South Korea is a dream destination – an engaging, welcoming place where the benefits of a high-tech nation are balanced alongside a reverence for tradition and the ways of the old Asia. It might be scary to visit a war-infuriated country, but a quick visit to South Korea is actually worth your time and money!
Korea might be known as the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’, but dive into its capital Seoul, the powerhouse of Asia’s third-largest economy, and serenity is the last thing you’ll feel. This round-the-clock city is constantly on the move, with its work-hard and play-hard population, the epitome of the nation’s indefatigable, can-do spirit. You can hardly turn a corner without stumbling across a tourist information booth, a subway station or a taxi in this multifaceted metropolis where meticulously reconstructed palaces rub shoulders with teeming night markets and the latest technological marvel. In short, it is an urban marvel.
South Korea’s compact size and superb transport infrastructure mean that tranquillity can be found within an easy reach of the urban sprawl. Hike to the summits of craggy mountains enclosed by densely forested national parks. Some of those same mountains transform into ski slopes come winter. Get further off-the-beaten-path than you thought possible by sailing to remote islands, where farming and fishing folk welcome you into their homes and simple seafood cafes. Chill out in serene villages surrounded by rice fields, sleeping in a rustic traditional wooden guesthouse called ‘Hanok’.
A packed calendar of festivals and events means there’s almost always a celebration of some sort to attend wherever you are – it might be Boryeong for its mud fest, or Gwangju for its Biennale or its annual salute to that most Korean of foods: kimchi. Friendly Koreans are always delighted to share their culture with visitors – often that means over a shared meal with a tantalising array of dishes and plenty of toasts with local alcoholic beverages.
There are loads of activities to indulge in when you are in South Korea. Learn how to make tasty kimchi at the Kimchi Academy House! At the Kimchi Academy House, you can learn about Korean history and culture through kimchi. Visitors can take kimchi-making classes taught by a professional kimchi instructor. Participants can taste the kimchi they make, have it vacuum-packed, and take it home with them.
An amazing site you could visit in the neighbourhood is the humongous Gwongeumseong Fortress, which is the site of castle ruins located on Seoraksan Mountain. At the left side of Sogongwon, past the Biryonggyo Bridge over the ravine, there is a path which leads to Gwongeumseong Castle, but it takes over an hour of travel through a steep, rocky path, so a cable car is used. You could also hike through the beautiful mountains up there. Another amazing place is the Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is arguably the most beautiful, and remains the largest of all five palaces in South Korea. It also houses the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum within the premises of the complex.
Amid the majestic mountains of Seoraksan National Park sits an ancient Zen Buddhist temple and a monument to a peaceful unification for Korea. The temple is not only for local monks; it is also available for multi-day paid Mountain Temple Stays by visitors looking to experience Zen meditation and asceticism.
On the path to Sinheungsa, there is a great bronze statue called Bronze Jwabul Statue, which is well over 10 meters high. The Great Unification Buddha sits on a lotus pedestal, flanked with 16 inscribed panels, is the largest seated bronze Buddha statue in the world, at 14.6m high, excluding the halo, lightning rod and pedestal.
If you thought office places are plain and boring, you ought to visit the Blue Palace. The Blue House; literally “pavilion of blue tiles”, is the executive office and official residence of the South Korean head of state. The signature markings of the Presidential Residence of Cheong Wa Dae are its blue tiles. It is the first thing that catches one’s attention upon entering the premises. The blue tiles and the smooth roof blend beautifully with Bugaksan Mountain in the backdrop.
To your surprise, Ginseng is one of the most protected items in Korea, but the Matinal Ginseng outlet gives you a peek into this secret. Here, you will be briefed on the different types of Ginseng and the quality and usefulness. The Korean government has blocked and prevented 6-year-old ginseng is sold to other countries. 4 years old Ginseng and below are allowed to be sold to other countries. You will also learn how to plant and the way to take a look at Ginseng which is so sensitive to land use.
Here are some rules of thumb you need to keep in mind when visiting South Korea:
• Don’t call a person over with your palm facing up
• Don’t take a seat on the first half of the bus
• Don’t tip in restaurants
• Try your best not to refuse food or drinks
• Learn the social conventions for friendships
• Do get out and experience South Korean festival culture
• Korea is a country with a rich drinking culture. So, do drink!
No matter when you travel to South Korea, you will be surprised with breath-taking seasonal changes in nature, such as cherry blossoms in the spring, flower fields in the summer, colourful foliage in the fall and a white wonderland in the winter. So, pick a date from your calendar and head straight to this heavenly destination for your next trip with Travel Treasures!