Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jeju Island Road Trip Day 2: Ecoland Theme Park

When one door closes, another one opens. No other way I could best describe our afternoon drive to Seogwipo. We had to cancel our Sangamburi Crater nature stroll since it started to rain when we were just at the carpark. In my itinerary, it was an either-or option. If we visited Sangamburi Crater (which would take us hours to walk to and from and around the crater) we would have to forego a visit to Ecoland. Since weather didn't cooperate when we were at Sangamburi, we were able to go for the other option. We were worried though that our Ecoland adventure might also be aborted if the weather worsened. All of us gave a big sigh of relief when we saw clouds parting, giving way to a brighter afternoon, as we drove to Ecoland.
We've never seen these kinds of flowers which welcomed us at the ticket line at Ecoland.
These are called alliums. Up to now, we are still wondering if they are real!
We stayed a few minutes at the Sangamburi Crater entrance hoping for the drizzles to stop but they didn't. We had to settle with a photo with this harubang at the entrance before we got back into the car for a drive to our next destination.

When we arrived at Ecoland carpark it was almost full with more tourist buses making their way in. We knew there was going to be a big crowd coming and we had to move fast if we wanted to spend more time going around the park than queuing up at the ticket counters. Unfortunately, the only spot we could find was at the further end of the carpark so we had to walk all the way back to the entrance.

We observed the skies for any signs of dark clouds. Thankfully, they were all gone. There was already a queue in the ticket counters as well as the waiting area for boarding so we decided to divide and conquer - I was in charge of buying our tickets while the boys go for the train boarding area. Admission fees were 12,000 won ($14.20) for adults, 10,000 won (11.83) for youths 13-18 yrs old, and 8,000 won ($9.47) for children. By 230pm, I already had our ticket and receipt which indicated a number (for which train to take) and time of boarding. 

The boarding area had a small lounge where visitors could sit and wait for their train numbers to be called. The lounge serves food and beverage for a fee. The queue where we waited for boarding was a bit messy. Some people don't have an idea what to do, others were queuing way ahead of their train's departure time, and some (like us) decided to sit by the lounge and wait for our numbers to be called. Of course, I had to make sure what we were supposed to wait for so I double checked with the customer service people at the train boarding gate. Visitors should take note of the circled number at the top of the receipt. That's the all-important train number you're assigned with.

When our number was called we entered through the boarding gates, showed our receipt and walked to the platform where we could see the train approaching. It wasn't our train yet though. We still had to wait for the next one - the green and red train, much to the delight of our young naturalist (green's his favorite color). Riding a train around Ecoland, what more could he have asked for? He couldn't wait to board the train and choose a good place for us to sit. Kelvin was busy snapping photos, trying to capture things that interested him. He even saw a stick insect at the deck.
There were five stations to stop by including the main station and along the way there were fields of wild flowers and greeneries. Eco Bridge Station was the first stop. It has a 300m wide water deck installed on more than 66,000sqm lake. It also serves as a connector to the second station (Lake Side Station) if you are willing to walk the whole length of the water deck. Some visitors walked back to station 1 and waited for the next train to get to station 2 but we decided to walk from the Eco Bridge Station to the Lake Side Station via the water deck. It was actually a refreshing stroll. Ira couldn't contain his excitement as we walked on the water deck. We could see the reflection of the plants and trees on the lake. Ira spotted some birds resting on the trees around the lake. There was even a tree which had a small birdhouse on it. Unfortunately, the bird on that tree was not real.
As we approached the end of the water deck, we could see a different set of attractions on the other side of the lake. That was already a part of the Lake Side Station. There were bump boats, a windmill and a big ship we could see from afar. This piqued the interest of Ira who was looking for a big place to play around. He was not that interested with riding the bump boats and wanted to head straight to the big ship. 

On the way to the Discovery Zone (where the big ship was), there were topiaries of animals like the swan and elephant. After that were 2 big post cards perfect for photo ops for visitors. We just couldn't resist. We also passed by a field of wild flowers. I just had to stop and take a photo with the ship in the background. The boys walked ahead, more curious about the statue of a man riding a horse, who turned out to be Don Quixote, and the windmill. Ira hitched a ride with the donkey beside Don Quixote. Then we went inside the windmill and saw that the mechanical parts were still there.
Ira was already rushing to get to the Discovery Zone and ran towards the big ship. He looked into the big treasure chest that was just beside the ship. Then he ventured into the ship, alone, and waved at us from the deck of the ship. It's a pirate ship with all the trimmings - treasure chest full of jewelry and gold coins, pirates with bandanas and bandanas on their heads and swords hanging on their chests, canons at the side of the ship. There was also a board game - Voyage Game - which visitors can test their skills in. What was weird was the presence of Native American Indian statues in that area. Doesn't seem to jive with the theme of pirates, don't you think so? Maybe I need to research on this.

While Ira was playing, the rest of us took the time to sit and relax by the lake. I chose to sit at one of the loungers overlooking the ship. When he was finally done with all the running around and up and down the ship, we walked to the station and waited for the next train to get to the Picnic Garden Station. This was another place that Ira enjoyed. There was a Kids Town with a lot of mini buildings and houses specially built for kids. We didn't go for a walk along the Eco Road nor the Foot Bathhouse. That path was a 1100m walk. We still had one more station to go to and we wanted to save our time for that.

From the Lavender, Green Tea and Rose Garden Station, we crossed the Garden Bridge and walked past a rose garden. We stopped by the rose garden and saw several garden statues which looked like they were serenading us. Then we went to the other side of the garden where there were lavenders and tea and a bigger field of wild flowers beyond. Since it was the last station before heading back to the main station, we opted to stay around a bit longer and checked out what food they had at the building. We settled for a couple of scoops of ice cream each and sat by the window overlooking the gardens. 



Before heading back to the station for our last train ride, we took a photo with these two giant bunnies which looked like they were the train stewards. We were almost dragging our feet as we walked up the bridge to get to the station. Who would want to leave a place like this - surrounded by fields of beautiful flowers? Yes, it may have been a bit hot and sunny but I doubt it if we would have been able to enjoy our time in this interesting nature park if the rain poured down.

Here's more of the fun we had at Ecoland:

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