I was looking for somewhere else to go birdwatching and Nial Moores of Birds Korea suggested the Korean National Arboretum (KNA). Consulting their friendly website it didn't seem too difficult to get there by public transport, so I set off on metro line 1 again to the penultimate station on the line: Uijeongbu.
Arriving at the station I searched in vain for the number 21 bus they so casually suggest will take you straight there. After walking around and scrutinising various bus stops I gave in and took the taxi option.
The KNA website also suggests just saying "Soo-Mok-Won" will be enough directions for the driver, not this one. After showing him the picture, various different ways of pronouncing it and some discussion with an other driver we eventually set off. [Note to self: Next time print out the KOREAN version of the 'How to get there' as well as the English] When I pointed out the meter was not running, he told me the price: 20,000 Won. Ouch. Slightly unnerved by this, as it was half the amount of cash I had in my wallet at that point, I watched the countryside go by. Cheered by the sight of a 21 bus, proving they do exist after all, and a signpost for the KNA that the driver pointed out, after around 20 minutes we arrived at a side entrance. He dropped me off and sped away.
The guard at the small shed waved me inside.
The setting of the establishment in the peaceful valley was very restful and I wandered around the sizable grounds. There weren't many people, except in the museum and greenhouse areas.
The museum has a number of large and bright exhibits not just on the many trees and plants of Korea, but also covering paper, furniture, dyes, fungi, history, geology and birds. They had an excellent display case with approx 30 stuffed birds and for each one in turn you could hear their birdsong over the loudspeaker. This would have been great if it wasn't for the noisy hoards of children that would come in waves and snake around each room. Led by an adult the classes of 30 or 40 primary school children would walk through the museum at a fast past with most of the children ignoring the exhibits completely or paying a passing interest. Still, I guess I would have been the same at their age if taken to a museum too.
The birdwatching was good. I saw two species new to me the Japanese pygmy woodpecker and a Japanese Wagtail.
I found the main gate where I should have paid an entrance fee, but I never did find the cafe that several signposts pointed to. I also discovered they appear to have a zoo with tigers, a fact not made clear on their website. But it only seems to be open between 10:30 and 2:30. I would like to go again with The Bat, but for some bizarre reason the arboretum is only open on weekdays!
The bus stopped just outside the main entrance and my U-Pass worked, costing a mere 1,450 Won for the journey back to Uijeongbu. The bus terminated at a small parking space in the middle of the city street with no signs as to where the metro station was, so following my instinct, I continued in the same direction and within 5 minutes was I rewarded by the sight of a sign for the station, which hove into view after another 5 minutes. After retracing my steps a little, to ensure I could find the bus again I looked for a restaurant.
My hunger was satisfied this time at a Barbeque Rib Food Franchise outlet. [Their domain registration seems to have expired so don't follow that link.] I've not seen one before, but the pictures outside it looked good. Pointing at the picture did the trick and I was treated to a small portion of tasty ribs with the obligatory small starter dishes (Cabbage again, pickled garlic, gherkin and that liquid Kimchi again) . With rice and a Cass (beer) it came to 14,500 Won.
For others attempting the same journey try these instructions:
Get off at Uijeongbu, take exit on the east side of the station. There are two roads meeting the main road at this point, you need to take the right hand one. You need to cross the road, but you have to use the underpass and the exits do not have numbers. At the first set of traffic lights, after about 5 mins, turn left, the road should be signposted Jaguem-dong. Walk for another five minutes and the 'bus stop' is on the righthand side of the road right beside a Dunkin Donuts outlet. The number 21 starts its route from here so there might be one waiting. Try asking for "Soo-Mok-Won" or offering 1450. When you get there, after about 30 mins, the KNA is on your right and there is a sign for it, but it should be fairly obvious.
[and if they don't work, please don't blame me, but help with any updates!]