Thursday, April 14, 2011

Autumn in Namisum (Nami Island): Winter Sonata

Are you a koreanovela addict?  I was for a time and  Meteor Garden started it all.  Although Meteor Garden was a Chinese tv series set in Taiwan and is based on a Japanese Manga series called "Hana Yori Dango" (Boys Over Flowers).  I could barely remember who introduced that to me, I watched it as a "refresher course" for my mandarin language studies before I left for Beijing to study (language).  While in Beijing, weeknights was movie nights with my roommate in the comforts of our room at the dorm.  It's an excuse to learning mandarin, since it was not available in any other language but in Korean with Chinese subtitle.  It was a choice between watching 24 Hours or Korean telenovela, oddly I preferred the latter. The "Endless Love" series was the most popular then, Autumn in my Heart and Winter Sonata. The latter starred Bei Yong Jung and Choi Ji Woo and the fever continued when I came home with Hotelier and Beautiful Days.  Beautiful Days was the last I saw, you have no idea how many buckets of tears I poured with these koreanovelas --their stories were almost always tragic.  I had to stop because it was too straining to stay up all night crying and staring at those subtitles. :)  But I left a legacy, my roommates back home got addicted too, upto this day.

Since then, South Korea was on our list of must see places.  Plans didn't push through a couple of times, not until a few weeks ago when there was a sudden rush to make it happen.  As I always say, if there's a will, there's a way.  We booked a package tour with Rakso Travel,  in a week's time, we landed in South Korean soil. :)

Unfortunately, our package tour did not include a visit to Nami Island.  For me, a visit to Korea won't be complete without a visit to Nami Island, where Winter Sonata was filmed and autumn season should be the best time to go.  So we had to forego one day of our package tour and explored Nami Island on our own.

A week before the trip, I have a travel buddy who was in Seoul and advised that I need to book a tour ahead.  Autumn is peak season for Nami Island, getting there the earliest possible time is a must.

I booked a train from Cheongnyangni Station to Gapyeong Station on; we were left with no better option than to book the 6 am train; that's the only available trip for the morning.  (Read this post on how to get to Nami Island.)  Getting there early was great, we had the place to ourselves for an hour or so; later the rest of tourists and locals started coming in, thousands of them.

Nami Island used to be a deserted island, the owner started planting trees (lots of them) and fortune came when Winter Sonata was filmed here.  Winter Sonata probably is one of Korea's best tv series.  Now, the island is adorned with anything and everything related to that tv series.  It has also become the local's weekend getaway.  They picnic, bike, row, eat, play... it is especially pretty (and romantic) during autumn when leaves turns red and yellow and fall off the ground.

soju bottles turned art piece

bank of Naminara Republic

kalbi was just great!  don't miss this Sum Hyang-gi (Fragrance Restaurant) across the Unicef Hall.  There's no english sign or menu; you just hope that one of the staff can speak.

You can walk around the whole of Nami Island in two to three hours;  but it is best enjoyed doing activities or simply doing nothing.  For more information, visit

Curious about the story?  Here's the storyline of winter sonata, i had to read it again to relive the memory:

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