Beautiful South Korea – one visit is not enough!

If you are planning to visit iconic sites and learn about the culture of the Republic of Korea, its history and former presidents, as well as sample the local food, there are plenty of places where you can indulge your every wish.

Ice skating at the Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul.

I recently visited this country and revelled in its beauty, its fascinating culture, its history and its flavoursome food.
Korea is also a great place for sport, especially winter sports.
Among the must-visits on anyone’s itinerary are Cheongwadae Sarangchae, Tongin Market, National Museum of Korea, Mokdong Ice Rink, Gangneung Curling Centre, Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre and Jeonggangwon (where you can dress up in the national costume).
The country is well known for its colourful cuisine, ranging from street food to high-end restaurants. There’s kimchi (made from salted and fermented vegetables), tofu made from soy milk, bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables and chilli paste), samgyetang (chicken with rice, garlic, ginseng, and jujube), hot pot, and spicy noodle soup. All of these dishes come highly recommended.
I was lucky enough to visit Seoul and Gangwon province for a week in August under the 2018 Public Diplomacy Training Camp, which was hosted by the Korea Foundation in cooperation with Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Student Fellowship.
Seoul is full of places of interest such as Cheongwadae Sarangchae (the tourist centre at the Blue House) where one can learn about Korean culture and the country’s former presidents. There is also the National Museum of Korea which tells the story of Korea’s fascinating history from ancient times to the modern era.
The capital city is also home to Seochon village near Gyeongbokgung Palace, where the old houses lining the long alleys mingle with newly opened shops.
Seochon village is the place to sample traditional Korean fare in Tongin Market, where street food and a raft of other food items are on sale, including fruit and vegetables.
Tongin Market has 75 outlets, most of which are restaurants and grocery stores. Visitors must exchange Korean won for ancient coins in order to buy food, the same as using money to buy coupons. Two coins are worth about 7,000 kip.
After you have exhausted the sights of Seoul, head for Gangwon province which is home to Pyeongchang, the city of winter sports.
The Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre is a multi-purpose stadium located at the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang. This site hosted the ski jumping and Nordic events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. From the top of this astonishing complex there is a panoramic view over the surrounding area.
Visitors can also go to the Gangneung Curling Centre, which was originally an indoor ice rink before it was converted for curling, which is also played on ice.
Curling is not difficult and is lots of fun as it is a team sport and success depends on the coordinated participation of the players.
Another popular place with sport enthusiasts is the Goyang Oulim Nuri Ice Rink where visitors can try speed skating and ice hockey.
Children and adults who want to spend time in the snow should definitely not miss Onemount Snow Park. This exciting complex features a Santa village based on northern European concepts, animal sleds, an ice road with seven themed caves, and even a hill covered with artificial snow where visitors can go sledding.
As well as the various sports venues, Jeonggangwon is another popular tourist destination. This area offers Korean restaurants, flower, fruit and vegetable gardens, and a waterfall.
There is plenty for visitors to do here, such as having a go at making the ever-popular bibimbap rice and vegetable dish. You can also dress up in a hanbok (the traditional dress of Korea) and of course take as many photos as you want.
I was enormously impressed with the programme that was arranged. I learnt so much about Korea and made good friends with the other participants.
I am very grateful to the organisations that made our visit possible and showed us the warm hospitality of the Korean people. But one visit is most definitely not enough and I will certainly be back to enjoy more special experiences.

By Siladda Souliyong
(Latest Update September 23, 2018)

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