Saturday evening I took my second trip to the Express Bus Terminal and grabbed a bus bound for Chungju. Last time I went to Sokcho and Seoraksan, this time I was visiting my friend Jiyoung after a successful day of apartment hunting and fencing. The bus from Seoul arrives faster than the anticipated 1 hour 40 minutes but its still time to crash shortly after my arrival.
Luckily I still got a night view of the city. Other than the lack of subway system this could be Seoul. Chungju is full of lights and life; the streets are busy and, of course, everything is in Korean.
Sunday we jumped into Jiyoung’s car and head a little south of the city for Cheongnamdae. Cheongnamdae is technically a presidential home but its now more of a tourist trap than anything else. We are unable to reserve a parking spot beforehand so drive to the bus in the nearby village where we purchase tickets (₩7,000 each includes round trip bus fare).
We arrived at Cheongnamdae just after 1:00 and decided to start with the small museum by the bus stop. Inside we found memorabilia from all the South Korean presidents. I learned that the first Korean President, Syngman Rhee (1948-1960) married Francesca Donner an Austrian making the first First Lady of Korea a white woman. This didn’t seem to hinder him too much since he was president for nearly 12 years!
Another fun fact about Korean Presidents is that they follow just like America’s dual Bushes. Okay maybe not exactly the same. The current President Park Geun-hye is Park Chung-hee’s daughter. Oh and dad actually took over through a military coup in 1961, and started the “Korean Third Republic” in 1963. A few years later in 1972 he declared martial law and himself as president for life ushering in the “Korean Fourth Republic” (which is still in existence) despite his assassination in 1979. I guess Park Geun-hye has a few other differences than like George W. outside of being the first female President!
We walked around the museum before taking a short hike to the residential building at Cheongnamdae. With a quick shoe change and reminder that we couldn’t take photos of the inside we toured the western structure. It was equipped with actual tables and beds along with a real bathroom! The building was decorated and furnished as if it was straight out of the American 1980’s, complete with the tube TV and wallpaper.
I paused to snap a quick photo of Daecheongho, the gorgeous lake on the property, before finishing our tour of the building. Grabbing our shoes we went down a series of steps to explore the koi pond below. 3 fountains provided a soothing melody as the other tourists fed the fish. A rainbow sprang through the water as the sun warmed us.
We hiked back up and followed the path along past the Presidential golf course to an artful sculpture display. Each past President was cast in Bronze with a tribute to each of Korea’s allies in the background. We wait around long enough to snap a picture before continuing up the paved path. The lake provides a beautiful reflection of the forest on the far shore. I’m positive the Spring bloom or Fall colors would ignite an even more glorious scene but I don’t let that take anything away from the view.
Checking the time we realize its getting late and I’ve still gotta catch a bus back to Seoul. We take the rural drive back to Chungju, passing the ROK Air Force Academy before grabbing a quick bite at an all you can eat Korean Barbeque and at last I’m back at the bus station. Although its a little farther from Seoul than I would like to travel Chunju was certainly a success and Cheongnamdae is certainly worth the day trip!