It was 7:00 a.m., I was waiting at the exit 4 of Hongik Univ Station for a tour when I spotted a girl on the side of the street. She stood there with her eyes closed, motionless, and I looked at her wondering what was going on. A few passersby stared in curiosity, the rest went on with their lives oblivious of the woman in an apparent drunken stupor. Soon, the other tourists have started coming in including my friend. We made a beeline to the bus, had to show our vouchers to the tour guide before we could step into the vehicle. As the bus drove away to take us to our first destination, I looked out the window to see the woman. I found her in a different spot, but as before her eyes were closed and she stood there without moving.
The tour has taken us to two destinations, Petite France and Nami Island. I booked this via Klook for ₱1,876, the package includes entry fees and roundtrip transportation. The bus made two more pick-up stops at Myeongdong Station exit 2 and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station exit 10. Our female tour guide took the mic, greeted everyone, and explained about the day’s activities. She translated her announcements, which she first uttered in English, to Korean and Chinese.
Petite France is a French cultural village and a youth training facility in Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do. It has 16 French-style buildings and different facilities, such as Saint-Exupéry Memorial Hall, Orgel House, Antique Exhibit Hall, Europe Puppet House, among others. The place is inspired by the widely popular novella of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, one of my favorite books. It became famous when it’s been used as a filming location of some Korean dramas, such as Secret Garden and My Love from Another Star.
Some people, including my friend, think that the place is not worth visiting; I beg to differ. Maybe it’s my fascination with the French culture, or maybe it’s my love for The Little Prince’s book that I was completely enamored by the village. Anything that makes me feel like a kid again automatically wins my approval.
I had a blast exploring, taking as many photos as I could, and entering as many buildings as the time allowed. The most memorable for me would be the Proposal Room up on the bell tower. The guide said it is quite popular to single women because some believe that ringing the bell would bring good luck to one’s love life. My friend and I, both single ladies, didn’t waste the opportunity to do just that haha… To date, I am still single so I cannot render testimony to this bell’s rumored “magic.”
I had so much fun that I lost track of time. I also had a hard time finding the exit. Good thing the bus didn’t leave me, but it was sure embarrassing to cause a bit of delay.
Business Hours & Admission Fees
Sunday to Thursday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Friday to Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Adults: 10,000 won ($)
Teenagers: 8,000 won ($)
Children: 6,000 won ($)
Infants (2 years old below): Free
Petite France is just a side trip, the main destination of this tour really is Nami Island. Nami Island was the setting of the TV drama, “Winter Sonata.” It was a commercial success not only in South Korea but also in other parts of Asia. It catapulted its two lead stars to international stardom. It aired in the Philippines in 2013. I wasn’t as keen on it as most people mainly because it was a heavy drama. Nevertheless, I remember being charmed by the beautiful sceneries of Nami Island perfectly captured by the series. Back then I didn’t think that one day, I would step foot in this place.
Namisum is a tiny island in Chuncheon, Gangwon-do named after General Nami, a former military general falsely accused of treason. The island has over 300,000 yards of grass fields, tree-lined roads, camping sites, exhibition halls, education and training facilities. It has resort villas, restaurants, shops, and cafes, and theme gardens.
My friend, having regained her energy from our lunch was in a better mood. We took a ferry to get to the island. Alternatively, you can take a zip wire for a fee of 44,000 won. The island may be small but there are lots of things to do or see. It’s a shame we were only given 3 hours to explore. Because of this, I recommend against taking an organized tour, I think it’s better to DIY a trip to Nami.
I raced through time, barely stopping to fully appreciate the view. It was springtime, which means it doesn’t look anything like in the drama. Still, the sceneries are quite lovely. In my exploration, I found the First Kiss or the spot where the Winter Sonata characters, Joon-sang and Yoo-jin shared their first kiss. There is a table there that had fake snow figures to represent what the characters made in the iconic scene.
I told my friend that I wouldn’t leave without seeing the Metasequoia Lane, a stretch of road with towering redwood trees on each side. I used the tourist map to find the spot. The road was busy, the tourists were busy getting their pictures.
General Rate: 13,000 won
Discounted Rate: 10,000 won
Special Rate: 7,000 won
We had to return to the bus at 4:00 p.m. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave just yet as I wanted to try one of the cafes but we had to follow the schedule of the tour. While I appreciate the convenience of having our own transportation, I was unhappy about the time restriction. When I return to South Korea, I would revisit Nami island and do it on my own.
Nami island is indeed beautiful, however, I think it doesn’t look as pretty in springtime as it is in winter or autumn. You may want to keep this in mind if you want to go there.
On our way back to Seoul, I remembered the girl that I saw that morning. I found myself wondering what happened to her.
My latest cafe find can be found in Kapitolyo. Yes ladies and gents, I’m taking this coffee craving to the next level by going outside Makati. Nicto’s Coffee Shop can’t be found on ride-sharing maps but the address is, so if you’re not commuting, just enter 58 E Capitol Drive, Pasig.
Anyway, I went there to meet some friends recently. The place is small with gray cement flooring, white-painted walls, wooden tables and chairs, and a glass wall that faces the street. It has a clean, sleek restroom with interesting accents like the peach-colored sink, a ladder, and a spiral light fixture. It has the look of a minimalist Instagrammable cafe down pat.
We went on a Sunday but it was pretty busy. There are cushioned seats on the far side of the wall and I wanted to sit there for photo shoot purposes, unfortunately, they were occupied.
I ordered a flat white, the cup bears what seems to be the cafe’s slogan, “your bitter half.” I was not particularly blown by the coffee but it wasn’t bad. Other than some pies, brownies, and sandwiches the menu doesn’t offer a lot for eating. I read from a Zomato review though that he saw someone ordering a rice meal. It wasn’t written on the menu so I guess you have to ask the barista for this. The oatmeal brownie is good by the way, sweet and chewy. Share it with o someone because if you are not a legit sweet tooth, you might have a hard time finishing it.
On weekdays, Nicto’s is opened from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and it’s from 9 to 9 on weekends.
I’m keeping this short because my brain is not functioning well these days. Also, I have nothing left to say.
I was not sure with the how, only with the decision that I will get myself there no matter what. Two of the Korean dramas that I’d watched, Legend of the Blue Sea and Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo were filmed at Pocheon Art Valley. It is located in the province of Gyeonggi-do, about hours away from Seoul. But you know me, it’s not gonna be just two hours. I went a little off the track, taking me at least 3 or 4 hours before I reached the park.
How to get to Pocheon
Confusion sets in when I reached Pocheon. I was supposed to take a bus that goes to my destination but I couldn’t find it. Based on the guide that I got from the Internet, I should take the bus that passes by a grocery store. I did find the said grocery store but not the bus that goes to Pocheon Art Valley. After almost an hour of waiting, I thought I should just go and take a taxi. Yes, it’s more expensive, but at least it would take me to where I should be.
What is Pocheon Art Valley
Pocheon Art Valley is a culture and arts space in a site that used to be a granite quarry. It was opened in 2009 and its facilities include Cheonjuho Lake, Pocheon Art Valley Astronomical Science Museum, Educational Exhibition Center, Sky Garden of Hope (observation deck) & Doleum Stairway, Sculpture Park, and Stone Culture Exhibition Center.
There are sculptures scattered about the place, like the lower extremity of a man seemingly stuck on the side of the mountain and the rabbit holding a red flower. There are also a few cafes, stores, and restaurants.
This place is most famous for the Cheonjuho Lake where the two Korean dramas that I mentioned were specifically shot. The view of this lake is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It is surrounded by towering granite rock formations. The view is simply majestic and is beyond any doubt, the most beautiful destination that I visited in this South Korea trip.
You have an option to walk your way up to the valley or take the 420-meter long, monorail. It has a separate fee but I recommend it as you will see the scenic view of the park.
They have activities in which visitors can participate in such as soap or candle making, glass and pottery crafts, recycling, coffee art, among others. If you want to join any of these art workshops, call them in advance to inquire at telephone numbers, +82-31-538-3485. As with me, I was contented walking around and taking pictures.
I wish I had a lot of time to explore more but I worried I might have a hard time going back to Seoul if I leave late.
How much are the fees
The locals enjoy discounted prices for the admission fees. The following shows the rates for the tourists.
Note: The currency conversion is based on October 5, 2018 exchange rates.
|Admission Fees||Adults||5,000 won ($4.43)|
|Teenagers||3,000 won ($2.66)|
|Children||1,500 won ($1.33)|
|Monorail||Adults||Round trip: 4,500 won ($3.98)|
Single trip: 3,500 won ($3.10)
|Teenagers||Round trip: 3,500 won ($3.10)|
Single trip: 2,500 won ($2.21)
|Children||Round trip: 2,500 won ($2.21)|
Single trip: 1,800 won ($1.59)
What are the business hours
- Summer (March – October) 09:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
- Winter (November – February) 09:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
- Mondays: 09:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (last admission 6:00 p.m.)
- Last admission: 2 hours before closing
- Hours (education & exhibition centers): 09:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
I really thought I could wing it on my own. I mean how hard could it be to visit the filming locations of the South Korean drama, Goblin? Hence, I didn’t book a tour, I thought it was an unnecessary expense; I thought wrong.
When you watch Korean dramas as much as I do, you’d grow a fascination over their actors, as well their the places featured in these shows. South Korean dramas like filming in beautiful locations, grand historical palaces, charming quaint cafes, and traditional or contemporary houses. Thus, doing a drama tour was one of my goals when I went to Seoul, specifically the Goblin tour.
Goblin, the drama series
I have a lot of favorites but if I have to pick one, it’s Goblin. Also called, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, this romantic fantasy series tells the story of an immortal Dokkaebi (goblin) who is searching for his bride. According to the legend, the bride is the only one capable of ending his life by pulling out the sword that was stuck through his body. It starred two of the most brilliant actors in South Korea, Gong Yoo
The drama is an international hit. In South Korea, it is the first cable drama with over 20% ratings. It has garnered numerous awards and nominations from different award-giving bodies, such as the 11th Korean Cable TV Awards, 5th Annual DramaFever Awards, 12th Seoul International Drama Awards, etc.
Goblin has a certain hook to it that draws people in. As a Korean drama fan, I thought I have seen it all until Goblin came along to break the mold. It is a well-crafted TV series made in the quality of a movie. It cast the best actors, had impressive cinematography, production design, special FX, and musical score, and most of all, it has a unique and interesting story line that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a Korean show. Hence, I made a day of a Goblin pilgrimage on my second day in Seoul.
Yongdap Station Pedestrian Bridge
But as spoiled by the title, I wasn’t so successful. In fact, the only Goblin film location that my friend and I were able to visit is the bridge that was significant to the two supporting characters, Sunny and the Grim Reaper. This location can be found at the Yongsan station.
It is 16 stations away from Hongik Univ station with 1 transfer at Seongsu station. Travel time takes about 42 minutes. At Yongdap station, we took Exit 2.
Unlike in the series, the bridge is not a busy place. It sits above a river with humongous fishes (I swear to you they are big, just watch the video at the end of this post).
The river itself is beautiful and along the banks is a park where you can see people hanging out jogging, or cycling.
Unhyeongung Western House
The next location that we tried to find is the Unhyeongung Western House, which in the series, served as the house of Goblin.
It can be found inside Duksung Women’s University, unfortunately, it is no longer open to the public. When we asked the guard, instead of telling us honestly that they no longer allow people in, he directed us to another place. Pretty soon, we realized that he was lying. We met two girls from Malaysia who was also in the middle of a DIY Goblin tour. And it is these girls who recognized the house when went inside Unhyeongung Palace. We could only see the top part of the house. I took a picture and thought it as a small consolation for our effort.
Unhyeongung Royal Residence
The trip despite not being a huge success is not a day wasted. While we were looking for the Goblin’s house, we discovered Unhyeongung Royal Residence. It used to be an old home of Emperor Gojong of the Joseon era. It has 4 gates, men and women’s quarters, and an exhibition hall that displays a collection of old items and artifacts used during that period.
Admission is free and it is open daily except
One of our major challenges is the fact that my friend and I took a while to figure out how the train system works. As a result, we didn’t have enough time to explore more. I was quite frustrated with how the day went just because I had a plan and it didn’t go the way I wanted it to be. I conclude that maybe, paying for a tour may not be such a bad after all, especially in this situation. I know that some people have been successfully doing the tour on their own but as you can see I’m not cut out for it. If you are like me who is not that good with directions, going with an organized tour may be your best bet.
By the way, if you haven’t watched Goblin yet, I suggest you do. It’s amazing, promise.