Pocheon (포천), some 90km from the heart of Seoul, is one of the less traveled day-trip destination, and naturally much lesser known to tourists. Yet, what would have been an idyllic 1.5 hour drive can easily end up a 3-4 hour journey with the start-stop traffic as you make your way to the outskirts of Seoul, passing by Namyangju (남양주) along the way. Making up for it, if it was any consolation, are endless rolling hills and towns that seem to transport you back to the past.
Bidulginang Waterfall 비둘기낭폭포
Featured in a Korean Air commercial and also designated as natural monument no. 537, the basalt canyon and Bidulginang waterfall were form by the erosion of a lava plateau in the Hantangang river (한탄강) along a stream originating from Bulmusan mountain (불무산).
It’s mouthful of a name means “pocket of doves” for the hundreds of white doves that (apparently) live here. Perhaps it was bad timing, or we had really high expectations, the sight of the waterfall was disappointingly underwhelming. All we saw was, for the lack of words, dripping water (top picture).
If there was a waterfall, it would have flowed from the left (the darker patch) of the photo.
And it would have emptied itself into a emerald green pool surrounded by the lush green vegetation. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to go all the way down to the waterfall, nor the cave.
As the waterfall is hidden away in a canyon surrounded by mountains for as far as the eye can see, it’s almost impossible to get here without your own transport. And because it’s so isolated, the parking area also comes with its own toilet facility.
Sanjeong Lake 산정호수
Perhaps better known, and more accessible, is the Sanjeong lake wrapped by granite cliffs and, you guess it, the verdant hills of Myeongseongsan mountain (명성산) and Mangbongsan mountain (망봉산). Stepping in here makes you feels like you’ve been whizzed back to the 1980s. The restaurants, pensions, stalls and even amusement park seem to have stayed in the same era they were built in, a stark contrast to the bustling Seoul.
There are hiking paths around the lake, but if you’re feeling more idyllic (or romantic, although that is subjective), you can always opt to work it out in one of the massive peddle-operated swans, take a ride on the speedboat, or simply take a stroll in the sculpture garden.
A trip to Pocheon isn’t complete without a meal of Korean beef ribs, popular with especially the military folks in the area. Kim Mija Halmeonijip (김미자할머니집), which is said to have been around for 40 years, is a good spot to try. Didn’t get a chance to go there on this trip, so we had to opt for one of the restaurants near the lake.