I will be proposing 2 options for Day 2 depending on your interest.
Day 2 Option 1: Get involved in politics!
The Trump Kim summit was one of the biggest event that happened this year as a step towards world peace. Before the Trump Kim summit in Singapore, there were further development in the Korean Peninsula where both leaders of North and South Korea met at the famous demilitarized zone. Now you have a chance to visit the DMZ and step foot into one of the most secretive countries in the world.
There are a few agencies that conduct the tour to DMZ and some last for half a day and others slightly longer. My experience with the tour was 7 years ago and I am sure there are other more updated tour itineraries. I joined the USO DMZ tour and I will share the experience of the tour.
First, you will report at the pick up point where you will show your booking and board the bus that heads to the demilitarized zone.
The ride takes about an hour from Seoul and you will notice heavy security check points once you reach the borders of the DMZ.
Once inside the JSA ( Joint Security Area), you will first be dropped off at the Camp Bonifas for a briefing of the tour. You will be given instructions on what to do and what not to do during the entire tour. The tour within the JSA is led by American soldiers and they do give very true account of their experience within the JSA which is very intriguing.
Immediately after the briefing, you will be brought to the Freedom House which spans across both Korea. These blue houses are used for diplomatic engagements. The guide will share with you their jokes on what the North Korean soldiers do from their side of the building and indeed when you try to zoom in with your camera, you will realise that they are spying in on the tours with their binoculars. The soldiers ever shared that some naughty tourist got into trouble by pointing some unsightly finger at them.
The tour includes entry in the houses where you can step into North Korea momentarily. There are 2 entrances to the houses, one at each end. When it is used by the South like this tour, the door to the North is locked and guarded by a South Korean Elite forces soldier within the house to make sure no curious tourist tries to open the door. While every one of these elite soldiers look like your Korean Oppas from the dramas, do not try to disturb or touch them while they are on duty as you might get into trouble. You can take photos with them but from a distance.
You will also stop by the Unification bridge which is also called the “Bridge of No Return’. The bridge was used for prisoners exchange and once they pass the mark between the 2 nations, there is no return even if there is a change of mind thereafter.
The next interesting location is the spot where the axe incident happened. The Korean axe murder incident was the killing of two United States Army officers on August 18, 1976. The U.S. Army officers had been part of a work party cutting down a poplar tree in the JSA that partially blocked the view of United Nations observers when they were assaulted and killed by the North Koreans, who claimed that the tree had been planted by Kim Il-Sung. Three days later, American and South Korean forces launched Operation Paul Bunyan, an operation that cut down the tree with a show of force to intimidate North Korea into backing down, which it did. ( Source: Wikipedia)
The next stop will be to the DMZ museum and theatre where you get to see some historic pictures, writings about the JSA. Located at the same place as the museum, you can go down the 3rd infiltration tunnel. All tourist will be required to wear a safety helmet while going down the tunnel. The path is quite steep down the tunnel and can be quite claustrophobic as the tunnel gets more narrow the further you enter.
The Third Tunnel of Aggression is one of four known tunnels under the border between North Korea and South Korea, extending south of Panmunjom. The incomplete tunnel is 1,635 metres long, was apparently designed for a surprise attack on Seoul from North Korea, and could, according to visitor information in the tunnel, accommodate 30,000 men per hour along with light weaponry. Initially, North Korea denied building the tunnel but subsequently changed and declared it part of a coal mine. (Source Wikipedia)
Next stop is the Dora Observatory which is on the South Korean side of the 38th parallel. Situated on top of Dorasan, the observatory looks across the Demilitarized Zone and is the part of South Korea closest to the North. On a good day, you can see the North Korea side quite clearly.
Before the last stop, you will be stopped by at the only Korean restaurant for a simple lunch included in the tour.
The last stop of the tour before heading back to Seoul is the Dorasan Station. Dorasan Station, a railway station on the Gyeongui Line, is the northernmost stop on South Korea’s railway line. Located 56 km from Seoul and 205 km from Pyeongyang, the station was opened as a tourist attraction on April 4, 2002 right before the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. The current purpose of the station is largely symbolic of the hope for eventual Korean reunification.
End of option 1 tour as you should arrive back in Seoul around 4pm. Suggested itinerary for the rest of the day will be after option 2.
Day 2 Option 2 : Find your Bae Yong Jun in Winter Sonata
Every Korean addict would know who Bae Yong Jun is and eve if you don’t watch dramas, you would probably have heard his name. The hallyu actor became insanely famous in Asia after his Winter Sonata role and where else but to try to find your Winter Sonata moments at the filming location of Nami Island? Aside from being the filming location, Nami Island is known for beautiful landscapes and view of nature
You can reach Nami Island from Seoul more than 1 way. First, to reach the Gapyeong Wharf for the ferry to the island, you need to travel to Gapyeong station. You can take ITX train from Yongsan station. You can book your tickets online via the Korail website. From the Gapyeong station, you can take a taxi to Nami Island station where you can walk to the Gapyeong Wharf. Once you reach the Gapyeong Wharf, you can either take the ferry or the zip line to Nami island.
The ferry ride is pretty short and takes less than 10mins. An adult tickets cost 13,000 won and includes entry to the island. Seniors and students enjoy a discounted rate at 10,000 won. For the adventurous, the zipline including entry is at 44,000 won. The ferry ride is quite pleasant except it can get pretty crowded.
There are plenty of food stalls and restaurants for visitors as well as plenty of activities engaging the tourists with nature.
It is definitely a must to take photos at the row of trees which was made famous in the Winter Sonata drama.
There are also many photo spots marking the areas where the characters filmed their scenes, just like this spot where they had their first kiss.
While the island was made famous by the drama, there are also many picturesque spots where you can take beautiful photos. Beyond these, the island also organises many activities like handicraft workshops, picture book library, Greenshop learning center.
You can relax and chill in the island at the various spots where pretty trees and floral plants are planted to make sure the island maintain it’s natural environment. You can either choose to walk or bike around the island and even take a boating ride around the island during summer. It will take 2 – 3 hours to slowly take in the sights of the entire island.
When you return to Gapyeong station, you can take the train to Chuncheon where you can view a few more sights used for the filming like Jun Sang’s house which is the house for Bae Yong Jun’s character.
The house is very simple and kept exactly the way the film was taken. There were also pictures of the star all over the house.
From Jun Sang house, you can visit the famous Myeongdong shopping street in Chuncheon where you can find the statue of the characters as well as their palm print.
Something you must do when in Chuncheon is to try the spicy stir fry chicken pan which is served as a huge pan with raw cabbage, chicken, rice cake and spicy paste. This dish is also available in Seoul but it hails from Chuncheon and definitely taste better here.
After your itinerary from option 1 or 2, it would be late afternoon when you arrive back in Seoul and it is time for shopping!
You can visit Myeongdong which is the haven of Korean cosmetic and skincare to load up on all the Korean skincare and cosmetics.
You can also visit the huge LINE friends store right in the middle of Myeongdong. To find out what to buy at Myeongdong, you can check out the my other post here.
If you are game for more, you can still travel down to Dongdaemun and see the Dong Dae Mun Design Plaza and the beautiful LED flowers.
You can walk towards the direction of Heunginjimun Gate and on the way you will pass the Cheonggyecheon which is a 10.9-kilometre-long, modern public recreation space in downtown Seoul, South Korea.
The Heunginjimun Gate is an extremely beautiful historic monument to take pictures of at night as the entire building lights up.
Just 5 mins walk from the gate you can see the remnant of the ancient city gate.
When you climb to the top of the small hill you can get an aerial view of the entire Dong Dae Mum district.
Before you end your night, make sure to drop by one of these tent supper places for a bottle of soju, kimchi pancake or even kimchi ramen or many other snacks.