Seoul is a megalopolis of more than 10 million people, so where do city dwellers go in order to enjoy a bit of nature? Forget the long road trip, the stressful itineraries and the heavy camping gear, urbanites in Seoul have a chance to sleep under the stars and even get in some open-air barbecue at Nanji Camp – without ever having to leave the concrete jungle.
An usual sight spreads out before drivers speeding along the Gangbyeonbungno Expressway on the Hangang River. A variety of colorful tents are pitched near the water and the smell of grilled barbecue wafts through the air. Cyclists and enthusiasts toss a baseball back and forth. It’s the scene of the city’s residents welcoming in the weekend with a visit to Nanji Camp, located in the heart of the capital.
There are a number of campgrounds in which to enjoy nature, such as the Jungnang Campgrounds in Mangu-dong, Gangdong Greenway Family Campground in Dunchon-dong, Noeul Campgrounds in Seongsan-dong and Nanji Camp in Sangam-dong. Nanji is the most popular, with bustling campers seen from spring to fall, pitching tents and playing outdoors. The campground can accommodate up to 2,000 campers and is the largest in the city with 194 sites to pitch a tent. It’s also located right near the Hangang River so it boasts a pleasant natural environment in the middle of all the urban sprawl. Another advantage is that you can easily access the World Cup Park, providing ample opportunity to take in the verdant greens of Noeul (Sunset) Park, Haneul (Sky) Park, and Pyeonghwa (Peace) Park. Last year alone, 170,000 people visited Nanji, and most summer weekends see the camp filled with the maximum number of people it can accommodate.
Opened in 2002, Nanji is divided into a picnic area and tent sites. In the former, visitors can barbecue or have a picnic without camping or pitching an overnight tent. All that is needed is a small admission fee to use the site’s tables, chairs and other numerous facilities. Cho Ban-seok, a frequent visitor who teaches middle and high school students at a church, says, “I came here to enjoy a picnic with about 30 students last year. We camped out last time, but this time we’re just going to picnic, since the campgrounds are already fully booked because it’s peak season. We come here every year, actually. It’s fairly cheap,but it has everything you need, from water fountains to hot showers to restrooms.”
Reservations for the tent are can be made in advance online or by phone, and includes access to the area from 11 am to 10 am the following day. Don’t worry about camping gear either, as nearly everything can be rented for a great price, including tents, grills, camping tarps, tablechloths, blankets and lanterns. Convenience stores near the site even offer charcoal, gridirons, meat, vegetables and drinks.
Nam Myeong-ok, a 39-year-old camper from Junggye-dong, Seoul is getting ready for a night out at Nanji. “My family and a friend’s family came here to do some camping. We brought some food but just rented everything else: two tents, a tarp, a gridiron and a grill. The camping gear was too expensive to buy and this place is really convenient. The Hangang River is close and there are parks nearby, so it’s the perfect family spot. This is our first time, but I’d like to come back again soon.”
Nanji Camp offers accommodation for larger groups as well, with their extra-large, yurt-style tents that can hold 15 to 20 people. Fifty-nine-year-old Kim Jeong-ok came with her childhood friends from elementary school, explaining, “We used to go on these long trips outside of Seoul, but it’s great that we can camp right here in the city. More and more friends can come now, because it’s close and affordable.”
Another advantage of Nanji Camp is the wide range of sports and leisure activities available nearby. There’s a baseball field, pool, cycling area, water skiing site and mountain bike course, and the west end of the campsite houses a wetlands park. Recycyled artwork decorates buildings, and kids can take classes in natural handkerchief dyeing and other hands-on activities. If you find yourself in Seoul during the warm months, don’t miss out on this chance to go camping beneath the stars and the bright city lights.
Source: Korea People & Culture, July 2011