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Vacation in Incheon: From triplet islets to Wonderbox

Yeongjongdo, an island off the west coast of South Korea, is popular as a quick getaway spot for Seoulites because the drive is only an hour or so from the heart of the capital.

Beaches, seafood and shopping are some of the features boasted by the island -- home to Incheon Airport and connected to the mainland by the 4.4-kilometer Yeongjong Grand Bridge -- but the triplet islets of Sindo, Sido and Modo off its northern coast are also worth visiting in nice weather.

Off to the islets

Sammok Dock is where you want to go, just a couple of kilometers from Unseo IC, and you can also take the No. 221-1 bus from Unseo Station, which departs once every hour and takes about 10 minutes to get from the subway station to the dock.

Visitors to the Sindo-Sido-Modo area ride electric bicycles on a bridge. (Paradise City)
Visitors to the Sindo-Sido-Modo area ride electric bicycles on a bridge. (Paradise City)

The dock was quite small, but filled with the salty scent of the ocean and the cries of seagulls. We could not ask for better sailing weather, as the skies were as clear as they could be.

A photo ID is required to take the ferry that will sail for 10 minutes to the islets, which also carries buses and cars. The fare is 2,000 won ($1.70) per person and 10,000 won per car.

Speaking of seagulls, our beaky friends started to gather around the ferry, knowing from experience that it was snack time. Flinging food at birds is encouraged, apparently, as the vending machine in the cabin sold popular Korean shrimp chips. I have to say it was weirdly fun to have seagulls snatch a chip out of my hand, minus a small scratch on my thumb from one clumsy bird.

All three islands are connected via bridges that extend across the mudflats, and there is a bus that goes around all the major spots. But a more sensible option would be to drive or rent a bike from one of the rental shops near the Sindo dock or the bridge between Sindo and Sido.

My recommendation is to rent an electric bike for 15,000 won per hour -- it rides like a slow motorcycle and is quite easy to drive. You can also slip into places that cars cannot. Be warned, though: A sunny day takes its toll on your skin, so don’t forget to put on plenty of sunblock.

For 35,000 won per hour you can rent a bike built for three people, so friends and family can tag along.

The islands are quite small, and it would take three hours at most to look around all three. I slipped across to Sido and rode north to Sugi Beach, which is famous as a filming location for the 2004 hit TV series “Full House,” starring actor and singer Rain and Song Hye-kyo. It was nice walking on the fine sand and sitting down at a cafe with a full view of the ocean.

Not far from the beach was a salt evaporation pond where you could try out salt extraction for free. Although I have to warn you that pushing rakes across a pond under the sun is not as exciting as it sounds, and you also have to bring your own boots.

Modo also has a beach called Baemikkumi Beach, which means the bottom of a ship. At the beach is a sculpture park -- with a 1,000 won entrance fee -- displaying rather preposterous and strangely erotic sculptures. There is a small beachside coffeehouse with tables that face the sea.

The sculpture park at Baemikkumi Beach on Modo (Paradise City)
The sculpture park at Baemikkumi Beach on Modo (Paradise City)

All across Sindo are mudflats where visitors can be seen picking up clams, little crabs and other forms of sea life brought there by seawater during high tide. Gubongsan is a mere 179 meters above sea level, but the summit offers a nice view.

Visitors pose on a three-dimensional sign that spells “Modo” on one of the island’s beaches. (Paradise City)
Visitors pose on a three-dimensional sign that spells “Modo” on one of the island’s beaches. (Paradise City)

Take me down to Paradise City

The grass isn’t green, but the pack of adorable children at Paradise City’s latest attraction, Wonderbox, gives the resort hotel a lively atmosphere.

The indoor theme park opened in March and is decorated with media art that suggests a “theme park of the night.” This does not mean it is accessible only at night: It’s open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and until 10 p.m. on weekends and holidays. 
Wonderbox (Paradise City)
Wonderbox (Paradise City)

According to its representatives, around 500 to 600 people visit the 3,933-square-meter park every day, and the number spikes to 2,500 to 3,000 on weekends.

Upon entering the premises at 6 p.m., we were treated to the Luna Carnival, an interactive festival. Kids seemed to enjoy watching dancers and other performers dressed like animals, and even as an adult I was pleasantly surprised by the acrobatic performance. The children waited in long lines to take photos with the performers after the show.

Wonderbox (Paradise City)
Wonderbox (Paradise City)

Other special events included a Masquerade Show, Wonder Show Time and a Carnival Dress Room where guests could try on Luna Carnival costumes. Large-scale media facade and media art were also something to look at.

While I came expecting to see a theme park for children, some of the rides were appealing for adults as well. The Mega Mix, which is supposed to be the first 360-degree-rotational spin attraction in the country, actually looked terrifying to a man susceptible to motion sickness, and the giant slide -- 12 meters tall -- was very tempting. The former was limited to visitors who are at least 140 centimeters tall, and the latter was for adults only.

They also had classics like the spinning tea cup, the bumper car and the Ferris wheel, but what I especially liked was the look of the place. The designs were creative and pretty -- like Chocolate Street, designed by patissier Janice Wong -- and there were plenty of interactive features to keep kids entertained.

A one-day pass that allows access to all the rides costs 28,000 won for adults and 20,000 won for children under 14. Kids under 37 months can enter for free. Admission fees don’t cover extras such as carnival games, locker fees, food, beverages and gift shop purchases.

Pets are not allowed on the premises, only guide dogs. For more information about Wonderbox, visit the Paradise City homepage.

By Yoon Min-sik