After our half day excursion around Boseong’s green tea fields; we had to wait for half an hour, at Boseong Intercity Bus Terminal, to get to Suncheon. It was nearing 3 p.m. and we were worried if we’d make it in time for sunset at Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve. We reached Suncheon Intercity Bus Terminal at 4 p.m. and walked to the main street toward the local bus stop. We were just in time for the bus to Suncheonman Bay National Garden. Back then, we didn’t realise that Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve and Bay Gardens were more than 5 kms apart — with separate entry points.
The Bay Gardens offers an access point to the Wetland Reserve via the Sky Cube Train. If you want to skip the Bay Gardens; it makes good sense to go directly to the Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve instead.
After failing to find the observation point on the Bay Gardens Map; we sought help from a guide at the tourist information centre. And that’s when, we realised that Yongsan Observatory (sunset point) lies in Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve. The guide urged us to take a cab to get there. At 5 pm, we were running around trying to stop a cab. And as we cursed our terrible planning and lack of preparedness on this trip — we managed to find a willing cabbie. Our lane ran parallel to tracks of the Sky Cube Train and things started to make more sense now.
As we approached the Wetland Reserve, we saw the urban landscape dramatically melt into wilderness — abundant with migratory birds. Few cars had stopped to observe this spectacle. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to stop and admire. We continued to the main entrance and Basil rushed to buy tickets. From thereon, we blindly followed the crowd and the sign that lead to Yongsan Observatory.
The rustic beauty of Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve came as a surprise. It’s the wildest landscape (barring mountains)– we’ve witnessed — in Korea. There aren’t any manicured gardens or cute photo-ops or artificial installations to divert your attention. For once, nature is allowed to take over and she doesn’t fail to take your breath away.
Formed from the union of Dong-cheon and Isa-Chevon rivers; Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve has the largest colony of reeds in Korea and is home to roughly 158 species of birds. You can spend an entire day participating in ecological programs or at the museum building. Suncheonman Bay Boat Tour takes you around the wetland in around 30 minutes and it’s something we sorely missed.
The 1.9 km boardwalk runs through a verdant bed of reeds — spreading far into the mountainscape. It was nearing 6 pm and as much as we wanted to slow the pace and take in the hues of green; we still had a hike to complete. Viewing sunset at Yongsan Observatory is one of the top draws of Suncheon Wetland Reserve. Keeping up the pace and dodging the long line of Korean tourists — was an art we learned on the way.
The reeds turn yellow as you approach the peak. We spotted an egret — cleverly camouflaged — by the reeds. A sign warned tourists that this would be the last point to use the restroom. When you’re served with utimatumns like these — you feel the need to use a bathroom, even if, you didn’t want to. We didn’t have that time nor that kind of luxury and we skipped the drill.
The route, leading to the observation point, takes your through a rickety bridge, joining a wooden walkway that hugs the base of the peak. We had an hour to reach the top and even if we were out of breath — we continued walking.
The elevation gradually increases as you climb further up. It isn’t a difficult hike. The challenge lies in trying to keep the pace, when you know, the sun might go down in a matter of minutes. The trail forks into two paths: a circuitous path leading to the top and the second being a more direct approach. We chose the simple path.
There are two wooden bridges that you need to cross. It is a little unnerving, to cross a bridge surrounded by a dense forest, on either side, and plunging views of the bay below. Local tourists (including kids) seemed to have no problems with the height. The first observation point is just beyond the bridge. There were fewer people here and the view was fantastic.
We reached the top well before the sun was ready to sink into the mountain. The sky and waters, below, were bathed in golden sunlight. We could spot boats speed across the wetlands.
The reeds themselves look spectacular.
Finding a good spot — proved to be more challenging — than the effort to get to the top. The best spots were guarded by professional photographers or love struck couples. To add to our misery, fine specks of dust settled on the camera lens. We struggled with our phones and tried hard to avoid hands and flying hair from entering the field of view. After a while, we put everything away, and let the sun do its job.
After sunset, we trudged down the peak. Daylight hadn’t receded and the reeds were still visible. We deliberately walked slowly, to take in the haunting view of the landscape. Slowly, the moon rose and the stars came out. Chaos had unwittingly surrendered to order.