In just a few hours drive from Seoul and a short scenic ferry ride brings you into the quaint Island of Nami. This small sector of land is a wonderland of nature, art, and history that is one of the highlights of my study abroad trip thus far. I was astonished upon our first steps onto the island as you are immediately brought into such a well-kept and magically designed island. From the various non-native species of plants to the various sculptures and paintings dotted around the paths, I was mesmerized that an entire island could truly feel like you have entered an entirely different world. Our lovely tour guide of the day had been working on Nami Island for many years and was able to tell us the history of the island through its peaks in tourism, and the island owner's vision of allowing Koreans to experience plant species that are not native to Korea. Plants such as Sacoyas aligned the main path that was decorated from recycled lights that were going to be thrown out in Gangnam. The emphasis on soju bottle art was also a part of the history that now creates the culture and charm of Nami Island. The owner of the island was an advocate for environmental awareness and sustainability, therefore, dotted around the island you are able to see repurposed empty soju bottles made into art pieces and are on display for everyone to enjoy. Aside from the endearing art, the environment that the Nami owner and his staff created was truly something out of a fairytale. Walking around the island, you somehow feel as though it was just built by small gnomes or fairies as the designs, plants, and whimsicality of it all create an entire island of storybook pages. At every nook and turn I explored, I encountered something that I would gush at and remind me of a scene from a Studio Ghibli movie or fantasy book!
Aside from the enchantingly scenic environment that Nami Island has, there are numerous amount of activities, cafes, and restaurants that are on the island for the visitors to enjoy. We dined at one of the restaurants that served traditional Korean food, where we had the most delicious seafood jeon (Korean savory pancakes) and a stir-fried chicken dish that resembled "dalkgalbi" to me. After enjoying our meal, a friend and I decided to explore the myriad of activities, we found anything from bikes to electric mini ATVs for rent, a sky bike wrapping around a section of the island, adorable gift shops, art museums, and more. We rented bikes for half an hour and rode around the outskirts of the island to find even more hidden spots like a picturesque gazebo, bridges, and more lily ponds. Feeling the breeze and slowly taking in the scenery truly made me feel like I was a character in a fantasy movie because of how charming every sight was. Being on Nami Island made me feel relaxed and appreciative of the less recognized things in life, we forget to treasure a beautiful view or the breeze on a hot day. After our scenic ride and a few stops for gift shops along the way, we decided we wanted to cool off at one of the cafes with some gelato. I ordered a matcha gelato that was one of the best matcha flavors I have had in Korea yet, it was so deep in the flavor and not too bitter or sweet. We then ventured to the sky bike that went around a small section of the downtown area of Nami. It was a two-person pedaling system and on the ride, you are able to get a birdseye view of the area, which was extremely beautiful and slightly scary considering how high we were. We even passed a book structure that held various children's books that extended past the height of the sky bike! We ended our time at Nami wandering around the paths and taking pictures to forever cherish our time on the Island. I would have never thought that something like Nami existed and I am so grateful I got to experience it through our program.