station, Exit 2. Then walk for around 700 meters ’til you reach the foot of the mountain. Here, you can decide whether you want to continue the hike or just enjoy the park like I did!

Ikseon-dong

And then, I’ll head to Ikseon-dong for brunch. This is a laidback hanok alley filled with beautiful cafes and boutique shops.

I loved the cafe called Mil here. They bake bread as you order it. The smell of freshly-baked bread + their creamy coffee! It’s going to be expensive. But I miss it so much I won’t even care about the price.

It’s a nice place to chill for an hour or two. The cafe’s ambiance is very laidback and lovely meals like this are meant to be savored and enjoyed!

How to go: Take the subway to Jongno 3 (sam) – ga station, Exit 4. Cross the street then enter the alley. You’ll find a number of samgyeopsal places here. Go deeper until you find the quaint vibe that can only be felt in Ikseon-dong.

Myeongdong

And then, Myeongdong. I AM NOT LEAVING WITHOUT MY SKINCARE HAUL. Around autumn is a great time to shop for skincare because a lot of stores are on sale! One time I went early November and Missha was on a buy 1 take 1 sale. It’s my favorite brand too so don’t even ask me how much I spent!

This is gonna take a while. Nature Republic ➡️ Missha ➡️ Skinfood ➡️ The Same ➡️ Mamonde (wuw dami pera) ➡️ Olive Young. Pero syempre maraming stopover to check out a bag, a nice dress, foodtrip…

How to go: Take the metro to Myeongdong Station, Exit 6 or 7 or to Euljiro 1-ga Station, Exit 5 or 6.

Incheon Airport

Incheon Airport is a destination on its own, so I suggest you arrive early for your flight to explore a bit. Still so many things to do here! My favorite stop is the Korea Traditional Culture Experience Center. You get to paint a Korean fan, wear a hanbok, take lots of photos — ALL FOR FREE.

Paalis ka na lang ng Seoul, may pahabol pa!

HAYYY… Thought that would satisfy my Korean craving, but all it did was make me want to go to Korea even more!

Oh well. Kahit nga sa bahay bawal lumabas eh. See you in 2021 na lang, Korea.

Kayo ba? Saan kayo unang lilipad when this pandemic is finally over?

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