VIDEO: Fall for Korea: Check out Chuncheon's autumn scenery in a canoe

Photos by ChiHon Kim
Photos by ChiHon Kim

VIDEO: Fall for Korea: Check out Chuncheon's autumn scenery in a canoe

by ChiHon Kim
Stripes Korea

Nothing showcases the real beauty of Korea’s landscape better than the autumn season. It’s a short season, so figuring out where I will go is a tough choice to make.

Though canoeing might not be the first on a fall foliage list, my visit to Chuncheon changed my mind about enjoying the weather and landscape this way. The stunning beauty of Uiam Lake reflecting the surrounding mountains in crimson and crisp yellows made this outing special.

Chuncheon is a well-known lakeside city in the western part of Gangwon Province. If you’re a Korean food connoisseur, Chuncheon is also the home of dakgalbi, a spicy stir-fried chicken dish. Chuncheon the city, however, is a favorite for couples looking for a romantic getaway or families wanting to escape the busy city life. Chuncheon can be translated as a “stream where spring comes” but it turns into a more beautiful place in the autumn.

For my first canoeing experience, I picked Mulle-Gil, a rental center in the area. If you’re driving, park at the parking lot near Chuncheon Songam Sports Town. Taking public transportation? Grab a taxi from the Chuncheon Station, it’s only 10 minutes away. Either way, you can’t miss the rental center near the parking lot.

Photo courtesy of Chuncheon Mulle-Gil

I reserved my canoe a week in advance using WAUG, a travel app, so when I arrived, they were ready for me. Many of the customers were families with children. We were given life jackets and then were sent to the dock for a short safety briefing (in Korean only).

Mulle-Gil has straw hats you can borrow to help shade from the sun, but don’t forget to bring your sunscreen, sunglasses and light jacket. Small dogs are also allowed on your adventure but check in advance for weight/size restrictions.

On the day of my canoe trip, the temperature and water were perfect. From the dock there are three different courses to take: one leading to Bung-O Island that is about three kilometers, another to Uiam Dam of about the same distance, and one to Jung-Do Island that is about six kilometers away.

Without asking we were guided toward the Uiam Dam course. I was a bit disappointed I wouldn’t be able to explore Bung-O Island’s dense forest but was still excited to be on a boat.

Also, important to note here, courses and operating hours may vary depending on weather or other factors.

As our group of canoes made its toward the course, I noticed how other groups were seated inside their canoe. Most of the customers were families and couples and normally women and kids sit in the front seat. Responsibility for the back seat normally goes to the boyfriend or husband as it takes a lot of power. I was solo canoeing, so I was in the back seat. Being a rookie, I thought my boat might lose balance if I were on there alone, but it was fine.

I paddled strongly toward the dam and thought it was fun to see how my effort in paddling was moving my boat forward. But I started to tire pretty quickly and struggled to catch up with the family who started off ahead of me.  I was trying to keep up, mostly out of fear of falling behind, but the paddling was taking a lot out of me. I had sweat all over and was glad I had not chosen summer to give this new adventure a try.

Thanks to my poor stamina, I just stopped paddling and sat back and took in the shimmering lake views and gorgeous surrounding mountains.  The short moment was the best part of my canoeing experience that day. I thought to myself, “Dang, I should’ve done this from the start!” The picturesque sight on the water that beautifully reflected the surrounding nature and colorful fall foliage on the mountain was impressive!

When I reached a famous skywalk glass observatory it was time to paddle back, so I veered my boat and made my way to the starting point, following the guide’s instructions. On my way back, motorboats created choppy waters on the lake’s surface. My canoe was a little shaky (as was I) as I paddled through. Oh, do not paddle toward the middle of the lake because motorboats share some of the water routes with canoes, unless you’re a daredevil who enjoys danger.

It took less than half an hour to return to the dock after leaving. The time was a bit short for me, but it was a pretty satisfying excursion that allowed me to stop and smell the fall leaves. Overall, the experience was an amazing way to get fit and to connect with nature and all of its breathtaking glory. If you’re just looking to do something fun and relaxing during spring, early summer, or early fall, Mulle-Gil in Chuncheon is worth the visit.

Though the best times to canoe are early in the morning when the fog is rising off the lake or in late afternoon as the sun is starting to set, know that at this time hours of operation have been reduced due to COVID-19 prevention measures. If you want to feel this beautiful waterway from a different angle, check out any of the other rental shops in the area.

How to get there:
Train: Pyeongtaek station → (1h40m) Yongsan station (or Cheongnyangni Station in Seoul) → (1h20m) Chuncheon station → Take a taxi to the Songam Sports Town (10m, 6,000 won)

ADDRESS: 강원 춘천시 스포츠타운길 113-1 (KOR), 113-1, Sports town-gil, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do (ENG), NAVER MAP
HOURS: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
PHONE: 033-263-8463, 070-4150-8463
TICKET PRICE RANGE: 10,000 won (8.46) to 15,000 won per person


Pro tip: I made my reservation a week in advance through a travel app, and found out that the price can vary depending on booking platforms, even it is the same experience and business. So, do a comparison before you buy a ticket.

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