If you’re a regular here on my blog, then you know that my sweet baby boys–who aren’t babies anymore–are about to start kindergarten. And to bid farewell to our carefree days at home and welcome in a new era of having school-aged children, we decided to take a fun-filled family trip out of Seoul! Having experienced the insanity of travel on weekends, my husband decided to take a couple days off from work, and we planned our trip for Sunday through Tuesday. That way, we could avoid the mass exodus out of Seoul on Saturday mornings and the hectic trip back to Seoul on Sundays. The last time we traveled to the Chuncheon area, what should have been a 90 minute drive took us nearly 3 hours. Lesson learned… We left Seoul on Sunday morning and made it to our destination in 90 minutes flat. The drive home was even better. Door to door in 80 minutes! How’s that for efficiency?? I found a wonderful little pension–Dabol Pension–just outside of a town that we’d driven through the last time we were in the area. We’d seen a little amusement park, another bike rail park, and lots of ATVs and bike paths, and we had promised the kids we’d take them back. The drive from the pension to the little town of Gangchon took less than 10 minutes, and the place was perfect. I specifically searched for a place with a pool, and this place delivered! The pool was perfect for my little 5 year old swimmers. The water was no deeper than 2 feet, and the slide… Well, it was endless hours of entertainment! The only downside (for parents) is that the pool water is pumped directly from the little mountain stream that runs behind the pension. Meaning it’s COLD. ICE COLD. The kids didn’t seem to care. At all. Dabol Pension offers several different accommodation styles from Western style rooms for couples and/or families (with lofted bedrooms, kitchens and private patios) to Korean style rooms for larger groups (up to 10 people) and caravan/campers. Our family loves to go camping, and our kids especially love “car-houses,” so we opted for the camper. It was perfect for our family of 5. Inside, there’s a full sized bed and a set of twin sized bunk beds, a small kitchenette with electric stove, fridge, and dining table, and a bathroom. It also has air conditioning–woohoo! The built-on patio also had a charcoal grill and a table with weather screen in case of rain. It didn’t rain while we were there, but the screen did a decent job of keeping the bugs at bay. Prices vary by time of year and day of week, but for our quiet non-weekend trip, the rates were very reasonable. 130,000W per night for 2 people, plus an additional 10,000W for each of our older children. Our youngest–who is 2.5 years old–didn’t count. 😉 The various rates are published on their website, but here are the general prices: Caravans (2 people included in rate/4 person maximum) 130,000W for weekdays/150,000W for weekends Western-style rooms (4 people included in rate/8 person maximum) 150,000W for weekdays/180,000 for weekends Korean-style rooms (10 people included in rate/10-12 person maximum) 250,000W for weekdays/300,000W for weekends) Prices for peak season are higher (peak season dates vary each year). Aside from our fun at the pension, our 3 day trip to Gangchon was filled with excitement for our little ones. We hit the bike rails first: If you’ve never heard of the bike rails in Gapyeong-gun, they’re an ingenious way to use old, out-of-use railroad tracks. There are 2 seaters (25,000W) and 4 seaters (35,000W), and you just pedal down the railroad tracks and enjoy the view! The last one we rode, which started at Gyeonggang Station, began and ended at the station. Halfway down the tracks, you were spun around and sent back to the station. The one we rode this time (starting at Gangchon Station) was 8.2km long and ended at Kimyookyung Station, which took about an hour and 15 minutes. From there, a shuttle bus took us back to Gangchon Station. The entire trip took about 2 hours. If you’re looking for a leisurely stroll, I would suggest taking the one at Gyeonggang Station. It was much easier! This one was definitely a work-out, especially since my 5 year olds are just a little too short to help with the pedaling! Oh, and another helpful tidbit–children up to 36 months old can be held on your lap. However, if you have a family of 4 and are able to seat your little one in a seat, do that because it’s MUCH harder to pedal with a kid sitting on your lap. Just ask my husband. After our bike rail adventure, which included going through a tunnel–complete with fluorescent lights and Gangnam Style blasting on speakers (only in Korea!!!), we ate lunch and ventured over to one of several “adventure parks” in town for some kart racing and ATV rides. Both were a HUGE hit, and really… Both were experiences that our 5 year olds AND our 2 year old would never have in the US, quite simply because of something called Safety Standards! For the kart racing, they just strapped our 2 year old in with one of the 5 year olds, told my husband that the second steering wheel that my son had control of also steers the vehicle so don’t drive too fast and sent them on their way! I was in another kart with the other 5 year old, and I had to MANHANDLE my steering wheel to keep us on the track. 20,000W pays for 15 minutes on the track, which was more than enough to satisfy me, but maybe not the kids… 😉 After the kart racing, we went for the ATVs. 20,000W got us the ATVs for a full hour, and like the kart racing, they weren’t too concerned about safety–haha! We strapped our 2 year old into the Ergo on my husband’s back and off we went! There are numerous trails around town, and all they asked is that we not go into town. All of us had an absolute blast, and my boys deemed the day THE BEST DAY EVER. What more can you ask for? Back at the pension, there was more pool-time, some hanging out on hammocks and grilling. Oh, and if you thought you had to start heating up your charcoal an hour before you planned to grill your meat, then you’ve never experienced Korean grilling. This was our first day’s lighting of the charcoal. Day 2 got a lot more efficient. Why, yes! That’s a blow torch! Our coals were red hot and ready to go in 15 minutes flat. Korean efficiency at its best. If you’re looking for a place to go with (or without) kids, I would definitely recommend this area. It’s not a far drive, there’s so much to do, and the beauty of the Korean country/mountainside never gets old.
The amazing metropolis of Seoul, despite its many challenges, has so much to offer for families with small children, and I’ve found over the past year and a half we’ve lived here that there’s no shortage of fun things to do. However, sometimes, we just need to get out of the city, breathe some fresh air and relax so we planned a camping trip to the small town of Gapyeong, just 90 minutes drive east of Seoul for Memorial Day weekend. We invited some friends to join us, and since we were traveling with camping newbies, we decided to go to a campground that we’ve been to before–just to keep things simple.
Camping in Korea is not quite like camping in the U.S. There are two different types of campgrounds: national parks and privately owned grounds. I haven’t tried camping at any of the national parks, so I don’t know how easy/difficult it is for foreigners to reserve a spot, but camping at privately owned campgrounds couldn’t be easier. If you’re a camping pro with all of your own equipment, sites range from 15,000W/night to 35,000W/night, but if you’re new to camping, don’t want to invest in all the equipment or you left your camping gear in storage back home, fully equipped campsites (tent, sunshade/tarp, tables, chairs, gas grill, gas lantern, and cooking gear) are 100,000W/night to 150,000W/night.
For our recent trip, we went to a campground called Allyman Camping. This is our third trip there, and we really love the place. Compared to other campgrounds that I’ve looked at, this site is the most secluded and private, although this observation comes solely from photos of other campgrounds I’ve seen online. 😉
The drive out there was a tough one. We left the city around 10:30am, along with what seemed like every other single person living in Seoul. We were on the Gyeongchun Expressway (Hwy 60) for nearly 2 hours, at times going less than 10km/hr. Ugh… And when we stopped at the Gapyeong rest area for lunch, it was packed. On the bright side, I randomly ran into a friend and her family at the rest area, which was a nice treat! A trip that should have taken approximately 90 minutes ended up taking 3 hours. So, note to self: leave the city EARLY to beat the Saturday traffic! Thankfully, all the children kept it together, and when we finally arrived at the campgrounds, they were elated, running out of the car straight to the trampoline.
Our campsite was fully prepped and ready to go when we arrived. Three tents, a very large sunshade, tables, chairs… You really can’t beat arriving at a campsite and just kicking your feet up!
Aside from the trampoline, there are water sports available right at the campground: motor boat rides (20,000W for 20 minutes), kayaking (20,000W for 1 hour rental, both 1 and 2 person kayaks available), wake boarding, banana boat riding, and peanut boat riding. I’m not really sure what the last two are, but I think they involve riding a banana/peanut shaped float while being pulled by a boat. If you’re not into water sports, but just want to sit and enjoy the view of the river, the dock has a shaded area with tables and chairs so you can sit, drink and enjoy.
If you’d rather stay on dry land, then there’s plenty to do in the Gapyeong area such as taking a trip out to Nami Island, riding the Bike Rails (post to come), eating ddalkgalbi (spicy chicken stir-fry, the regional specialty), ATV rentals, bungee jumping, and more! The only downside to Allyman Campgrounds is that it’s a bit of a drive to reach any of the local attractions. Nami Island and the Bike Rails are approximately 45 minutes drive away.
We had originally hoped to ride ATVs, but the manager of the campground told us that he couldn’t in good conscience recommend the ATV rental place nearby (it’s on the way to the campground), especially not for small children because there isn’t a set trail. Instead, he recommended we take the kids to the Bike Rails, which turned out to be a huge hit (post on the Bike Rail coming soon!). If you’re interested in riding ATVs and don’t have small children to consider, pricing tends to range from 10,000W to 15,000W for a specified distance or time.
The Bike Rails are just what the name infers. Old, out-of-commission railroad tracks have been turned into a fun family activity. You rent a bike (either 2-person or 4-person bikes) and you get to pedal yourself along the old railroad tracks, enjoying the beautiful riverside scenery along the way. To make it more fun (and less work), uphill climbs are motorized so you can stop pedaling, and downhill rides are well, just fun! There are several locations to ride the Bike Rails in the Gapyeong area, and my boys made us promise to take them again to the one where they get to pedal through a mountain tunnel. 🙂
The second night we were there, the weather was not in our favor and the day’s occasional rain showers turned into a torrential downpour. Fortunately, the large sunshade/tarp kept us dry, and after we got the kids in bed, we spent our evening sitting by the fire, drinking beers and listening to the rain. Not a bad way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Allyman campground is nearly impossible to find if you don’t have a GPS (or a reliable map/app on your smartphone). The address is: Gangwon-do, Chuncheon-si, Nam-myun, Gwanchun-ri 383 (or 380). My Woori Navi (English navigation) system had difficult time locating the address because there’s really nothing out there, so be sure you have a good idea of where you’re going before you get in your car. You can copy and paste this address into Naver Maps to pinpoint it: 강원도 춘천시 남면 관천리 380
The price depends on when you’re going (weekday v. weekend and off-peak v. peak season).
If you’re bringing your own gear: Mon-Thurs: 25,000W/night, Fri-Sun: 30,000W/night or 35,000W/night during peak season
If you want the full set-up: Mon-Thurs: 100,000W/night, Fri-Sun: 120,000W/night or 130,000W/night and 145,000W/night during peak season, respectively.
The dates of peak season are generally the end of July and the first couple weeks of August.
- If you’re interested in reserving a spot at Allyman Campgrounds, you’ll need to enlist the help of a Korean-speaking friend. The manager doesn’t speak any English, and payment is required in advance via bank transfer. If you don’t have a Korean bank account, you can go to an Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) branch and deposit payment into the Allyman account.
- Saturdays are generally booked well in advance, especially during peak season (July and August). If you can swing a mid-week camping trip, then chances are you’ll have the place to yourself.
- Bring your own firewood. Firewood is available at the campground, but it’s approximately 3 times more expensive if you purchase it at the site. On previous visits, we purchased firewood at the campgrounds and spent over 150,000W on firewood alone for a 2 night stay. This time, we wised up, purchased firewood in advance and took it with us. We purchased from Chamnamunara (website in Korean only), and the best part? They deliver (within Seoul) for free! Be sure to order it a few days in advance if you’d like to have it delivered. We purchased 8 cords at 10,000W each (plus, Chamnamunara threw in a huge bag of kindling for free) and brought 3 back with us, so 5 cords of wood should be enough to keep your fire going for a 3 day/2 night camping trip. One thing to keep in mind though–firewood takes up a lot of space! Taking your own firewood is great if you have the space in your car, but if you don’t, then just mentally prepare yourself for the cost of firewood at the campground and work it into your camping budget.
- Fires are only allowed in the designated fire pits (provided), and they come with a rack that allows you to cook over the fire. However, grill grates are not provided. You can purchase disposable grill grates at Emart (5,000W to 7,000W, depending on size). Also, if you intend to cook over your campfire, don’t forget to bring your own tongs!
- Bring your own bedding, food, drinking water, and toilet paper! There’s plenty of running water–men and women’s restrooms as well as a separate shower room for both men and women. There’s also an area for washing dishes; however, you’re on your own for drinking water. Also, the showers are Korean style, meaning it’s just one large room with several shower heads. No stalls for privacy! So if you’re not comfortable showering in a space where someone can walk in and see you in your birthday suit, be prepared to be stinky or just shower really early in the morning when all the Koreans are sleeping off their night of soju consumption. 😉 And ladies, guard your toilet paper. Don’t leave it in the bathroom with the intention of sharing it with your camping neighbors. Someone will take it.
- Bring your own gas canisters for the gas range and gas lanterns. You can find them at Emart or Homeplus. We took a 4 pack, which was plenty.
- You are responsible for separating your trash–paper, plastic, glass, cans, regular trash, and food trash. The best way to do it is to take extra plastic bags and separate as you go. Collect all your food trash after each meal and dump it into the food trash bin immediately. While we haven’t seen or experienced any wild animals at the campground, there are plenty of bugs and birds looking to get into your garbage. There’s also a designated area to dispose of the embers/ashes from your fire pit.