For a Rambling Ride, Take the 'U' TrainFor many people, trains are a favorite form of transportation. Hassle-free, they'll chug you to your destination blissfully oblivious to traffic － and at the same time give you lots of opportunities to stare out of the window for lengthy periods of time. If you have a day or so spare in Seoul this summer, consider taking a trip along a suburban railroad.
From Seoul station, trains go to Uijeongbu on the direct national railroad line, and on a more meandering suburban line, which is much more fun for holidaymakers. Camp out, climb mountains, chill out in a scenic cafe or wander through a museum － all these attractions are just a short ride away on the Seoul station-Uijeongbu suburban line.
Kim Yeong-cheol, who lives in Seoul, took a train from Uijeongbu station last weekend to visit Jangheung resort, near Jangheung station. Mr. Kim and his family spent their three day summer vacation at Jangheung, and were satisfied. His two children were excited about traveling by train and his wife was pleased at the inexpensive cost of the vacation. Mr. Kim enjoyed leaving the car at home.
Upon arrival at Jangheung resort, the family put up a tent at a camping site near the valley in the resort. During the day, they spent time swimming and relaxing in the valley, or taking trips to museums and galleries by bus. In the evening they dined at a cafe with live music and then went to bed in their tent, under the stars.
"Last summer I spent over 400,000 won ($310) for a three-day family trip to Kangwon province. By the time I got back I was exhausted because of the long hours driving through heavy traffic," Mr. Kim recalled. "This summer, I spent about half that amount, and I had a better time."
The valley in Jangheung resort begins somewhere near Jangheung train station. Stretching roughly 8 kilometers from the base of the valley to the mountain ridge, the valley at this time of year offers fresh air, lush green vegetation and cold rivers. Camping sites dot the valley, including a huge site near Seokhyeoncheon, and a stream inside a chestnut forest. The camping sites charge about 1,000 won per person per night. The resort also has four swimming pools.
Not very far from Jangheung is another resort, Iryeong. The resort, set around a stream called Gokreungcheon, boasts a swimming pool that uses water from the stream. Other facilities include camping sites, bungalows and an artificial boating lake as well as many restaurants and motels. The resort is close to Iryeong station, which is itself a popular location for taking photographs.
Songchu valley, which can be reached from Uijeongbu station, stretches from Mount Dobong in Seoul. The valley, which is about 5 kilometers long, twists and turns, offering at every bend a new scenic spot to take a break. The valley has been developed as a resort, with restaurants and designated fishing points along its river.
Jangheung resort is often dubbed a "village of cafes." Many of its cafes are clustered around the Dolgogae area, the ridge within the resort (easily accessible by road).
Jakeun-yeongto (Little Territory) serves some Korean traditional dishes including country-style meals. Its specialty is surasang, the royal cuisine of the Choson dynasty. The cafe, which looks like a log cabin on the outside, is plastered with Korean hwang-to, yellow ochre-colored soil, on the inside, creating the atmosphere of a pretty traditional sitting room. It's a great place to relax and try some more exotic Korean dishes. There are two monkeys and four rabbits in the cafe's parking lot.
If a taste for the bizarre grabs you, stop by Remarque. The cafe resembles a large-scale version of a couple of the steel helmets used by the German military during World War II. The place also boasts interesting interior decor － especially if you are a military enthusiast － such as weapons, bombs and bullets. Its theme is a German military camp during the war.
Yemoegol is probably the most popular of all the cafes in Jangheung. It offers great mountain views through its huge window, and the sculpture park outside is a popular stop for wedding pictures.
Museums and Galleries
Seoul's suburbs also offer opportunities to soak up a little culture. The Latin American Cultural Center and Museum is located near Byeokje station on the Seoul station-Uijeongbu line. On permanent display at the art gallery here are over 30 works by seven painters from Latin American countries including Mexico and Argentina. The place, run by a former Korean diplomat to Mexico, also includes a museum with 2,500 Latin American relics on display. On weekdays, there are cooking classes on the Spanish traditional rice dish, paella. Reservation is required to participate in the class. For more information, call 031-962-9291.
It is best to begin your journey on the suburban line from Sinchon railway station. Trains run from Sinchon station to Uijeongbu three times a day at 6:15 a.m., 1:40 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. except on Sundays and holidays, when the 6:15 a.m. train does not run. A one-way ticket to Uijeongbu costs 1,700 won for adults and 900 won for children. For more information call Sinchon station at 02-363-7788.
by Jeon Ick-jin