This is a late post from Korea (sorry for the delay!) There were two large displays of Christmas lights north of Seoul that I/we were pretty interested in seeing: the lights in Santa Claus Village (though really all over) Pocheon Herb Island and the Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival. We decided we would do one of them and while I originally wanted to do Morning Calm, I decided on Pocheon Herb Village. The journey was going to be pretty much equally long for either but the Herb Village had cheaper entrance fees and offered more things to do/sites to see in the day as well. Technically, we could still do the Calming Festival, but really we would spend more time getting to these places than we could at them and there were still other things we want to do.
While looking up how to get there I enjoyed reading this person’s post on how to get to Pocheon Herb Village because it reminded me of us trying to get everywhere. I would just like to say something. It seems everyone else in Korea had a Korean sim card which let you get wifi everywhere and they have service, data, etc. With this you can get apps and know what time buses and metro come and leave, how to get anywhere from anywhere, GPS to get around, translating apps which both say and spell out words in Hangul and Korean-English to ask people for help, you can translate signs and menus, find a place to eat, and more. Aka your life is easy-peasy. Well that was not the case for us because we have none of that but I think we still did fine.
Anyway, back to Pocheon Herb Village. Another reason I chose it: We were able to just take Line 1 all the way from Songtan to Soyosan! (And then take a bus, of course). According to the website when I typed it in when planning the trip, it would be a little over 3 hrs from our station to Soyosan. Of course it did not end up being straight there. Like when went to Bukhansan National Park, we had to get on another train at Kwangoon University stop, plus I had to get off somewhere to use the restroom.
We arrived in the early afternoon. I had hoped we would be able to see some of Herb Island before nightfall which was earlier at this time of year, especially this far north. I had looked it up online and determined we would want to take either bus 57 or bus 57-1. When we came out of the metro station there was a bus stop immediately in front of us. To the right it listed a bunch of bus numbers including Bus 57 so I thought “hmmm.” Kyle felt satisfied in assuming that the bus would be coming right in front of us but every account I had read online involved crossing the street (where there was also a bus stop). I could not ignore this so we crossed the street and checked it out. It listed a bunch of buses, including 57-1 but on a screen we thought might display the next buses coming (it listed around 5 or so), 57-1 was not on it which then made me question this as well since it should have been arriving within 25 minutes (according to one of the time tables I had looked up online). I had actually looked at several that indicated otherwise but I felt this one seemed the best and was the most recent.
We really didn’t know what to do. We crossed the street back and went and looked at a map of the area and it looked pretty interesting. We also walked down the street a little just to check things out. When it was coming close we ultimately decided to cross the street and wait at that bus stop. When the time came, the bus did not arrive (but the bus did not arrive across the street either). Maybe the time table was wrong and a different one was right? In which case we would need to wait another 20 or 30 minutes. I thought we should make just walk down the street a little to see if there was another station we somehow missed but Kyle was bent on checking out a Memorial the Koreans had made for Belgium and Luxembourg up a long flight of stairs behind us. He said “The bus will probably come as soon as we get up there.” I said, “Yes, it will, let’s wait.” (Do you know what is going to happen next?) But he proceeded up and I followed to the top and listened to some dogs making strange barks in someone’s yard and looked at the memorial which was fairly interesting looking.
After a couple of minutes we see the bus. Son of a nutcracker! Well there is no way we were going to make it because like the trains, those Korean bus drivers don’t mess around. It arrives, people leave, and then there is barely time for anyone to get on before it is off again. Korea is all about efficiency. For whatever reason, even after the bus left Kyle continued running down the stairs as if it would somehow that would fix this. Seriously, at that point why not look at the memorial a little more? According to whatever table I saw that accurately predicted this bus (it was about six minutes late), the next bus would not be coming for a couple hours, and with a forty minute to hour bus ride, we were not going to see it before dark. Of course I gave Kyle “the look.”
Well it was either head into Seoul and do something else I had planned through pictures on my phone for a different day or explore around here. Ultimately we decided we would explore the area a little since we were there and that we would take the train to Herb Village anyway when it came and we would not miss it. Spoiler: This is not the failure that the Banpo Bridge was, thank the elves.
We returned to the map and both thought it would be nice to do a hike. Kyle said he knew where to go and I followed. We went down the road a little bit (across the street) and then followed a road up the mountain. We walked down for a little while and while there was not quite as much as at Bukhansan, there were still some street vendors selling food and shops selling hiking gear in a similar way and set up. We made our way into the mountain
It was a pretty walk up with a stream and some small bridges.
Off to the side at one point (I didn’t get a picture), there were some girls practicing some traditional Korean music involving drum-like instruments on a stage.
We also saw a statue which reminded Kyle of the Avatar series (not the movie).
We continued up. We wished we had time to do another hike before we left but unfortunately would not. We got to an area to pay (KRW 1000, less than a dollar) to go further and we would have except that we were going to need to turn around soon anyway so we headed down the other side which was supposed to have some shopping. Most of the places there were actually closed, though. We saw a family of kitties outside of a restaurant, though! They couldn’t decide if they were afraid of us or not. Finally we headed back down to the bus station. We didn’t want to miss it this time.
We still got down a little early though and we were both hungry. I had just had crackers and candy and Kyle had something similar and it was getting later. There was a restaurant right behind the station which appeared to serve Bibimbap which was something Kyle really wanted to try before we left and that had the potential to be vegetarian.
We went inside and had a good view of the bus station so we could keep an eye on it. There was just one woman in there who was finishing up a meal (and appeared to be sick) and the woman running the place. Kyle pointed to what we wanted and said “No meat.” She repeated it back and did an X with her fingers (I think Kyle did it too). I think they went back and forth a few more times and then she asked if we wanted egg and he said no because they kind of scramble it in there we think and I don’t like it that way. She cooked up our meal and came out with 3 small servings of (different) kimchi and the decent-sized bowl of Bibimbap. She then also brought two soups. Kyle thought one was Miso soup but it tasted really fishy to me so I gave it to him. The other one was Oxbone soup. Obviously neither of these were vegetarian but whatever, so far they were doing better than most places. I guess they didn’t technically have meat in them but I did not eat them of course.
We were obviously not doing the right thing with the Bibimbap because then she came to instruct us on how to eat it. Overall it ended up being pretty good and the bus came again not long after we finished the meal which was quite cheap. She gave us an orange each for dessert which was nice as well.
We got on the bus, let the driver know where we were heading and got a confirmation from another Korean passenger that we were on the correct bus. Once we arrived at the stop which we almost missed, we walked down a road a little bit, turned left and then bought our tickets and headed up a hill to Pocheon Herb Village.
The place was really cute! We began by using the bathrooms and headed out to explore.
I loved the little Venice area and it was still light at this time. You can even ride a gondola but we decided it wasn’t in the budget considering we had to pay for extra transportation here plus the tickets (though they were not too much). Luckily we had already eaten the bibimbap because the food here was a little more expensive as well, though we had heard it was good.
There was an area with various disney characters which we came to next. We were able to actually watch the lights turn on in this area which was pretty exciting.
Other areas includes a bakery with a delicious aroma wafting outside of it (I read that their garlic bread was very good but we did not try it), people selling various herbs, a shop/play room, a dinosaur area, a flower shop, a “street of memories” (set up like the childhoods of the older Koreans), an herb museum, and more. We enjoyed the Santa Claus village, though the whole place was lit up.
The next bathroom that we came across, and I used, was also themed. It had to be the best smelling bathroom I have been in as the room was full of herbal plants.
We came across several gift shops which had some really cute things we would have liked for us or for gifts for others but many of them would just not have been able to be sent via mail or were a little more expensive for us. At one of the shops they were giving out sample of peppermint herbal tea which was good but very strong.
We also enjoyed just wandering around and looking at all of the lights.
The lights actually last several months but are not around all year. In the spring (I have read) you are able to see more flowers blooming and herbs growing so I am sure that is also a nice time to visit.
All in all, though it was a little tiring getting there, it was a really nice holiday outing and I am glad we went.