The Seoul subway system actually just connected Seoul to Chuncheon with the opening of a new line this past winter (2010). We took the Seoul subway for about two hours through some beautiful mountains to cross into the Gangwon province and end at Chuncheon station.
We stayed at a cheap love motel near city hall for about 30,000 won. We dropped our backpacks off and set out to find the island of Jungdo.
Jungdo is a large island in the Soyang River and you can get to it by taking a boat from where the International Mime Festival takes place (Yes there was a massive, "very famous" mime festival in Chuncheon). It takes about 30 minutes to walk to the dock from downtown. The boat runs every thirty minutes and cost 5,500 won.
Jungdo Island is known as a weekend getaway for Chuncheon locals. Many companies and family have parties and camping trips here. You can enjoy the outdoors while riding bikes, playing games, and cruising on boats. We liked our time on Jungdo, however, it lacked real natural beauty but it has great character and energy.
We found a dock that had wake boarding, water skiing and boating available and most of the group hopped on the water sport train.
A group of us were also invited to participate in a game of Jokgu (a Korean game that resembles soccer, tennis and volleyball mixed together). Jokgu is a very popular sport and played all over Korea by people of all ages. Whenever I walk by the park near my apartment I see tons of games being played and anytime we ever express interest in playing usually someone lets us try!
Watch this video to get a better sense of the game.
After we played a little Jokgu, we were invited to join their group party. We soon learned that they all worked for the Chuncheon government office and this was their office party. They offered us copious amounts of conversation, beer and soju. We became fast friends!
After our day on Jungdo Island we were hungry and decided to head back into the city to eat some Dak Galbi on Dak Galbi Street.
Chuncheon is world famous for their Dak Galbi. Dak Galbi is a popular Korean dish made of marinated diced chicken stir fried in chilli peppper paste, cabbage, sweet potatoes, onions and tteok (Korean rice cakes).
I was not the biggest fan of Dak Galbi in Seoul (too spicy for my taste) but after having some in Chuncheon I became a believer. Chuncehon Dak Galbi is less spicy and has more chicken. Also in Chuncheon many people wrap the Dak Galbi in lettece wraps, which I LOVED.
The next day we made our way to one more island close to Chuncheon. Nami Island can be reached on the Seoul subway by getting off at Gapyeong Station (six stops before Chuncheon) and then taking a taxi to the Nami Island Immigration.
Nami Island is a major tourist spot in Korea and gains over 1.5 million tourists every year. People and couples come to the beautiful island to get away from the city and enjoy the outdoors. Many people bike and ride boats and walk along the beautiful tree lined path ways that are all over the island. You can even water ski, bungee jump and zipline on Nami Island.
The island/ theme park also decided that if they were to make themselves a sovereign nation, it would draw more tourists. Weird. So now Nami Island calls itself "Naminara" and you have to go through immigration and purchase a passport to get onto the island.
Nami Island is also very famous because one of the most popular Korean dramas "Winter Sonata" was filmed here. The couple on the show shared their first kiss on the island. Visitors from all over Asia come to the island to see where the kiss first happened. When we were there we saw many Japanese tourists who loved "Winter Sonata" snapping pictures of the first kiss location.
To continue with the romantic feel of the island we decided to rent swan boats and coast on the Han River for a little. Great idea. Things shaped like birds are just more fun.
Chuncheon is a great place to go to get out of the big city and enjoy some countryside activities. It is close enough to Seoul and very accessible via the subway system. We had a great time being outside and eating Dak Galbi, I would recommend this weekend spot to all!