When Veeran and I went on a day trip to Gapyeong last month, Nami Island was the highlight of the day. Originally we were a little bit apprehensive about visiting since Nami Island is extremely famous for being the filming location of the popular K-Drama, Winter Sonata. Regular readers will probably know that I’m not the biggest fan of busy attractions in Korea! However, despite the crowds, we ended up absolutely loving it! We both felt like Nami Island was totally unique to anywhere that we’ve visited in Korea. Here’s why.
It’s an Independent Country!
When you arrive at the ferry port to take you to Nami Island, you’ll notice that there is an immigration counter. Don’t worry, you don’t need your passport! To help boost tourism, Nami Island declared itself a republic state and the island now has it’s own passports, currency and national flag! You can even send a postcard home with the national “Nami” stamp on it. Although this isn’t enforced very strictly, it’s still a cute little unusual quirk.
Beauty & Nature
I absolutely love Korea’s cities. But let’s be honest. The heavy pollution isn’t exactly pleasurable. And they’re not exactly the most picturesque places in the world either….
The rich nature in Nami Island provided me with a much needed escape from Korean city life. I loved chilling out near the lake and wandering through the sequoia lined streets. Plus, there was not a single overground electricity wire in sight! This might not sound like a big deal but, if you’ve lived in Korea for a while, you’ll definitely notice this! I felt like I was ACTUALLY in another country.
When I told one of my co-workers that I was visiting Nami Island the first thing he said was- “ah, there are many couples there.” Jeez, he was not wrong! I’ve not seen that many couples since the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival! This is a bit of a creepy thing to admit but I really love observing Korean dating culture. It’s so different to what we’re used to in The UK and I find lots of the practices both cute and intriguing.
Nami Island was the perfect place for “couple watching.”I spotted so many couples in matching outfits (awwww!) queuing to get their photos taken where the main characters from Winter Sonata had their first kiss. I loved all the little references to Winter Sonata around the island. Even though I’m not familiar with the drama, the message was still the same.
One of my favourite things about Nami Island was the feeling of inclusiveness and acceptance for other cultures. Having a sign saying welcome in various languages, and different countries flags on display might not seem like a bit deal to most people- but it’s a rare sight to see in Korea.
Nationalism is a complex issue that I won’t talk about in too much detail here. (See here instead.) The people of Korea are extremely proud of their country, and they have good reason to be, too. Korea has developed really quickly since its days as a third world country. However, sometimes these feeling of pride are manifested in messages of hate. I know that for the majority of foreigners, this is one part of the culture that can be difficult to deal with.
It would be really amazing if the message of love and inclusiveness that I witnessed on Nami Island could spread to the rest of the mainland. I really hope that, with all the money that’s being invested into educating today’s youth, this could be a sign of things to come for Korea.
Art lovers and photographers will have a field day at Nami Island. I’ve talked before about how I love finding little pockets of creativity in Korea, and I was definitely satisfied at Nami! Everything on the island seemed to have been thoughtfully designed and have an aesthetic purpose. Every corner I turned around I was surprised by statues, murals and quaint little tea houses. It actually took us so long to walk around it because we wanted to take photos of everything! Make sure you charge your cameras. 🙂
Even though Nami Island isn’t officially it’s own country, it definitely feels like it’s own unique little utopia, barely a stones throw away from busy Seoul. For anyone wanting to escape busy city life and enjoy some nature and creativity, I highly recommend a trip to Nami Island.
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think is the most romantic place in Korea!