FOR MOST people, the Airport Express is merely a cheap means of transportation to Incheon or Gimpo Airport. However, the airport stations are only 2 of the stops among a total of 12, which means that it can actually take people to every corner of Incheon. With less than ￦10,000 in your bus card, you can leave immediately from downtown Seoul to the West Sea, where there are romantic parks and beautiful islands. Don’t worry about having to change your original schedule, because it takes less than an hour from Hongik University Station to Incheon International Airport Station.
Ara-baet-gil, a romantic ride along the sea
The history of Kyeong-in Ara Waterway, or Ara-baet-gil, can be traced back to 800 years. Since then, there have been numerous attempts to build a solid canal connecting the Incheon Sea and the Han River, but it was completed only 5 years ago after overcoming technical issues and environmental concerns that have constantly gotten in the way. Now, Ara-baet-gil spans all the way from Seo-gu, Incheon (the West Sea) to Gangseo-gu, Seoul (Han River).
Although Ara-baet-gil was built to prevent flood and facilitate water transportation, it is also regarded as one of the most beautiful spots in Incheon. One of the best ways to enjoy the splendid view is by riding a bicycle. Even if you don’t have one, you will find a bike rental as soon as you step out of Geomam Station, exit number 1. By riding on the newly paved road along the sea, you will be able to enjoy the clear view of the limpid sea as well as feel the refreshing sea breeze. Water leisure is another charm of Ara-baet-gil. A variety of rides, including canoes, kayaks, bumper boats, and water cycles are provided at the waterside park at a reasonable price. Floating leisurely on the calm water will melt away all your worries and stress for a while. At night, people can also appreciate the spectacular view of twinkling streetlights reflected upon the tranquil sea surface.
The dancing islands: Muui Island and Somuui Island
After enjoying a ride at Ara-baet-gil, the next stop is the end of the express: Incheon International Airport. Don’t worry – although it is the last stop, it only takes about 20 minutes from Geomam Station. But your final destination is not the Airport station; you should head to Muui Island, a small island located near the coast. There are two routes to the Jamjindo Dock, which is where you can take a short boat ride to the island; the first is by the newly opened magnetic levitation (maglev) rail, and the second is by bus number 221. Although taking the bus is more convenient, arriving straight at the dock, taking the maglev rail is also recommended, especially for new travelers looking for a fresh experience.
Although it takes only five to ten minutes to get to Muui Island from Jamjindo Dock by boat, it is one of the best moments of the trip. A flock of seagulls hurriedly gathering around the bow to feed on shrimp snacks that passengers give is a bizarre scene that you can watch only on the boat. Within a short moment, you arrive on Muui Island.
Muui Island means “dancing island” because it is shaped like a person dancing in a military uniform. It is full of attractions, but the most notable ones are the little islands surrounding it. Silmi Island, well-known for a 2003 movie with the same title, is also one of them. Among the many attractions, the one to introduce here is Somuui Island, which is much less familiar than Silmi Island for many people. You can reach Somuui Island by taking a small village bus that stops at the Muui Island entrance every 30 minutes. Although the bus interval is quite long, bus drivers stop whenever people wave their hands on the street.
After getting off the bus, you will need to cross a bridge called Somuuido In-do-gyo in order to enter the island. While walking along the bridge, stop and stare vacantly into the endless ocean; it will clear your mind of all the distracting feelings that were unconsciously stored.
The entrance to the walkway can be found right after crossing the bridge. The walkway, which connects all the spots of the island, is proudly named Nuri-gil. You can explore every inch of the island by simply walking along the walkway kindly paved for travelers. After a long climb that almost paralyzes your legs, the first spot you will reach is the Korean traditional pavilion called Ha-do-jeong. The pavilion feels like an oasis in the desert; a gulp of water while resting peacefully in the pavilion feels like heaven.
The next destination is a simple stroll down the walkway. After a few minutes of lighthearted walk down the hill, you will reach the Celebrity’s Beach, which was loved by former President Park Chung-hee. The beach is a lonely place with huge, uneven rocks covering the horizon, but that is the very charm of the place; we can stand alone on the rocks and enjoy solitude, while staring blankly into the wide ocean right before your eyes. There is also a lonely tree jutting out of a rock. It may seem out of place, but it is a special tree wearing colorful textiles with poems written on them.
After looking around the beach, you should head to the village where people live. On the way to the village, there are many minor attractions such as a wish-making tree and a small stone tower. The village is a typical fishing village with many seafood restaurants and boats anchored offshore. However, it is much more attractive with neat, colorful houses that perfectly suit the little island. There is also a museum filled with numerous exhibitions that vividly show the marine ecosystem. It only takes about 30 minutes to stroll around the town to get back to the bridge again, where we first started our tour of Somuui Island.
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We often seek a getaway from our tedious daily lives, but long distance has always been in our way. However, with the Airport Express, we can reach the Incheon seashore in merely an hour. There’s no need to hesitate; whenever you have time, simply take out your transportation card and go on an impromptu trip to the nearby sea. The beautiful canal, as well as the dancing islands, is always there to welcome you.