Exploring Korea: 18 virtual trips in Land of the Morning Calm
Exploring Korea: 18 virtual trips in Land of the Morning Calm
Here are some great places to check out.
The great thing about this beach resort town is that it is easily accessible to most of the USFK bases in Korea.
Guryongpo was originally a small fishing village and has plenty of history, food, and beaches which make it a great place for a getaway.
Some of the must-see spots in Guryongpo include the Japanese House Street, a street that maintains the look of the Japanese colonial period. Here, take a leisurely stroll for a glimpse at the homes of Japanese fishermen who lived here starting in the 1920s. A visit to this area is not complete without a stop at Guryongpo Modern History Museum, the former home of a great Japanese landlord, converted into a museum with an amazing garden.
On my last trip there, I enjoyed Homigot’s beautiful ocean view, a short 15-minute drive from Guryongpo. The “Hands of Harmony” sculpture is impressive and the coast here is a great place to ring in the New Year.
Don’t forget to try Guryongpo’s famous snow crab dishes and gwamegi, a half-dried herring, served with an assortment of fresh vegetables and dry seaweed. Both pair well with soju.
The great thing about Busan is that it is easily accessible from anywhere on the Korean Peninsula, which is easy to get to from anywhere in the Pacific theater.
Busan has plenty of culture, history, and food which makes it ideal for a quick getaway.
Some of the must-see spots in Busan include:
Gamcheon Culture Village — this area features hundreds of colorful houses along the foot of a mountain. This village’s history dates back to 1950s when the town served as a home for refugees during the Korean War.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple — A visit to Busan is not complete without a stop at this beautiful temple with its magnificent ocean view and beautiful architecture.
Next, hop on the Songdo cable car. Originally launched in 1964 as Korea’s first cable car, it offers a bird’s-eye view of the coast of Busan, its hillsides, and cliffs around the Songdo area.
On my last trip there, I also visited Nampodong BIFF square packed with street vendors offering a unique atmosphere and tasty Korean street food.
While you’re there, don’t forget to try seed hotteok, a Korean sweet pancake with sesame seeds. Other local specialty dishes include simmering pork and rice soup and a wide selection of tasty fish cakes.
As Korea has removed signs and buildings from the previous 35-year Japanese colonial rule, Kunsan (or Gunsan, it’s official name) has preserved some of these symbols of the past.
Some of Gunsan’s buildings are now museums or guest houses, which draw in young people who want to a closer look at these interesting sites. Gunsan’s renaissance-style city center is great spot for strolling and exploring.
Starfield Anseong, Humphreys
Starfield is about 20 minutes away from Camp Humphreys and aims to draw not only shoppers, but also entertainment-seekers with its cinema, soccer field, car showroom, library and sauna. But don’t let those interesting additions fool you, this is definitely a place to shop ‘til you drop. Starfield offers over 300 shops, including 70 eateries, so a trip here could easily take up massive amounts of time. In the ground and basement floor you’ll find grocery shopping which will make this a one-stop shop.
Gyeongju has plenty of culture, history, and food which makes it ideal for a quick getaway.
Some of the must-see spots in Gyeongju include:
Bulguksa Temple — This temple, which symbolizes the Buddhist land, is a prime example of the religion’s intricate architecture and dates back one thousand years.
Seokguram — You’ll find this stone temple, also considered a national treasure, on Tohamsan Mountain. Inside, the Seokguram Grotto is an artificial cave where you can enjoy the essence of the Buddhist Arts of the Silla Dynasty.
Yangdong Village – This rare, traditional village gives you a look back at the Joseon Dynasty and is a great place to enjoy the natural surroundings the area offers.
On my last trip there, I also visited Hwangridan Street packed with cafes and restaurants offering unique atmosphere and tasty Korean dishes.
While you’re there don’t forget to try Hwangnam Ppang (Gyeongju bread), a small pastry with a red bean paste filling, and Chalbori-ppang, glutinous barley bread. Both breads are a local specialty of Gyeongju City and you can find them anywhere in the city.
Seongsu Handmade Shoe Street
Seongsu-dong, in central Seoul, is a historically semi-industrial district well known for its handmade shoe street. Though the shoes here are slightly more expensive than you can get at the mall or a generic shoe store, the quality, attention to detail and the history might just be worth spending a little extra for a unique pair. And even if you’re not on the market for a new pair of kicks, this district offers plenty of restaurants, pubs and shops to spend some time exploring.
Agroland Taeshin Farmland
Enjoy a breath of fresh air and some fun activities at Agroland Taeshin Farmland. Your family will enjoy a ride around the property on a tractor ride, meeting and feeding farm animals and more. Getting there is only a 40-minute drive from Camp Humphreys. Get ready to meet the farm’s over 2,000 animals including Holstein and Hanwoo Korean native cattle, horses, goats, chickens, sheep, pigs, ducks, and ostriches!
The great thing about South Korea’s capital is that it is easily accessible from anywhere in the Pacific.
Seoul has plenty of culture, history, and food which makes it ideal for a quick getaway.
Some of the must-see spots in Seoul include
Insadong, a busy district where old meets new. Immerse yourself in the many art galleries and hidden traditional tea houses in Insadong’s narrow alleys. Don’t miss the Ssamzie-gil Complex offering a unique cafe, food, and handcrafts experience.
Myeongdong – This is probably one of the most famous of the city’s shopping areas. Go for the shopping and the street food or visit one of many restaurants this lively district has to offer.
Gangnam – This affluent neighborhood has a concentration of gleaming skyscrapers, upscale designer brand stores, and stylish nightclubs. If you want to try a high-end dining experience and nightlife in the most prosperous area in South Korea, Gangnam is the right choice.
Hongdae – If a fun, hip neighborhood is more your style, give Hongdae a try. This district is home to a great urban arts and indie music scene popular amongst the city’s youth.
Seonyudo Island is one of the West Sea’s hidden treasures. Taoist hermits were said to gain their miraculous powers here. Today, this island is considered the most beautiful of the Gogunsan’s 63 islands.
Visitors to Seonyudo Island are given an abundance of activities to try here including hiking, fishing, clam digging, ziplining and more.
The wooden deck along Seonyudo’s northern coastline is an easy and beautiful walk. Check out Myeongsasimni Beach with white sands stretching across 1.5 kilometers great for a picnic and swimming on a hot summer’s day.
The great thing about Jeonju is that it is easily accessible from anywhere on the Korean Peninsula, which is easy to get to from anywhere in the Pacific theater.
Jeonju has plenty of culture, history, and food which makes it ideal for a quick getaway.
Some of the must-see spots in Jeonju include:
Jeonju Hanok Village — This area features over 800 traditional Korean houses offset by the modernized architecture of the buildings surrounding it. The historic village is a great place for a leisurely walk as you enjoy a step back into this region’s history.
Jeondong Catholic Church — A visit to Jeonju is not complete without a stop at this church built in 1914. With its unique architecture which is a combination of Byzantine and Romanesque architectural styles, this church is considered one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in Korea along with Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul.
Gyeonggijeon shrine — This shrine was created in 1410 and is home to the portrait of King Tae-jo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. The charm of this shrine is the old-world atmosphere and wooded garden which allow you to enjoy walking along the trail beneath the spreading foliage.
On my last trip there, I also visited Nambu Night Market packed with street vendors offering tasty Korean street food and a lively atmosphere.
While you’re there don’t forget to try bibimbap, a Korean rice bowl topped with an array of vegetables and meat and served with a gochujang. This dish is a local specialty of Jeonju and you can find them anywhere in the city.
Multicultural Ansan Food Street
Located in Wongok-dong, the Ansan Multicultural Food Street was formed in 1990s during the influx of blue-collar foreign workers who came work at the many industrial companies in Ansan. Fine-dining restaurants or elegant coffee shops are rare here, but you can enjoy rustic restaurants that serve up traditional delicacies from around the world.
At Hwalok Cave, or Jade Cave, visitors have a unique opportunity to explore one of Asia’s biggest formore mines by foot and by kayak. This cave was carved out over centuries by Korean miners and is 8.2-kiliometers long with its highest depth reaching 711 meters. Visitors can explore the cave by foot on a leisurely stroll through the 800-meter-long LED-illuminated passageways and can also hop in a clear-bottom kayak for access to other parts of the cave.
While Boryeong may not sound familiar to you, it isn’t until you hear the name in context of its annual mud festival or Daecheon Beach, that it will start to ring a bell.
This year, the famously muddy event will not be the same and the protocol for its famous beach is also different, but Boryeong is still a lovely destination with plenty more to offer. There are a few of the other activities which make Boryeong a place you should add to your travel list.
Seongsu-dong, located in central Seoul, is historically a semi-industrial district known for its handmade shoes and stylish cafes in repurposed warehouses and factories. Old print shops and small factories in this neighborhood have been converted into restaurants and art galleries, making it a hot spot for fashionistas and local shoppers.
In the 80s, shoe artisans from Myoeng-dong, another one of Seoul’s famous fashion districts, experienced a golden age, but soon sky-high rents would cause a mass-exodus of these small business owners to nearby Seongsu-dong. A tiny museum at the Seoungsu Subway Station traces this history and growth of the handmade shoe street after this transition.
Though the shoes here are slightly more expensive than you can get at a mall or a generic shoe store, the quality, attention to detail and the history might just be worth spending a little extra for a unique pair. And even if you’re not on the market for a new pair of kicks, this district offers plenty of restaurants, pubs and shops to spend some time exploring.
When it comes to mountains, height isn’t always everything. At a mere 685 meters, Maisan Mountain, located in Jianan-gun, Jeollabuk-do, may not be very tall, but it offers a great view of neighboring peaks and unique topography. From its peak, the view of Tapsa Temple, with its mysterious 80-stone pagodas, is worth the leisurely climb alone.
Diving in an indoor pool might sound boring as there are no tropical fish or coral reefs to admire below the surface. But, before you swear off indoor diving, consider a dive into Gapyeong’s K-26 pool — the deepest pool in Asia. Ranking in at around 26 meters deep (the second deepest is in Taiwan at 21 meters), K-26 challenges experienced divers and first-timers alike. It is a great spot to practice freediving and scuba diving without having to leave for the ocean in freezing cold weather.
Flying Suwon is a helium-filled balloon linked with ropes near the Changryongmoon in Paldal District. The balloon, which can carry up to 20 passengers at a time, allows for a view of the fortress grounds and surrounding neighborhood from above. Depending on weather conditions, the balloon will take you up anywhere from 100 to 150 meters and stops for about 7 to 10 minutes, giving you enough time to get a perfect photo and a good look at the tiny cars in traffic below.
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