West Sea village of Janghwa-ri offers an inspiring respite from the daily grind
Written and photographed by John Steele
Located approximately an hour and a half west of Seoul, the farming village of Janghwa-ri on the western tip of the island of Ganghwado is comprised of rolling, lush hills that surround flat, vibrant acres of rice and radish fields. The farmlands extend all the way to the coast, where they meet the tidal mudflats that form a picturesque entranceway to the Yellow Sea.
Since the construction of Ganghwa Bridge, the island has gradually become more similar to the Korean mainland as well as much more accessible. A variety of people, from young couples and families to hikers and photographers, visit the village daily to get away from the hectic lifestyle in Seoul and enjoy the natural beauty the island has to offer. Couples are seen wearing mud boots up to their knees, walking hand and hand as they try to navigate the slippery terrain of the mudflats. Families come out for day trips or a weekend adventure to camp in the countryside or stay in one of the many pensions located in the aforementioned rolling hills, which have a beautiful view that overlooks the sea.
Hikers and older couples take leisurely strolls through the hills and farms or challenge themselves on Mt. Manisan, a mountain located close to the village. With a peak of 470 meters above sea level, Manisan is the highest point on Ganghwado and offers a clear view of both the Yellow Sea and the Korean mainland. This mountain is most known for Chanmseongdan, a stone altar where Dangun, the legendary founder of the Korean nation, is said to have held sacrificial rites to heaven.
Because the village is positioned on the west coast, it has become a famous spot for photographers to catch the sun setting behind a small island with a cluster of trees, with the mudflats in the foreground. Compared to other travel destinations, Janghwa-ri might have fewer things to see or do. But this is what attracts people. Few places like this full of this much nature, peace and charm are located this close to Seoul. In addition, Janghwa-ri has a unique, carefree and stress-relieving quality of making people feel as though they are in a totally different country for the day and can leave their worries behind. This effect is what brings people to the village, and this is what keeps them coming back.
If the stress of the big city life is getting you down, a trip to Janghwa-ri, Ganghwado, might just be what you need to recharge your batteries. The peaceful village is a lovely place for an escape with your family, significant other or camera.
EAT> Similar to other islands on the coast, Ganghwado is known for its fresh seafood dishes. Numerous restaurants there specialize in raw fish, horse crab (kkotge), seafood noodle soups, or kalguksu, spicy fish soups, and for the adventurous, broiled eel. The kalguksu in particular is highly recommended, as is a side dish of seafood pajeon, or Korean style savory pancake, which is an absolutely perfect way to start off the meal.
STAY> Ganghwado is a day-trip from Seoul.
GO> Take Bus 3000 from the Sinchon Rotary to Ganghwa Intercity Bus Terminal. From there, take Local Bus #3 to the village.