Updated: Feb 15, 2020
Hi, my name is Angel, and I am a Work-a-holic. The main reason that I wanted to come and teach in S. Korea is that I knew that I would never actually take a vacation. No matter how much I planed and saved, when it came time to actually buy the tickets I would convince myself that I shouldn't spend the money and that I should work and earn more. I am a realist. I acknowledge that I may not be able to find another position and may have to go back home sooner than I had wanted. As such, I have to make sure I do as many touristy things as I can before it's too late! Dramatic, I know.
For Seollal, I decided to escape everything...and go to Seoul for the weekend. I booked a couple of tours that I had been wanting to go on, but no one ever wanted to go with me. Time and Angel mustn't wait anymore.
I stayed at the Must Stay Motel. It was pretty reasonable and didn't look like a dump online. I got there around 9:45 hoping to check-in and drop off my things and head to the Rendezvous Point by 10:45. Unfortunately, they don't do check-in until 3:00 pm. There is not an English speaker at reception until that time as well. I wasn't able to communicate that I needed to leave some things in the room I don't have to schlep a weekend worth of clothes around Seoul all day. So far, that is my only complaint.
The first stop on the tour was strawberry picking. Bestie and I have been blueberry and peach picking in Florida so I was excited to pick strawberries. Plus, I really like strawberries and they are expensive. The tour covered one box, I think it's 500g. You could purchase another box for 15,000 won if you wanted more. Like I said, expensive! The tour guide Alvin, was also walking around to take pictures for you if you want. After you filled your box, as much as you can as long as it closes, we head back to the main house where they have samples of the jam made from the strawberries on the farm. There were two variations, a regular and a spicy. The owner's son describes it as Strawberry Gochujang.
Next stop, the main stop on the tour, the reason I purchased this tour: NAMI ISLAND! Nami Island has been a popular tourist trap since the drama Winter Sonata was filmed there 18 years ago. It also has a very interesting history. Turns out the island is privately owned by and run by a corporation. The island also claims it's "Cultural Independence" from the main land.
There are two ways to get to the island. By ferry or by zipline. Please cue Christina Aguilera singing "Ain't No Way"... I took the ferry.
The only hitch to my plan was a hitch in my giddy-up. My ankle has been bothering me for a while and of course, the day before I decide to take not one by TWO walking tours it gets worse! But at this point I had dropped nearly $200, there were no refunds and no turning back! I took a Tylenol and got to limping. Luckily there is a "bus tour" that will take you the entire outer perimeter and give you information about the island and point out the important filming locations. It is 7,000 well spent. I was able to get all the information that I needed and find all the spots that were worth returning to take pictures.
I should point out that by "bus tour" I mean golf cart with a voice over. I was the only one on the tour and I honestly felt bad for the poor guy who had to drive me around and press play on the English recording and point to different things. But I did feel a bit like a celebrity when we passed people and I was on my own "private tour bus". It was honestly all I could do not to wave.
After the tour, I was able to wander down the main street and grab the important pics that I will end up printing as Christmas presents this year. I also got VERY close to an ostrich.
Possibly the best part of Nami Island is pretending that I know more Korean than I do. It became a game for me. They see beautiful, yet non-Korean me, walk up and immediately switch to English. Then I answer them in, albeit whispered, Korean. I'm still really shy when it comes to speaking Korean. I can perfectly say, 1 please, thank you, and where is the bathroom, but I still whisper as if I'm not sure.
Last stop on the three stop tour was the Garden of Morning Calm. At this point I was tired. My leg was cramping, I hadn't slept, I hadn't had decent coffee, and I have been wandering all over God's County! I've learned that hills are not my friend, and the Garden is nothing but steep hills. I chose not to be the pathetic single foreigner walking through the Love Tunnel and chose the Cloud Bridge instead.
Ok, so there are certain things that as a person who has never seen a french fry or a chocolate cake that they didn't like, that you just don't do. Walking across Suspension bridges is high on the list. So the fact that I decided that this was the better choice was already a mistake. I thought that since this is a heavily populated area then it should be fine. I mean there were 50 people walking in opposite directions, and some of them had strollers, plus there was no one standing there monitoring how many people were on there so it had to be okay right? NO! I am secure in that it was not me specifically that was making the bridge sway, because I stayed completely still holding my breath for about 5 minutes. Couldn't take any pictures because I was afraid I would drop my phone. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to get out without going back over it and had to experience it twice.
After the traumatizing experience the first time I needed to sit and gather myself so I went and sat in the cafe. The cafe and bakery are not the same place which was very odd to me. I was looking for the bakery but found the coffee so I went there. After charging my phone for a bit and planning what my attack on the Garden would be I headed out, but then I saw the bakery and figured I should get something for breakfast the next day. I figured an Earl Grey pound cake would be perfect with the strawberries that I picked and coffee in the morning.
The garden was very pretty. Lights everywhere it was like a cross between the Electrical Main Street Parade at Disney and Christmas time. There was even a lit up Porroro!
The Rendezvous point was at Myeng-dong. I wanted to stop at the Daiso for some Star Wars things but I was too tired. I hoped in the train and went back to the hotel, only one stop away but I was greeted by another hill. Three to be exact. I was honestly too tired to even care once I got back to the room!