Thursday, January 31, 2013

Travel to South Korea: Jeonju & Busan Story

Pack my bag and step aside from the cloudy & rainy Seoul for a while, let's go to Jeonju & Busan!

Beside Seoul, I also wanted to visit other big cities in South Korea. Since I had 10 days to spend, after discussed it with my travel mate a.k.a my brother, we decided to go to Jeonju & Busan in the middle of our Seoul trip. Why Jeonju and Busan?

Reason to visit Jeonju:
1. Visit Korea Year Program (2012) has a facility for tourists to ride free shuttle bus from Seoul to Jeonju or Busan. It can be a round trip or one way trip (Seoul to Jeonju/Busan).
2. My brother is a SONE (SNSD's fan) and Taeyeon father's has a eyeglasses store at Seodo Plaza called Eyebis with her daughter gallery inside.
3. The famous Jeonju Hanok Village!

Reason to visit Busan:
1. Haeundae Beach and its seagulls :)
2. It's Yo~~ong's hometown! (Yo~~ong refers to Jung Yong Hwa, CNBLUE's member and leader)

I totally impressed with Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) for its Visit Korea Year Program. Beside conducted such programs to make Seoul and other cities to be more tourist friendly (with public facility written in English, helpful staffs everywhere), there's also a program like free shuttle bus for foreigners. It's a good strategy to persuade tourists to take a look around other cities too. Several things I should did were create an account on Visit Korea web, chose the destination (Jeonju or Busan) and departure date, and filled the form (name, passport number, nationality). Around 10 days before the departure date, I received the e-ticket through an e-mail from KTO. Easy breezy :)

I arrived in Jeonju around 11.00 (3 hours journey from Seoul), made a quick visit to Jeonju Hanok Village, took a cab to Seodo Plaza (+/- 5000 won), grabbed lunch (tokpoki and waffle) at department store across Seodo Plaza, visited Eyebis, then took a cab to Jeonju Express Bus Terminal (+/- 5000 won) and went to Busan by bus on 15.10. It was rush 4 hours in Jeonju and regretfully didn't have time to taste its Bibimbap :(

KIA Morning (same type with KIA Picanto in Indonesia)

Friendly sunshine!

What's your fav leaves color? Yellow, red, or green?

To Busan!

Actually, there are 4 grades of Express Bus (organized by KOBUS): General, Excellent, M/General, M/Excellent. Please visit to check the timetable and fares. I bought the bus ticket at ticket counter inside Jeonju Express Bus Terminal.

It's already dark when I arrived at Busan Express Bus Terminal. The bus terminal is connected with Busan Subway. I stayed at Haeundae area and the hostel is just around 20 foot steps from Haeundae Station exit 1 :)

Because I was carrying a heavy backpack all day, once I took the subway to Haeundae I only imagined a clean bed at the hostel was already waiting for me, but a silly moment occurred when I arrived at Haeundae Station. I couldn't pass through the exit gate! >.< 

I used T-Money Card for getting around Seoul since my first day, so I wasn't really aware about how to use a single journey ticket. So, when Busan Subway Map appeared on the screen at the machine, I thought I just have to tap the destination station (like the machine in Singapore) and insert the money. I tapped Haeundae station but it turned out I still had to choose between 1 section or 2 sections and one way or round trip ticket. Without hesitation, my brother chose to buy 1 section and one way ticket. Unfortunately it's not the right one :(

I was really tired and being trapped in a subway station wasn't a pleasant experience at all.. haha :) My brother asked for help from a decent Busan guy to buy us the new tickets but still didn't work out. At the end, we forcefully passed through the exit gate (lucky for us there's no staff or officer around :p). For the next day, I bought one day pass ticket (4000 won) for unlimited rides until the last train of the day. Here's some information about Busan Subway fares and ticket (

Do you want to know the right steps to buy a single journey ticket for Busan Subway? Here we go:
1. Go to the ticket machine. On the screen you can see the subway map, number of subway line above the map, and choices or types of ticket on the right side (1 section/2 sections, one way/round trip, one day pass).
2. Tap the line of your destination station. For example, you want to go to Haeundae from Busan Station. Haeunde Station is on line 2 (the green line), so you should tap line 2. The screen will show you name of stations within the green line. Tap Haeundae Station. After that there will be information of your ticket (destination station, number of sections, and amount of fares you should pay).
3. Insert the money and voila! You can take the ticket.
4. Insert the ticket on the entrance gate, don't forget to take your ticket again because you'll need it to pass the exit gate.

I just had one day for running around in Busan, so I carefully researched for the main attractions and made the most effective flow to visit all those places in one go. 
My one day Busan itinerary:
1. Haeundae Beach
2. Nurimaru APEC House
3. Nampodong for BIFF (Busan International Film Festival) area
4. Yongdusan Park
5. Busan Train Station 
6. Gwangalli Bridge
Hint: all those places are free from admission! :)

If I have another chance to visit Busan, I would like to visit Beomosa Temple. It's located on the north of Busan. I just played around on the east and south sides that day. I also want to taste Busan's seafood!

Welcome to Dynamic Busan!

Cutie doggie

Busan Seagulls! 

Kindergarten kids. Gyeoooo ;) 

Bibimbap and bulgogi for lunch

Nampodong Shopping Area (similar with Myeongdong in Seoul)

BIFF Square

Yongdusan Park

I didn't use inter city bus at all since the places I wanted to visit to are reachable on foot from the closest subway station. It's 5-10 mins walk from Haeundae Station to Haeundae Beach. Nurimaru APEC House is 15 mins walk from the beach (you won't feel tired due to the beautiful view). Yongdusan Park is located in Nampodong Area, 5-10 mins walk from Nampodong Station. Walk along the road for 10 mins from Gwangalli Station to reach Gwangalli beach. 

I met my friend's boyfriend who lived in Busan later that night. After had listened to my story, he said that I already visited the main points of Busan in one day (without the tour guide) and he impressed with my ability. So.. I'm a little bit proud of myself :D kkkk

I went back to Seoul the next day on 10.00 by KTX. 

Until we meet again Jeonju & Busan! :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Travel to South Korea: Gapyeong Story (Nami Island & Petite France)

I think not many tourists aware there’s a county near Seoul called Gapyeong. But I’m sure they know Nami Island, one of the top 10 tourist attractions in South Korea. Nami Island is located at Gapyeong County in Gyeonggi Province, 90 minutes away from central Seoul by train. 

Had been delayed the plan for about 4 days due to the rain and my schedule to visit Jeonju and Busan, I finally managed to go to Gapyeong County on Saturday with a clear sky. My destination? A small European village called Petite France and of course the famous Nami Island.

There are several ways to reach Nami Island from Seoul. Two of them are by shuttle bus and train. If you prefer to take the shuttle bus, you can find the bus departure point at Jamsil (at the front of Lotte Mart nearby exit no. 4-Jamsil Station line 2) or Insadong (nearby the West Gate of Tapgol Park). This shuttle bus will cost you 15.000 won for round trip or 7.500 won for one way. The bus depart from Jamsil/Insadong on 09.30 and go back on 16.00 from Nami Island (parking lot in front of the ticket office) every day. 

I chose to take the train, the more economic one. Myeongdong station was my start point. I had to transfer from SMRT (Seoul Subway) to ITX (the train that runs through Gyeongchun line) at Sangbong Station (line 7) and got off at Gapyeong Station. I just had to pay around 2.000 won for the long train ride and I used my T-Money card to pay :) From Gapyeong Station, I still had to take a bus or taxi to Gapyeong Wharf then took the ferry to reach Nami Island. I had a plan to take The Gapyeong Shuttle Bus that has a circular route and strategic drop off point for tourists. The tourists who want to ride this bus just have to pay 5.000 won to the bus driver and they can hop in or hop off from the bus as much as they want to for one day! The bus will stop at the bus/taxi shelter in front of Gapyeong Station or the other designated points of the bus route. As a sign, there’s a shuttle bus’ time table on the shelter or drop off point. There’s a tourist information center in front of Gapyeong Station if get lost. I went there and they gave me 3 helpful brochures: The Gapyeong Shuttle Bus, Nami Island, and Petite France, all in English. 

 Gapyeong Shuttle Bus' time table
Unfortunately, my brother and I arrived at Gapyeong Station a little bit late from the schedule and we missed the 11.10 bus. So, we decided to take a taxi to Gapyeong Wharf for 10 minutes ride (5000 won). 

Before got into the ferry that would take me to Nami Island, I had to pay the entry “visa” first. Nami Island declared itself as Naminara Republic. Visa fees for a foreigner are 8000 won, include the round trip ferry and tax. The ferry depart every 10-20 minutes (09.00-18.00) and every 30 minutes before 09.00 or after 18.00. The first ferry from Gapyeong Wharf depart at 07.30 and the last ferry from Nami Wharf will depart at 21.45 every day. If you’re an adrenaline seeker type, you can try to slide down to Nami Island use the Zip-wire for 38.000 won (include Nami Island entrance fee).

Nami Island is famous for its various tree lanes and Winter Sonata, Korean famous Drama, filming location. Here’s the glimpse of Nami Island on early November (late autumn) :)

“Situated 63 km from Seoul in the middle of Han River, Nami Island looks like a leaf floating gracefully on top of Cheongpyeong Lake. The island has an area of 480.000 m2 and a circumference of 5 km. Formed with pebbles and sand, there are no mountains in the island, but there are trees tall enough to touch the sky. Wide grassy gardens where deer, ostriches, rabbits, squirrels, ducks, and countless types of birds flourish, Nami Island is a place where not only nature but also human beings can coexist. Nami Island was named after General Nami, a notable figure in Korean history who courageously fought in battles but died at the age of 26. Seasonal rain used to transform this land into an island, and with the construction of Cheongpyeong dam, it is now an island all year long. In 1965, thousands if trees were planted by Mr. Byeong-Do Minn. Today Nami Island is a place for rest and relaxation. Human beings, animals and trees share peace, love and harmony far away from crowds and civilization.”  (Words are taken from Naminara Republic’s brochure)
The colors of autumn: yellow, brown, orange, and red!

It was a chilly windy day and my brother bought some irresistible hot dogs and mini-paos to warm ourselves up, but I also couldn’t resist to buy a cone of ice cream too. It’s cold but tasty ;) The ‘street’ food on this island will cost you around 1.000-5.000 won.

There’s a lot of places to explore on Nami Island. There are many tree lanes as you walk around the island: Central Korean Pine Tree Lane, Cornel Tree Lane, Metasequoia Lane, Cherry Tree Lane, White Birch Lane, Tulip Tree Lane, Reed Woods Lane, and my favorite on autumn, The “Yellow” Ginkgo Tree Line. There’s also The Lane of True Love :) The island is divided into three villages: Love Village, Happiness Village, and Dream Village. The names automatically has forced you to smile right? ^^ 

Are you a Winter Sonata fans? Then you should visit The First Kiss Bridge, Winter Sonata statue, and Namishop Sonata Drama Gallery. If you’re into art you can visit the Song Museum, Artshop Imagine Nami, Ceramic Studio, Glass Art Studio, Namisum Academy of Creativity and Baplex building. If you came with your family or your loved ones to have a picnic or outdoor activity, there are several beautiful gardens, ponds, and a children playground on this island. You can rent a bicycle (single/couple/family-serve) or try the Sky-bike, Electric Tri-way, Electric Tour Car, and Namycar to move around. To enjoy those rides, you should prepare 3.000-18.000 won. Nami Island also offers exhibition halls, stages, and guesthouse/cottages/bungalows if you want to spend a night.  Moreover, there are various types of restaurants, bank, first-aid clinic, swimming pool, and sports ground on this Island.

So, make sure you got a whole day to spend for exploring Nami Island. For more information about this island you can visit

Sadly, I didn’t have much time to enjoy all the beauty places on this island because I had to catch the Gapyeong Shuttle Bus on 14.15 to go to Petite France and this time I successfully managed to catch the bus on time :)

Petite France is about 25 minutes bus-ride from Gapyeong Wharf. Petite France is a French cultural village set consists of 16 French-style buildings where the visitors can experience French food, clothing, and household culture. Petite France has showed up on several Korean Dramas: Beethoven Virus (2008), Personal Taste (2009), and Secret Garden (2011). Petite France entrance fees are 8000 won.

This village is literally ‘petite’ like its name. The first time I saw this village was on one of Running Man episodes with 2PM’s Nichkhun and Taecyeon as the special guests. I thought the village was big enough as Running Man members & the guests played hide-and-seek and running around inside the village. But I guess because it’s packed of people when I came to visit, it had made the village getting smaller since I couldn’t moved around that much.

Here’s some main points at Petite France:

1.      The Gallery Building (displaying puppets, dolls, sculpcutures, and paintings of le coq gaulois)

2.      Traditional France Residence

3.      Maestro’s Office of Drama ‘Beethoven Virus’

4.      Orgel House

5.      Saint-Exupery Memorial Hall (the author of Little Prince/Le Petit Prince) – you may watch Le Petit movie on screen at the 3rd floor

6.      Amphitheatre – there’s a band playing on the amphitheater when I came visit, their music’s pretty good!

7.      Studio – you can try the oil painting with a special camera

8.      Marionette Theater – you can watch ‘Guignol’ (traditional French hand puppet show) or marionette performance and screening animation

9.      Observatory building

There are also several guest houses, visitors lounge, souvenir shops, a bistro and coffee shop in this little village. You can visit for more info about Petite France.

After finished walking around while enjoying the pretty Petite France, I took the Gapyeong Shuttle Bus again to take me to Cheongpyong Station and went back to Seoul with the train.

It’s not the end of my South Korea travel posts. I haven’t told you about my trip to Jeonju and Busan, right? So until we meet again on another city :)