What is Saturdays in Korea?

Tired of doing the same old thing every weekend? Saturdays in Korea is activity club for those who want to break their normal weekend routine and do something different. For Koreans, it's a good chance to practice English. For ex-pats, it's a good chance to practice Korean. For everybody, it's a great chance to meet new people and have fun.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

To the east of Seoul is a man-made lake named Lake Homyeong that sits at the top of the mountains. The lake itself is circled by a peaceful walking path and is adjacent to various parks, statues and a small museum. Additionally, there are some magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and the North Han River (북한강) valley. Lake Homyeong can be reached by both hiking or a local bus. If you are ready for some time in the remote countryside, Lake Homyeong is an ideal place.


Meeting Location & Getting to Lake Homyeong

Lake Homyeong is located east of Seoul in the Gyeonggi Province (경기도). At the bottom of the mountain is the village of Sangcheon (상천) which also has a train station by the same name of Sangcheon Station (상천역). Luckily, this station is on the Gyeongchun Line (경춘선) which is connected to the Seoul Metropolitan Subway. If you have a T-Money Card, you don't have to buy a ticket to get to Sangcheon Station.

If you are coming from Seoul or the nearby surrounding area, a good place to meet would be Sangbong Station (상봉역). Sangbong Station is a transfer station in eastern part of Seoul that connects Line #7, the Gyeongchun Line and the Jungang Line (중앙선).

View Lake Homyeong Meeting Place in a larger map

An ideal meeting place would be inside Sangbong Station itself in front of the Storyway Convenience store. This is located between all three lines that connect at the station.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

One thing to note is while the line names are clearly labeled in Korean, they are not labeled in English. You will want to get on the Gyeongchun Line (경춘선) on the train headed to Chuncheon (춘천). Luckily, the station names are labeled in English.

The train that heads towards Sangcheon leave every 20 to 30 minutes. From Sangbong Station, it will take about 45 minutes to get there.

Hiking to the Top

If you are planning to hike to reach Lake Homyeong, you can start right away once you leave the train station. One thing to note is that other than a small market near the entrance of the train station, there really isn't any close by places to buy food and drinks for the hike. It will probably be best if you bring your own supplies from home for this trip.

View Hiking Path to Lake Homyeong in a larger map

When you exit the train station, you will see a tunnel under the rail line directly to your left. By crossing under here, you will find a small paved road that will start to head south towards the mountains.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

Continue along this road for awhile until you come across a sign post that points in multiple directions. One sign will point off the road towards a dirt path that heads into the woods. On the sign will be a phrase that says "호명호수 3.1km". Follow this path and from here it will start to head up the spine of the nearby ridge to the top of mountain and to Lake Homyeong.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

As you approach the top of the mountain, you'll come to a clearing that overlooks a small valley containing an open park. Beyond this small park the most noticeable feature here will be a large, slope of rocks which is in fact the dam that was made to create Lake Homyeong. To your left you will find a hiking path that goes down trough the valley and connects to a road that leads up to the lake.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

If you have ran out of snacks or water when you reach the top, there is a very small convenience store that sells a few snacks and beverages. The store is open during the regular tourist season - (i.e. not winter) - but the prices are a bit steep, however not as bad as an amusement park or an airport.

Taking a Bus to the Top

If hiking is not your thing or if your exhausted from an hour and half hike up the mountain in sweltering heat (like our hike), there is another option for getting to the top of the mountain. While it might not be obvious in the Google Map below, there is a road that goes from Lake Homyeong down into the valley to Sangcheon Station. You can switch to satellite view and zoom in to see the road.

View Bus to Homyeong Lake in a larger map

Probably the easiest way to get to the bus stop would be to start off as if you were going to get onto the hiking path as mentioned above. After crossing under the rail near the entrance of Sangcheon Station and heading up the paved road, take a left at the sign post, following the direction on the sign with the picture of the bus and the text that reads "BUS 정류장" (bus stop). On this road, you will come to an elementary school located right behind Sangcheon Station. When you come to the end of the elementary school, turn right and follow the road until it ends. At the end, take a left and very quickly, you will see a convenience store called 상천마트 (Sangcheon Mart) along a larger road.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

If you do need any snacks or some water, this is the place to get them in the village of Sangcheon. Also, when we went there, we were able to buy fireworks. Even though I am exactly sure where I can shoot off fireworks in Korea (legally), I bought some just because I could. They are still sitting on my bookshelf.

Besides buying food, beverages and things that could potentially burn and harm you, there is a bus stop in front of this mart for Bus 33-13. This is the bus that goes up to the top to Lake Homyeong. With a T-Money Card, the fare is 1,000 Won (100 Won more if you are paying with cash) and the bus comes by every 30 to 40 minutes during the tourism season. If you are not sure if you got the right bus, you can always print off the following and show this to the bus driver: 호명호수로 올라가요? (Does this bus go up to Lake Homyeong?) Once you get on, it's only about a fifteen minute bus ride to the top.

If you are at the top of Lake Homyeong already and want to back down to Sangcheon, there is a bus stop on the northeast corner of the lake in the parking lot next the benches. This is a good idea for those of you who want to save your knees from the wear and tear of hiking down the mountain.

At the Top: Lake Homyeong

Once you reach the top, there are a few things to do while you are at Lake Homyeong. The obvious choice is to enjoy the scenery of the lake and walk around the lake along the paved walking path. In the middle of the lake there are statues of a turtle and a pair of swans.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

If you are looking for a bit more to see, there is a path along the ridge that runs along the eastern and southern side of the lake. You will be able to find a series of stairs on the eastern side of the lake leading up into the woods.

At the top of the stairs is a art deco style statue dedicated to the workers of Korea who help set up the power grid for the country. I am not sure of the exact details of the statue since some of the writing is in Chinese characters (한자).

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

To the right of the statue is a museum in the shape a two story pagoda. Inside the museum are different exhibits about the types of electrical power in Korea. All of the text presented is in Korean. So unless you have a friend to translate or a Korean to English dictionary and lots of patience, you might want to pass on this part of Lake Homyeong.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

Further south from the pagoda, there are a few openings in the forest that present a wonderful view of North Han River Valley just to the south of Lake Homyeong.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

To the west of the lake is giant slope of rocks, which is the dam that forms Lake Homyeong. At the bottom of the dam is a park with a hedge maze. An idea place for a game of hide and go seek if one is in the mood.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

Beside the above mentioned items, there are a few flat open places for you and your friends to have a picnic or play a game of Frisbee or badminton. There is a very small convenience store next to the parking lot on the north eastern side, but the prices are a little bit steep.

Places to Eat

If you are looking for a place to have a meal in Sangcheon, there isn't much. One place we found was called The Wooden Bowl (함지박) which serves dishes consisting of hand made tofu (손두부). The restaurant is located on a small road just in front of the exit to Sangcheon Station.

View The Wooden Bowl (함지박) in a larger map

If you are coming from the bus station in front of the Sangcheon Mart (상천마트), you will be able to see the following signs. Just follow the arrows past the elementary school and through the tunnel under the rail line until you come to the restaurant.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

For those of your coming from the Sangcheon Station, start walking on the road near the entrance to the station away from the rail line. Right away, there will be a road that branches off to the right (before you get to the main road). Follow this road for about 50 meters and you will see it on your right.

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

The restaurant has a quite large selection of food, ranging from individual dishes to large dishes that serve multiple people. For our visit, most of us ended up getting the soft tofu dish (순두부).

From Lake Homyeong (호명호수)

Overall, the price and quality were fair. Given the extremely limited selections in this town, it was a much better choice then getting snacks from a convenience store.

Lake Homyeong is a place off the tourist beaten path that let's you enjoy some amazing views and a bit of peace and quiet of the country side. Though it is outside of Seoul, it is still pretty easy to get to since the local train station is connected to the Seoul Metropolitan Subway.

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