In the Garden of Morning Calm

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. 

Getting there:

Photo: Seoul Metropolitan Subway Map courtesy of Seoul Metro

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.

Millenium Juniper 

 

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.

Maze

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.

Sunken Garden

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

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.

Pond Garden

 

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.

Korean Garden

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.

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.

Morning Plaza

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.

Dinner

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.

36 responses to “In the Garden of Morning Calm

  1. What a spectacular oasis Cheryl. I feel as though you’ve just transported me through the Road to Heaven, what a very apt name. Glorious in so many ways my friend. 🙂 xo

    • Thanks, Sheri! The 1000 year old juniper was incredible. I wish there was more information about its history. Korean lunches are elaborate affairs and there’s so much variety. The table always looks this pretty! 🙂

      • I remember seeking by a 1000 year old tree in the rainforest of Thailand, with it’s gigantic c buttress roots all adorned in prayer flags. That kind of longevity is truly the incredible. Unfathomable, really, when you think of a living thing.

      • Wow! I was skeptical about the number of years. 1000 years is really a long time. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your travel story with us. I’d love to go there someday! 🙂

  2. That looks wonderful. All the same, my best memories of Chuseok (apart from some wonderful traditional dancing at the National Museum of Korea) were all those amazing gift packs of – spam of all things. It’s hard to believe they love it so.

  3. The gardens are stunning with each one having its own character. However, my favourite is the Pond Garden. The amount of love and care put into the gardens – unbelievable! Why can’t I grow flowers like that!!!

  4. I’m kicking myself for only going to the winter lights there and never seeing the garden in daylight! The lights are fabulous, but these pictures show that I missed out. Glad I get to live it through your lovely post.

    • Many fall for that trap! Another friend of mine visited the garden during the winter lights. I wanted to wait for fall, but it’s hard to calculate the actual peak with Basil’s work schedule. 😦 I was more than happy with this visit. I remembered you while writing this post because of the lotus and our Yangpyeong trip! Also, the garden gets its name from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore. 🙂

  5. Seems like a place to spend days — peaceful. I’m reading a book at the moment I think you might be interested in — Pachinko by Min Lin Lee. It begins in Korea, but soon moves to Koreans in Japan. I’m going to review it on my Readandwrite blog after I finish.

    • Yes! There are pension houses and resorts just outside the garden. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll make a note of it. I’ve just started reading Bitna – Under the Sky of Seoul by J.M. Clezio (translated work). The Vegetarian had attracted negative publicity last year for not staying true to its original writing. We saw Taxi Driver last year. It’s a Korean film based on the Gwangju uprising. In Indian films, I recommend Court and Newton. 🙂

  6. That looks like a terrific place to spend a day, and big enough that it would take most of it. That may be the most enticing place you’ve shown from Korea yet.

    • I had a feeling you’d like this place! 🙂 The garden looks different in every season. I was waiting for the right time and it took us two years to get there.

  7. Your images are magnificent and left me breathless with their magnificence. My favorites were in the sunken garden, the pond garden and on the road to heaven. And is that Basil in repose at the rest pavilion?!?

    • I think we got really lucky! 🙂 Yes, that’s Basil posing for me. Also, trying to suck his belly in. 🙂 The pavilion had the best view of the whole garden. Such a quiet and peaceful place to spend time.

  8. Pingback: A Day in Petite France & Jaraseom Island | twobrownfeet·

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