Small city with much to offer attracts thousands of visitorsLocated a two-hour drive north of Seoul, Pocheon city boasts every attraction a tiny city of 150,000 people could hope to have. The region is famous for its Sanjeong Lake ― surrounded by mountains, hot springs, the Bears Town Resort, Baegun Valley, an arboretum and a herb farm called Herb Island, which has become one of the biggest attractions in the city.
Pocheon has a small-town atmosphere with peaceful and tranquil streets that suddenly fill up with cars and visitors on weekends. However, the town is regarded as a little old-hat for the many people who have already visited attractions like Sanjeong Lake. Although the lake is popular, the outdated amusement park rides located beside it give the visitor a feeling of nostalgia. Herb Island has lately been breathing new life into the area as thousands of people visit the herb farm every day.
Sited on 39,700-square meters (4 hectares) of land, Herb Island has a botanical garden, store, galbi (grilled ribs) restaurant, bakery, cafe and craft house ― all herb-related ― as well as herbal aromatherapy rooms. Inside the botanical garden are more than 100 popular herbs, such as rosemary, chamomile, lavender, bergamot, calendula, basil, chives and sorrel.
“Herbs are plants that have scents and pharmaceutical effects and are [often] edible,” according to Im Ok, the owner of the farm.
All the buildings, which resemble cabins, are built of wood. In the largest building on a small hill, the herb store sells numerous products such as soaps, scent bags, tea, coffee, candles, candy, pillows, comforters and oil, all of which are herb scented. Many of the plants are also sold in pots.
With no entrance fee ― other herb farms often charge around 5,000 won ($5.30), Herb Island attracts huge crowds at the weekends, up to 5,000 visitors, year-round. A night’s stay in an aromatherapy room with a herb spa and massage included costs 150,000 won. Visitors can also try such crafts as making herb candles and scent bags. Herb Island opens year round from 10 a.m. till 6:30 p.m. For information, call (031) 535-6494 or visit www.herbisland.co.kr.
About 30-minutes drive northeast of Herb Island is Sanjeong Lake.
“Sanjeong” literally means a well in a mountain. The perimeter of the lake is 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) long, and there is a walking path that circles the water.
The artificial reservoir was formed in 1925 and later became a tourist attraction because of its beautiful scenery. On many mornings, fog rising from the lake’s surface creates a tranquil atmosphere. The late Kim Sung Il, North Korea’s former “Dear Leader,” used to have a summer house in the area.
A large fountain shoots water several stories high from the middle of the lake. There are golden-bell trees, azaleas and cherry trees planted beside the lake and, as the city is located north of Seoul, some cherry blossoms were still on the trees last week.
Visitors seeking physical activity can rent and ride paddleboats, bumper boats or duck-shaped boats. A piloted motorboat trip around the lake is also available for 30,000 won. Rental fees for the other boats starts at 3,000 for 30 minutes in a bumper boat, and increases according to boat type (paddle boats 5,000 won and duck-shaped boats 10,000 won for 30 minutes) and the time period booked.
The entrance fee to the lake is 1,000 won per person and an additional 1,500 won will get you unlimited parking.
The Sanjeong Lake area has three lodging facilities: Hanhwa Condominiums (031-534-5500), Sanjeong Lake Youth Town (031-533-5011) and Eungok Youth Town (031-532-7425).
After hours of paddling on the lake, the hot springs in Pocheon can provide some welcome relief for tired muscles.
The area boasts two two hot spring areas ― Sinbuk and Ildong districts.
Located west of Herb Island, the Fantasium hot spring in Sinbuk district is the newest and biggest in Pocheon. It is a bicarbonate hot spring that bubbles up from 600 meters underground. There are traditional hot spring baths as well as water parks and an outdoor pool with manmade waves for families with children.
For information, call (031) 535-6700. Entrance costs 7,000 won to 17,000 won per person depending on the type of package chosen.
The three hot springs in Ildong district are smaller in scale but are still equipped with natural hot springs, saunas and indoor swimming pools.
The Pocheon National Arboretum, also known as Gwangneung Arboretum, covers an area of 1,200 acres.
It features an artificial forest with 2,844 species of plants, 15 gardens and some rare animals including the white-bellied black woodpecker, flying squirrels and long-horned beetles.
The number of visitors is limited to 5,000 daily and a reservation is required to enter. Call (031) 540-1114 for reservations. The aboretum opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
Further east of Sanjeong Lake is Baegun Valley ― a 10-kilometer (6-mile) long cleft with clear cold water flowing from Mount Baegun and Mount Gwangdeok. There are ponds and cliff rocks to frolic in along the valley.
For those who are tired of peace and tranquility, the Western Valley shooting range located in the east of Pocheon was the first private shooting range in Korea. On land covering 24 acres, visitors can experience clay target (or skeet) shooting with shotguns, or target shooting with pistol or rifle.
For information, call (031) 531-3500.
Gyodong Village in the north of Pocheon offers farm stay programs for visitors. It is a remote agricultural village with views of the Hantan River and Mount Jijangsan. Programs offered include crop and mushroom farming in spring; fishing or whitewater rafting in the Hantan River in summer; harvesting and rice plant threshing in fall and sledding or kite flying in winter.
For information, call (031) 533-1689.
by Limb Jae-un
Directions to Pocheon: Take the Dongbu Ganseon Highway bound for Uijeongbu and then the No. 43 road, or take the Jungbu Freeway, exit at the Toegyewon interchange and then take the No. 47 road.