Monday, September 22, 2014

Suncheon Bay Ecological Park & Garden

Are you getting frustrated with the lack of beautiful things in your city? Do you look out the window of your tiny flat only to see yet another ugly apartment building a stone's throw away? Do you look out of your other window to see an ugly street covered in trash? 

Baby, if that's you, go to Suncheon for the weekend. Bask in the nature. You won't regret it! 

I mentioned that it rained A HECK OF A LOT in August, and I was going stir-crazy in my apartment (and I even have a pretty view of a hill with a cemetery here, unlike my first two apartments in Korea), so when a friend of a friend mentioned she was going to Suncheon, I jumped on the chance to see some beautiful nature with a buddy! 

Maria and I quickly became fast friends (pun!) and talked the whole bus ride down to the coast. We had directions saved on my phone but as we got off the bus, a guy in front of us struck up a conversation in English. He wanted to "practice his English"* and wondered if we wanted to share a cab to the Ecological Park, since we were all headed that way. I should point out that Maria is gorgeous and blonde, which always gets attention in Korea, and that plus my general adorableness pretty much means we scored a FREE TOUR GUIDE FOR THE WHOLE DAY! Yessssss! I mean, who wouldn't want to spend the day with two pretty girls surrounded by pretty nature? 

*For the record: Some guys use "can I practice my English?" as a pickup line on foreign girls. Be careful if it's used on you. I usually say no. We didn't pick up on any creeper vibes, so we cautiously agreed. If either of us had been alone, it would not have been a good idea to get in a cab with a stranger and we wouldn't have done it. We are not foolish. We had the buddy system and I carry a knife and a cell phone and a willingness to do some damage on a fool who tries any funny business. Don't you fret. Safety first! 

Our new friend genuinely did just want to practice his English. He had recently quit his job in Busan and was planning to travel for a while before deciding on the big What's Next. We became facebook friends later (because this is my life. I meet strangers and they end up being really cool and want to stay in touch and it's legit) and he's headed to France soon to meet up with his girlfriend. They met in Australia and have dated long distance for a couple of years. 

Anyway, we first headed to Suncheonman Bay Ecological Park, a coastal preservation wetland area that is also called the Field of Reeds. Admission is 5,000 won for adults and includes a ticket to the Suncheon Bay Garden. WIN! 

It was raining. AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. 

So much beauty!! 

Sangmo (our buddy/guide) told us that it's the most beautiful in late October, but early September was pretty darn beautiful. The fields were still green, the reeds were tipped with rusty gold, and the dark clouds against the mountains provided a perfect backdrop. The breeze that accompanied the rain made the reeds dance. We walked through the fields and saw birds and creatures all over the place. Sigh!!! Nature! I wish I knew more about birds. I know we saw a lot of rare birds and I bet my grandpa would have LOVED IT and gotten some lifers for his list (lifer = a bird he sees for the first time in his life. My grandpa is a bird-watcher. Ornithology is his thing. It's really cool!). Suncheonman Bay is also renowned for its beautiful sunsets, but we couldn't stay that long. Note for the future: go visit in late October and stay for the sunset. And bring Ompa so he can tell me about the birds. 

Crab! Ayyyy. Ayyyyy. 

Clouds couldn't ruin this paradeHey Mr. Arnstein, here I am! 

The Blue Heron Tunnel of Hope,
or something along those lines.

After a long walk through the Ecological Park, we skipped the observatory/exhibit (who wants to look at stuff about nature inside when there's actual nature to see outside??) and took a taxi over to the Suncheon Bay Garden. This was originally the site of an international ‘Garden of the Earth’ Garden Expo in the summer of 2013, and they've kept up the garden site. It is also very very beautiful, even in the rain. AND, I guarantee it was not as crowded this summer, and it definitely wasn't crowded the day we were there because of the rain. WIN AGAIN!  

After a quick stop for ice cream (because, of course), we popped into the greenhouses. There were all sorts of exotic plants and it even had a replica garden from ancient Korea. I didn't take pictures of that, cause I'm not all that interested in fake plants, but it's there if you want to see it. My favorite part of the greenhouses were the warning signs not to touch the plants, because "the flowers feel pain." 

The flowers might feel pain... but do they really need a sign telling us not to touch the cactus??? Any curious kid has learned not to touch cactus, right? The flowers aren't the only ones feeling pain when you touch those fuzzy little needles of death! Yowza. 

It started pouring after we toured the greenhouses, and Sangmo, always the gentleman, spent the next couple of hours following Maria around with her umbrella while she took photos of everything! There was so much to see! And document! We blew up our instagram feeds that afternoon. Maria inherited a love for gardens from her late grandmother, so this garden was especially meaningful for her. 

The views are so pretty, even on a stormy afternoon. It is so manicured and cared for, it felt almost like a golf course with more flowers. It isn't the organic beauty that you get at the Ecological Park, of course, but it is breathtaking. We saw a lot of couples and families walking around, arm in arm, through the gardens. So. Adorable. 

This might come as a shock to you, but Maria and I started singing show tunes while we wandered through the flowers in the rain. I know. I hardly ever bust out into song in public places. I made an exception, just this once. 

"In the rain the pavement shines like silver. All the lights are misty in the river. In the darkness, the trees are full of starlight, and all I see is him and me forever and forever!"

Sangmo was entertained and Maria said something like "man, I wish I could just burst into song like this all the time." Um... that's pretty much my life. Hi. Welcome. 

Sniff sniff


We had such a lovely rainy adventure! What a pleasure to get to know Sangmo and let him tell us all about the park and garden and get us where we needed to be. Much more efficient than trying to tackle the buses on our own. He even made sure we got on the correct bus to go home at the end of the day. Such. A. Gentleman. With the added bonus of learning another story and sharing a little bit of life with him. The give and take, you know? There's always something to learn. Ah, this life! 

Polaroid snaps from our beautiful day ^^

Directions to Suncheonman Bay Ecological Park (link here):

From Suncheon Bus Terminal, cross Suncheon3-gil street and walk along Palmaro street to bus stop.
Take bus 67 and get off at Suncheonman (순천만).

Directions to Suncheon Bay Garden (link here):

From Suncheon bus terminal, take city bus 1 or 111 and get off at Myungmal(명말) station.

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