A Summer Day Trip from Seoul to Ganghwa Island
You might have already figured this out by now, but I love getting out of Seoul for the weekend. This past Saturday I woke up around 7am to head to the north western corner of South Korea, to an island called Ganghwa. It took about 2 hours to get to the island and then another hour and a half to get to my first destination, but staring out the window looking out on the green farmland and blue hills in the distance made the time fly by.
Two important things to note if you're planning to see Ganghwa by bus: first, the island is huge. You will not be able to see it all in a day and you should pick one section to explore. Second, the buses come of a very spread out schedule, usually once every hour or so. I got lucky in a lot of cases and my longest wait time was 45 minutes, but definitely schedule a lot of wiggle room if you aren't going by car.
My first stop was Mahogany Cafe, a huge space situated in the middle of a garden surrounded by quiet farms. The space in front of the cafe is a field of daisies that gave off such a fairytale feel! The cafe has a nice selection of pastries and cakes, and the coffee was delicious. I sat outside for a bit but then took refuge from the summer sun inside in order to charge my phone and soak up some air conditioning.
I wandered down to the bus stop and waited for about 30 minutes for my ride. Be sure to pay attention because if you don't hail the bus, they probably won't stop for you. I was reading my book but looked up every time I heard an approaching vehicle!
Originally I was planning to stop at Dongmak Beach, but because I had to be home by 5pm, I didn't want to risk waiting another hour for a bus to come. Instead, I just checked t out from the bus window. The shady areas were packed with families in tents and the beach was covered in sun bathers. Ganghwa's coastline is really shallow and famous for its 'mudflats' so you're able to walk quite far out into the ocean and only be ankle deep in water. If you're looking for a local summer hangout, definitely stop at Dongmak, but be prepared for crowds after around 12:30pm.
After a terrifying bus ride that involved flinging our bus around sharp mountain curves at breakneck speeds, I arrived at a serene spot that is Jeondeungsa Temple. It's 3,000won to enter the grounds, but you could spend hours there exploring! I only saw a fraction of what it had to offer, and most of the signs were also translated to English which was great! There was a bell from the 1090s, a fortress wall from the 1200s and, for a more modern twist, a cafe offering traditional sweets!
As I was climbing up to the temple I noticed a woman selling a strange berry on the side of the path. When heading back down to the bus, I decided to stop and ask what they were. Rather than telling me, she just told me to try one. I ended up buying a cup full for 1,000won. They tasted like cherries, had a pit, but were the shape of grapes - if anyone knows what they are, please let me know!
The last stop on my adventure was Chojijin Fortress, a site where many battles between Japan and America were fought, mainly because Ganghwa is the only land mass protecting the Han River (and that means, Seoul) from outside forces. The whole island has tons of fortress walls so no matter where you decide to explore, you'll be sure to find one!
It was a 700won fee to go into the tiny fort, but it was interesting to check out! The view was awesome too! I then walked to the main bridge, grabbed a bus, and headed home! I didn't stop to eat while I was there because of a slight stomach bug, but there were plenty of convenience stores and restaurants (lots of kalguksu!) everywhere I looked so you will not go hungry :)