Chuseok is the traditional Korean Thanksgiving Holiday and is the time when most Koreans (especially from Seoul) visit family across the country. Last year, Chuseok (clubbed with other national holidays) extended over a 10-day period in the month of October. Public holidays of this duration are rare in Korea and many Koreans made advance bookings (a year ahead in some cases) to make the most of the holiday season. The rest of us were left to explore Seoul and its neighbouring provinces. We managed to make a booking for a 2 night stay in Cheongpyeong (Gyeonggi Province). The rest of the holidays were spent as a staycation.
It’s difficult to get KTX/ITX or even bus tickets during the holiday season. We took the Gyeongui Jungang Line (on the Seoul Subway) to Sangbong and changed to the Gyeongchun Line to reach Cheongpyeong.
There’s a small tourism office outside the station. We made enquires and picked up brochures of tourist places of interest. The Gapyeong Shuttle Bus traces two different tour courses (multiple times) in a day. Tickets can be bought from the driver. We took a local bus (opposite the station) to reach the Garden of Morning Calm. T-Money cards are also accepted on local buses. Alternatively, you can walk to the Cheongpyeong Bus Terminal to catch the bus.
The Garden of Morning Calm
We reached the entrance of the Garden of Morning Calm (Official Link) at noon. It takes about 30 or 40 minutes from the subway station. We skipped the exhibition gallery and entered the garden instead. There are multiple routes to cover the wise expanse (330,000 m²) of the garden and the Best Course is one you should follow — if you’re pressed for time. We wandered around instead and chose to climb the steps that lead to the Green House.
The Route to the Green House
In October, temperatures were still quite high in the afternoon. We took a look at the plants in the Green House (not in pic) and preferred to climb higher. The views from the top were spectacular. In a month’s time, this garden would be covered in autumnal hues and I felt a little sore coming this early. However, the lush greenery and cascading mountains were equally soothing.
Rest Pavilion & Alpine Rock Garden
We found a small rest pavilion and took the opportunity to eat some traditional Korean sweets there. I was extremely hungry at this point and hoped to find a restaurant further along the way. The silence of the setting was worth the climb in the heat. After a break, we climbed further up to explore the Alpine Rock Garden. We saw water trickle down stony steps and pretty flowers pop out on either side.
We took the boardwalk down and reached a small river crossing. Tiny fish wriggled their tails as young kids cooed gleefully. I was equally enthralled by the little fish swimming under glistening water.
Bonsai & Food Garden
It was nearing 2 pm and I was having a hard time controlling my hunger. Fortunately, we found a cafeteria nearby and it was still open. We were the last to order. There’s a Bonsai Garden outside and a small trail that leads to a deserted bench — with a backdrop of the mountain behind.
Basil ordered Kimchi-Jjigae (spicy kimchi stew) and I ordered Bimbimbaap (veggies and rice) for lunch. It was nice to sit there, look at the Bonsai Garden outside the window, and enjoy a hearty Korean meal.
Best Course & Wild Flower Garden
After lunch, we decided to follow the Best Course to explore the main sights of the garden. The Wild Flower Garden was teeming with butterflies hovering over the brightest flowers.
The Chinese Juniper trees are hard to miss. The Millennium Juniper (third pic above) is a 1000-year Chinese Juniper tree that’s become a symbol of the garden.
We were tempted to explore the maze of manicured trees, but opted to follow the Best Course. A young couple, dressed in wedding clothes, were also looking for dreamy backdrops for a pre-wedding photoshoot.
The Sunken Garden is painted with bright colour. The garden is landscaped in the shape of a unified Korean Peninsula and filled with a wide variety of flowers. Tourists were buzzing around the flowers and everyone wanted to click their best shot. There are many vantage viewing platforms to get a panoramic view of the Sunken Garden.
J’s Cottage Garden
This garden draws inspiration from the countryside houses in Cotswold (UK). The house isn’t open to visitors and just serves as a prop for the garden in front of it.
Pagoda Valley isn’t easy to spot if you’re not looking for it. It might seem like a collection of neatly arranged rocks on an empty river bed. We saw young couples arranging stones and making wishes.
The Pond Garden was quite scenic and has an old-world charm to it. We spotted lotus blooms in the water and fungi growing on the bark of a tree. In the afternoon, sunlight lit up every inch of colour — we could set our eyes on.
We took a small break in the Korean Garden. A wild chrysanthemum exhibition is held, in early autumn, in these gardens. Many Korean families had also chosen this spot to take an afternoon nap and let the kids play.
Morning Calm Walk
This path leads through a forest trail that connects the Korean Garden to the Moonlight Garden.
Road to Heaven
We made our way first to the Moonlight Garden and then walked further to the Road to Heaven. By evening, the crowd made their presence felt and it wasn’t easy clicking pictures. The Road to Heaven had some of the brightest flowers that I’d ever seen.
Up ahead there’s a perfect photo-op at the Morning Plaza.
Rock Garden, Korean Theme Garden, & Walk along the Poem
It was nearing closing time and we quickly passed by the Rock Garden and Korean Theme Garden. We took a small break at the coffee shop near Walk along the Poem.
It was time to take one last look at the Juniper trees and cross the suspension bridge that took us back to the entrance.
In Search of Egg House
We didn’t have to wait too long for the local bus to take us back to the station. From there, it was not very easy to find the location of our B&B. We got lost in narrow alleys and campsites — before reaching our destination. The room was basic and perfect for a short stay.
The owner was kind enough to drive us to the nearest restaurant that served the local speciality, Dak-galbi (spicy stir-fried chicken). We walked back — in the darkness of the night — with only the moon to keep us company.