Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Garden of Morning Calm

Angela and I spent all of last weekend in Gapyeong County, a scenic, mountainous region located about an hour northeast of Seoul. We stayed in love motels, rode taxis along exotic lakeside highways, and explored a colourful springtime garden, a French-style village and a sunny island republic. It was one of the most magical weekends we've spent together, not just because of the cool places we visited but because of the sense of liberation we felt, sleeping at different lodgings each night and traveling from one place to another during the day: it felt like we were already off on our backpacking trip around Asia.

The first thing we visited was the Garden of Morning Calm, a verdant oasis of flowers blossoming in a remote valley near Lake Cheongpyeong. Its creator, Professor Han Sang-Kyung, was inspired by a poem written by Sir Tagore, a great Indian poet, who described Korea as "the Land of the Morning Calm." Professor Han wanted to encapsulate this "morning calm" in a single garden, which he hoped would become world famous for its celebration of the Korean aesthetic of beauty.

We left on Friday evening and took the Seoul metro all the way to Gapyeong station. We wandered the quiet streets of the town until we found a love motel just off a main road. We were very happy with our room, considering it cost less than $25 each for the night.
We even got to enjoy a nice, hot jacuzzi in the bathroom.
The next morning we returned to Gapyeong station, since we needed to take a short train ride down to Cheongpyeong.
We saw some tacky but cool-looking buildings on the ride south.

Cheongpyeong town.
From Cheongpyeong we took a taxi to the garden entrance.
The view of the gardens as we entered them.
The first thing we did was climb a walkway up the side of a hill.

Crossing a stream via stepping stones.

The Bonsai Garden.
We had a small meal at the garden's restaurant.

Angela demonstrates the famous "I'm-sitting-in-a-well" pose.
And here she stands in one of the prettiest sections: the Sunken Gardens.

The Pagoda Valley, where visitors arranged rocks into little towers along the banks of a stream.
This pond pagoda was probably my favourite part of the gardens. Pity we weren't allowed to walk across those stepping stones.
Angela took a much prettier picture of the pagoda than I did.

Seeking shelter from the drizzle.

I think this tulip-lined lane was called the Path of Love.

The path took us towards a tiny chapel.

Soon we headed back towards the exit.

After a couple hours walking around, we left the garden, got a bus back to Cheongpyeong, and then took a taxi along the shores of nearby Lake Cheongpyeong, where we would stay that evening.
A different motel we stayed at, right next to Petite France (which will be the subject of my next blog entry).
The Garden of Morning Calm, despite the number of visitors there, definitely lived up to its namesake. It felt very Zen and calming to wander among the kaleidoscopic arrangements of flowers, and smell the fresh, blossomy air that lingered in the valley. Apparently the garden looks beautiful all year round but we were glad we got to see it in spring, when the flowers are apparently at their most vibrant.

If you're interested in visiting the Garden of Morning Calm yourself, I recommend getting the Seoul metro to Cheongpyeong via the Gyeongchun Line, then taking a taxi to the gardens. You'll probably need to show the taxi driver the Korean name: 아침고요수목원.


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