Morning Calm Arboretum Spring Flower Festival 2014

Morning Calm Arboretum Spring 2014-4

The second half of my day trip to Nami Island was a visit to the  Morning Calm Arboretum. I had visited before a year ago for the winter Lighting Festival, but wanted to see it in the full light of the spring blooming season.

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It is actually reasonably easy to combine the two places into one day trip. They are linked by the Gapyeong Resort Shuttle Bus that runs from Gapyeong Station to Morning Calm Arboretum on an hourly basis, and it takes a little over an hour to get from Nami Island to Morning Calm Arboretum under normal traffic conditions.

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I was done with Nami Island by noon, so I figured I would hit the arboretum by 1330 and be on the train back to Seoul by 1700. Well…that was the intention anyway, but the reality was far different. The next shuttle bus was due at 1215, but over an hour and a half later, that bus still had not arrived. Finally a bus did arrive, and I got on it, but it only went as far as Petit France, which is a fake French theme park between Nami Island and Morning Calm Arboretum.

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Eventually a bus did arrive, and I figured I was home free to get to the arboretum and enjoy a couple hours of viewing before heading home. Again, that was the plan. However, this was a day when the bus ran into the absolutely horrific Korean traffic in places. Due to the VERY long line to get a parking space, it took the bus well over an hour to arrive at the arboretum. By this point, I had about an hour and a half to enjoy the flowers before having to catch a bus back.

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After all this waiting (which isn’t something I am particularly good at) in the hot sun, my mood was a bit surly, and wasn’t helped by the hordes of crowds at the garden. But once I was able to relax and take in all the colorful flowers, my blood pressure stopped dropping.

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The one upside to this extended delay is that I missed the harsh overhead sunlight in the middle of the day, and instead was treated to the softer, more attractive light from the setting sun. I still wish I had more time to enjoy the garden, because there were so many beautiful flowers. The azaleas were about at peak bloom. The multi-colored tulips were throughout the garden, and a wide variety of other wild flowers was interspersed throughout the gardens.

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The arboretum is a very beautiful place to visit, though you will definitely have to fight through the considerable crowds in the afternoon.If I had to go again, I would go in early morning right when it opens around 0830.  I’ve found that the best time to visit any popular place in Korea is in the morning, because crowds don’t tend to show up until late morning/early afternoon.

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Getting back to Seoul from Morning Calm Arboretum is pretty easy. There is a bus that leaves on the hour heading toward Cheongpygeong Station, which is a stop on the metro line and the ITX line back to Seoul. If you love beautiful flowers, this is definitely a great place to see them.

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Morning Calm Arboretum Lighting Festival

Morning Calm Arboretum Sunken Garden wide view

 

What’s a public garden in a cold climate supposed to do in the winter? Sure, you can stay open all year around, but for the most part, the beautiful flowers people like to see at gardens are hibernating for the winter. Of course gardens can also close, and some of them do, until spring when new flowers bloom. Or gardens can take the step that the Morning Calm Arboretum in Korea does and host a lighting festival. Sure the garden is open during the day and you can walk around the gardens and take in the snow-covered views. But the real action starts when the sun sets, and the garden comes alive with all the lights. Shrubs and trees are covered in all shades of colored lights imaginable.

Morning Calm Arboretum beautiful lights of Sunken Garden

Morning Calm Arboretum Hometown Garden beautiful lights

All of a sudden, you are transported into a fantasy world, albeit a crowded fantasy world filled with many, many people jockeying for position to take the best photos. While beautiful, this is definitely not the place to come if you want peaceful solitude, where you can just sit back and take in the view. Or I should say, you can’t really contemplate the view from any viewpoint that attracts a lot of people. Everyone is impatient for their turn to take pictures ( I know I was), so you take the pictures you can, take in the view from the viewpoints for a couple minutes and then just walk around and enjoy the lights and block out the people (if that is your thing like it is mine). When I was focused on just seeing the lights and not worried about taking pictures, time just sort of slowed down and it was more about enjoying the moment and experience for what it was.  The Sunken Garden is the main attraction, where most of the lights are located. But there are also three other lighted areas: the Hometown Garden, the Bonsai Garden, and the Road to Heaven pathway.

Morning Calm Arboretum night lights in snow

The Morning Calm Arboretum Lighting Festival takes place every year from approximately early December to early March. During the lighting festival weekends, the garden is open until 2100. The earliest sun will set is around 1730 near winter solstice and gets progressively later as time goes on. When I was there this past Saturday, sun set around 1815 and the lights came on right around that time.

me with Morning Calm Arboretum Sunken Garden view

Getting to the Morning Calm Arboretum is a bit time consuming, but still pretty straightforward. Since I don’t want to drive in Korea, I elected to take public transportation. I took the Metro and a bus all the way there. In Seoul, take a train to Sangbong station, which is a stop on the Metro Line#7 or the Jugang Line. Transfer to the Gyunchen Line subway headed toward Chuncheon. An alternate means is to take an ITX train from Yongsan, Cheongnyangi, or Sangbong (among other stations) headed toward Chuncheon. The ITX train is undoubtedly quicker, and just slightly more expensive. It however doesn’t run quite as frequently as the Metro. Either way, you will exit the train at the Cheongpyeong Station. From there, go around the back of the train station to catch a bus. There is a shuttle bus that runs from Gapyeong Terminal to the Morning Calm Arboretum on regular intervals throughout the day. The shuttle bus will stop at key tourist sites, such as Nami Island, Petit France and Morning Calm Arboretum. An all day bus ticket with cost 5,000 won per person. The ride from Cheongpyeong Station to Morning Calm Arboretum is approximately 30 minutes. Ticket prices for the Lighting Festival is 8,000 won per adult. A note if you take the shuttle bus there. The last bus is scheduled to leave from the arboretum at 2000, and keep in mind there will be a line of people headed back to the train station.  So keep that in mind if you want to sit down for the 30 minute ride back to the train station. Taxis will also be available, though there is also a  line for them as well. Travel time from central Seoul to Cheongpyeong Station is approximately two hours each way.

More information for the Morning Calm Arboretum can be found at their website: http://morningcalm.co.kr/

The website is in both English and Korean. The Morning Calm Arboretum is open year round, the views change throughout the year thanks to the changing seasons.