Gangchon Rail Park, Nami Island, Garden of morning calm and Petite France day tour

I was doing research on visiting Gangchon Rail Park and Nami Island when I chanced upon an ad on Klook’s day trip from Seoul

After reading reviews and comparing prices, I decided to go ahead and book the 4 locations tour from Klook as it saves me a lot of trouble. While doing everything myself could possibly save me SGD 50 to 60 but the hassle I have to take from changing trains to buses to ferry and back to trains would probably kill me. After checking in with my travel mates we all went ahead and booked the tour for SGD 101.32

Upon booking, I received an email confirmation almost instantly with very clear details on the pickup timing and point. There were 3 pickup points for this tour; Hongdae, Myeongdong and Dongdaemun. As I stayed at Dongdaemun, I gathered at the pickup point as instructed in the pictures. As we gathered and waited, you could see many people gathering as well and when the buses came, many different tour guides will come over with flags to gather you to the buses. Do not panic as there will be a rush of people going to the tour guides which basically handle different tours and groups. One day before the tour, the guide will send you a WhatsApp message introducing themselves so you can just look for your guide and confirm your name with them and they will usher you to your bus. As our point was the last pickup point, available seats were limited but 4 of us managed to sit together

It took about 90 mins to reach the Rail Park so everyone was mostly sleeping since the pickup timing was 8.30am and we all woke pretty early. The bus will alight us at the carpark and it was a short walk to the entrance of the rail park

We arrived 5 mins before the scheduled timing and were advised by the guide to visit the washroom as there will not be any washroom once you get onto the bike and it takes another 60mins or so to complete. We were given the tickets according to the number of people indicated in the booking

We were asked to queue up in 2 lines, 1 line for the 4 seater bike and another line for the 2 seater bike. If you opt to have a private bike to yourself, you will have to pay an extra top-up of KRW 5,000 or you will have to share with others to make up the 4-seater bike. You will be seated on the bike one by one in the queue and taught how to put on the safety belt. The staff will run through with every cart how to brake and accelerate when using the bike and also the safety distance between your bike and the ones in front of you. Just before the entire group leaves, the staff will help you take pictures

Once you start moving, it is really very easy as you just keep cycling. Along the entire path, you will ride into 4 different tunnels which will feature 4 different light shows. This is one of my favourite tunnels as it is so whimsical and dreamy

These are some of the scenery you get to see while on the ride, we visited in November so we were in between seasons and did not get to see any Autumn or Winter scenes but I have seen photos and they were beautiful if you visit during the right season. After a 40 mins ride through 4 tunnels, you will get to this platform where everyone will alight their rail bike and wait for the steam train to bring us to the end of the route. There is a small stall at the platform selling hot beverages as well as street food like skewered fish cake with hot soup. As it was cold, all of us were crowded around the stall for hot drinks and food. The train ride took another 15 mins to reach the end where the tour bus will pick us up. I really enjoyed the ride but we were unprepared for the cold winds and forgot our gloves so we were freezing up a bit during the ride so do make preparations according to the season of your visit and note that the temperature here is typically a few degrees lower than in Seoul

The next stop of the tour is Nami Island and the bus route to get to the ferry terminal took 30 to 45 mins. Once we arrived at the terminal, the guides passed us the tickets and gave us a very brief introduction about the island as well as the meet-up point and timing. We were given about 2 hours of free and easy time to roam and explore the island as well as have lunch. The ferry ride itself took only 5 mins and there is an available ferry every 10 mins from 9 am to 6pm. The first ferry is from 8am and available ferries are at every 30mins until 9 am when the frequency is increased. From 6pm to 9 pm, the frequency is reduced back to 30mins. There are 2 levels of seating and so customers can choose to stand or seat at any position on the ferry. The seating available inside is quite limited so if you have elderly or children who need to sit, it will be good to be in the front of the queue for the ferry

The island itself is not very huge but with only 2 hours, it is quite impossible to explore every single area of the island itself. There are available baby strollers and wheelchairs for rent at the customer service counters, there is no fee for wheelchairs but KRW 3,000 for strollers. There is 1 single boutique hotel on the island so some locals do come here for short breaks. In terms of facilities and activities, there is a handicraft workshop where you can sign up for classes, a canine park, an adventure forest facility, sea sports and rowing boats ( for summertime) as well as bike rental, train rides and buggy rides

We opted to just walk as the island is not particularly big and some of the key picture-worthy areas are probably the famous Winter Sonata trees, Many people get confused about which row of trees are the actual ones in the drama but trust me, they all look beautiful. However, if you still want to find the actual site, the island has put up signs right next to the actual rows of trees. It is very difficult to get a nice picture as the spot is streaming with people all the time so my suggestion is to walk further and find a less populated row of trees and you can get wonderful pictures

In terms of food, there are 7 restaurants on the island serving fusion food, Korean food, and Italian food and there are a few options which are halal. There are also 5 cafes on the island for those who have time to chill. For us, we opted to grab our lunch back on the main island as the recommended menu in this area is the Dak Galbi ( Korean spicy stir fry chicken). You can read the review here. We had to finish our lunch in a rush so if you are planning to do the same, you need to cater enough time for lunch

The next stop on our tour which was another 30 -45 mins away; was the Garden of Morning Calm which was opened in May 1996 by horticultural professor Han Sang-Kyung and features 20 different themed sections, connected by scenic walkways. The garden houses 5,000 species of plants including 300 varieties native to Baekdusan Mountain with tourists visiting in different seasons to see the blooms of the season. One of the more popular events is the winter light up where the entire garden will be lit with fairy lights. One of the main attractions; the Sunken Garden with rocks and a stream flowing through makes a wonderful picture landscape.

Personally, I wasn’t so interested in the garden as we visited at the tail end of Autumn so most of the Autumn colours are almost gone and there were hardly any blooms left except for a few curated areas. The light-up was also not ready yet as staff were busy putting up the lights for December. We spent more time in the souvenir store as they sold natural flower or herb-scented products like lavender sleep spray or roses diffusers and camomile soaps

Another 30 to 40 mins ride away, we reached the last stop of the tour, Petite France, which is also often used as a filming site for dramas and variety shows. When we arrived it was already dark even though it was only about around 5pm. We had an hour to explore the area but most of the shops were already closed and some areas are too dark for any pictures at all. I believe doing this tour in summer would be better as it will not be dark early. I can’t comment much as we really did not do much except take pictures at some little prince installations and at the main square which is still brightly lit. I think it would be a nice place to chill as I saw museums and cafes and some other galleries which can be explored but are not open when we are there. The overall feel of the place is a small replica European town which is nice to just slow down and relax

After spending an hour at Petite France, we started our way back to Seoul and the guide handed out Lotte Mall coupons for any duty-free purchase at Lotte Malls as a Thank you gift for booking the tour. By the time, we reached Dongdaemun which was the first stop for drop-off, it was close to 8pm.

Overall, I enjoyed the tour except it was slightly tiring for me with all the walking but for fitter people, it was no issue at all. In hindsight, due to the season, the skies turned dark earlier, I should have booked a tour only focusing on 2 venues to also give ourselves more time to enjoy each location. I would have liked to spend a little more time at Nami Island. However, considering first-timers, it is a good tour to get a glimpse of a few locations with convenience

You can book your tour here via Klook

Author: elizbeartravel

A human bear who loves travelling, eating and cooking

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s