Monday, 29 April 2013

Namiseom - A Sunlit Island Community: Part 1

The final part of our weekend in Gapyeong took Angela and me to a place called Nami Island, or Namiseom. This small, half-moon-shaped island rests in the Bukhan River near the border between the provinces of Gyeonggi and Gangwon. It's a popular retreat for families and couples, and is famous for its tree-lined pathways and breezy, relaxed atmosphere. We didn't really know what to expect from the place, but we pretty much fell in love with it the moment we got off the ferry. The island felt like a secluded, woodland hideaway, with tiny, exotic villages, statues and walkways nestled among its many poplars and sequoia trees. It was the highlight of our weekend in Gapyeong, which says a lot given how much we already loved Petite France and the Garden of Morning Calm.

Arriving at Gapyeong Station in the afternoon.
Rather than get a taxi or bus, we walked to the ferry port, passing farms and rural suburbs.

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and many families and couples were heading for the island.
Right over the Bukhan River we saw this bungee jumper.

After a 20-minute walk from the station, we soon reached the ferry port for Namiseom. In 2006, the island declared itself as a self-governing country called the Naminara Republic. It established its own currency, flag, insignia, passports and telephones cards, and in order to reach the island, we had to pass through these mock immigration facilities, while our ferry tickets were presented as entry visas.

The ticket collectors were dressed as police officers.
The passport, currency and stamps for the country. Fortunately we didn't have to change our money as the Korean won is widely accepted at Naminaran shops and establishments!
We watched our ferry arrive. For most of the day, ferries run every 10 minutes.
Boarding the ferry.

You can also zipline to the island. Maybe on our next visit we'll take this route.
Waving to other ferrygoers on their way back to Gapyeong.
Almost at the island.

From the moment we arrived, we were taken aback by the amount of statues, sculptures and other artistic constructions that seemed to cover the whole island.

The island is populated by long-eared squirrels like this one.

There are no cars on the island, but plenty of people travel by bicycle.
Beach huts with their own stockpiles of books.
A pretty pond not far from the ferry port.
The island is named after General Nami, a 15th century military commander who was executed after being wrongly accused of treason. His body was entombed here on the island.
The island is known for its pretty tree-lined avenues. This one was decorated with balloons.

Lots of families and couples were out picnicking in the clearings.

Namiseom has two ostriches - brother and sister - as its mascots. Apparently the giant birds are sometimes allowed to walk freely around the island, though they were in a pen when we visited.

A cool - if somewhat creepy - photo that Angela took.

A reconstructed early hominid village.

Crossing a glass-bottle-lined bridge.
The island's tourist information office is disguised as "Naminara Republic Central Bank."
Not sure what this was. A steam-punk variation of Predator, perhaps?
Angela, jumping across a stream.

Click here to continue the adventure in Part 2!

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