When autumn chills descend upon Seoul, colors bloom across Haneul Park. This garbage mountain-turned-hilltop park, whose name means Sky Park, lives up to its name with its location close to Seoul sky.
While you can enjoy green grass and the view of South Korea’s capital city in other months, mid October to early November is the best time of the year to see Haneul Park. Besides the famous silver grass (also known as eulalia and pampas grass), other fall flowers are planted in recent years and that is all the more reason to see Haneul Park in autumn.
Timeworn and gritty, Seongsu-dong or Seongsu District feels like a city of its own within South Korea’s modern and polished capital. Or maybe it was just me growing so used to the youthful and trendy image of Seoul that Seongsu felt like an irregularity in Seoul.
But that doesn’t mean Seongsu is outdated and unattractive. Once a go-to district for handmade shoes in the late 20th century until the mass-produced imports came along in the 2000s, Seongsu’s grit and grime remains in the facades of these old factories while the interior has been renovated into restaurants and cafes diverse in characters. Artists have also painted parts of the neighborhood anew, so street art enthusiasts will definitely have fun there. Thanks to the recent development, Seongsu-dong has now been dubbed the Brooklyn of Seoul and become one of the hottest spots among Koreans. However, it is still considered a hidden gem among international travelers. Without NCT’s many photoshoots and videos there, I wouldn’t have discovered Seongsu-dong.
I visited two cafes and one restaurant in Seongsu-dong, all of which visited by NCT members but not featured in that many Seongsu-related guides yet. (I traveled there alone, so my stomach could only take that much. If you are with family or friends, there are dozens of cafes and restaurants for you to choose from.) The rest of my time there was spent on wandering around and street art viewing.
I have always preferred cool colors, especially green, but there is something about autumn leaves that I can’t take my eyes off. And since I had never experienced autumn before this South Korea trip (just last year), I couldn’t help putting many spots for autumn colors on my itinerary.
Accessible via the Seoul Subway, Ilsan Lake Park in Goyang, Gyeonggi-do is a nice spot for autumn colors and that isn’t only reason I went there. Besides Asia’s largest artificial lake and over 200,000 trees, the park is home to Cactus Greenhouse. Also, just opposite the park is MBC Dream Center, the venue for the music TV program Show Champion that NCT Doyoung and Jaehyun were MCs for in 2015 when they were SMROOKIES. Lovely autumn leaves, quirky cacti, and NCT pilgrimage, that is how I found happiness in one fell swoop.
About 30 minutes from Seoul by bus, Guri in Gyeonggi Province still stays foreign among most foreigners. As a Thai girl who knows less than 20 Korean words, I only discovered Guri because it is the hometown of my favorite singer, Doyoung from the South Korean boy band NCT. I came to Guri with a clear goal in mind: to see the place where my ultimate bias grew up. A pursuit for childhood memories of NCT’s beloved rabbit-like boy.
Since Doyoung mentioned on NCT Night Night that Jangja Lake Park in Topyeong District was where he used to play, I had been looking for other things to do in Guri. Then I found out about Guri Hangang Park (Cosmos Park) and quickly put both places on my NCT pilgrimage plan. To experience the parks at their most tranquil, I willingly woke up before the crack of dawn.
It was a little after 6am in late-October and I was surrounded by an almost perfect stillness, save for the puffs of white clouds that inevitably came out of my mouth on such cold morning and the billows of smoke in the Seoul skyline on the other side of the Han River. From where I stood in Guri Hangang Park, the factories, high-rises, and mountains of Seoul all looked so tiny. Though I came early mainly to have the Cosmos Park to myself, I was rewarded with another bonus.