EARLY SUMMER is everyone’s favorite time of year in Korea –– the warm breeze after the chilly air has thawed, the freshly sprouted green leaves, and the bright sunlight evokes a feeling of peaceful bliss. Imagine being in the fresh outdoors that's bursting with excitement, and with mid-terms having come to an end, there is no better place to blow off some steam than at any Han River Park. Join me on my visit to the Yeouido Han River Park.
How to find the Yeouido Han River Park
Hidden away in the middle of a forest of skyscrapers, Yeouido Han River Park appears suddenly at the turn of a street. Even if you haven’t visited Yeouido before, the park is just a one-minute walk from Yeouinaru Station, line number five. The trip to the park is always full of excitement: the hopes of a great day of healing hovers in the air. Once my train arrives at the station, I immediately find my way to Exit 2. Already the subway station is crawling with people. I typically like to start my visit during the afternoon, when the park is the busiest because the sun is still out. The first time I had visited the park, I had imagined it be a place of calmness. However, upon seeing the park’s infamous stairs, I was shocked because I had expected a scene of peace and quiet; it is filled with the excited chatter of people who are there for the same reason I am there every time, ironically for tranquility.
As soon as I start climbing down the stairs, a group of ladies start to hand out leaflets. They insistently press multicolored flyers into my hands. They are flyers for various delivery restaurants, and since I planned to order food later, I decide to hold onto them. Every time I forget to remember that if I start accepting all the leaflets, I end up receiving more than the one or two that I actually need for food delivery. Clenching the handful of leaflets, I walk towards the river.
Choosing a picnicking spot
My day at the Yeouido Han River Park begins with finding the perfect spot for my picnic where I can sit and laze about as the day slowly ticks by. To both of my sides, I can see lawns of green grass and tall trees. Because I don’t own a sitting mat that I can bring along to the park, I decide to borrow them from the stands that sell food at the top of the stairs near Exit 2 of the Yeouinaru Station. I was able to borrow the mats for ₩4,000, from which ₩2,000 would be held as deposit for when I would return the mat.
I make my way through the crowd of people, looking for the ideal location for a picnic spot that comes with three conditions: First, find a tree that can provide me with shade under the hot sun. Second, the patch of land under that tree should not be too bumpy or hard with rocks. Third, the place I have in mind should not be located too close to other picnickers. After minutes of scavenging, I find the perfect spot and my goal is now complete. I set down the sitting mat and start to bask in sunlight, enjoying the peace and quiet that I came looking for.
Looking for the perfect food
Another part of the experience that I always look forward to is the food. I can always prepare picnic food at home like rice-balls or sandwiches, but I decide to have Chi-mac* delivered to me. The Korean food delivery culture is also accessible in Yeouido Han River Park and delivered Chi-mac* is a representative icon here. Those who visit often look for this delicious combination of fried chicken and beer. I search through the leaflets I received earlier on, and shortly hassle with my friends over the flavor of the chicken we would order. Once we make our order, I relax by my picnic spot whilst chatting with my friends, waiting for the food to come to us.In no more than an hour, my food delivery driver called me to the designated pick-up spot, which is typically at Exit 2 of the Yeouinaru Station. It is also convenient that I can ask the food to be delivered to the closest pick-up location around me.If I were to be looking for a further variation in food choices, I could also visit the Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market. The market opens on Fridays and Saturdays from 18:00 to 23:00 and is located 15-minutes away from the second exit of the Yeouinaru Station, in the direction of the Mapo Bridge. Here, I would be able to find an assortment of foods from all around the world, such as hamburgers, Chinese fried noodles, and of course, Korean street food. But for today, I decide to remain with by friends on the picnic spot, chilling as the sun starts to set over our heads.
Choosing the right activities
Sitting around on those mats for a couple of hours did get a little boring, so it was time to find a refreshing activity to liven up my afternoon. There are many different outdoor activities to participate in here. Playing sports with friends, looking for photogenic spots to Instagram, going on a boat ride on the river, taking your dog for a walk, and skateboarding are only the beginning of the lists of activities found at Yeouido Han River Park. I can also always find guerilla concerts here, where the most talented singers, dancers and magicians share their talents. Feeling heavy and stift from lying around and eating all day, I choose to go biking. I didn’t bring my bike to the park, but that is no problem because I can easily find various bike rental spots on site, like Ttareungyi. Their various rental locations can be found all around Yeouido Han River Park. I take the bike to the sidewalk overlooking the river, and start riding, with the wind blowing softly against my face. I am surrounded by people in the middle of a city, but I feel at peace more than ever.
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As the moon rises and the night deepens, my day at the park ends; it is time to pack up and head back home. Although it is time to leave, I am comforted by the thought that there will always be a next time. While I visited the Yeouido Han River Park, there are many different parks scattered along the Han River for you to visit. Block out a couple of weekends and visit each park while the weather is still beautiful.
*Chi-mac: a popular Korean dish of fried chicken with beer.