Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A forest, which was once a land

So, I made it out to "North Seoul Dream Forest" yesterday to scout it out for a potential field trip location.

What can I say about "Dream Forest"? Well, interestingly, it used to be "Dreamland" - a poor man's Seoul Land seemingly built to satisfy those Northern-dwelling Seoul folk who can't be bothered to take the kiddies south of the Han River on weekends.

The former theme park looked like a bit of a nightmare - as you can see from this flickr set from what seems like not that long ago (August, 2007 to be precise). I'm sure in its hay-day it was a veritable Calaway Park of family fun.

It its last years though, it was an all-but abandoned shell of a place - occupied only by lonely monkeys, caged ducks that presumably were left to rot in their own fetid waste, and the odd child splashing in a wading pool, supervised by parents who don't think that waterborne pathogens are anything to worry about.

Gladly, these fading nightmares are now behind us and the land has now become the forest - which is basically a minor, manicured and landscaped valley running through two of North Seoul's smaller mountains - both of which are not a challenge to hike in about 10 minutes.

In short, it's a pleasant spot - highlights include:

a) An art gallery, where weird and wonderful metallic creations are taking-up residence this month.

b) Frequent "Parades of Cute" - otherwise known as pre-schoolers in matching jogging suits and backpacks - being led around as they hold onto strings in pairs.

c) A good number of cafes and restaurants scattered throughout the park.

d) A Performing Arts Centre

e) Perhaps Seoul's oddest "observatory", where forest visitors can ride up a slanted elevator to see views of Northeastern Seoul, and learn all about the episode of the Korean drama, Iris, which was shot there in 2009 (The place is rotten with pictures of Lee Byeong-hun).

North Seoul Dream Forest is also full of little spots that make weekend picnicking complete - water fountains for the kids, and plenty of shady spots for mom and dad. There's also a very cool library / cafe for parents and kids. All admissions are free except that to the "Blown Glass Museum" which I didn't pony-up the 5,000 won for.

Dream Forest is no Olympic Park, but any time Seoul wants to reclaim a valuable green space and make it usable and inviting, I'm all for it. The best part is that it's a 20 minute bike ride from my house. They have a deer garden similar to that in "Seoul Forest", so it's nice to know that the opportunity to massage deer through a wire fence now is an option much closer to home.

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