When it comes to global travel and tourism, Asian countries have no problem coping with their rising popularity among travelers. The influx of tourists from different parts of the world provides good business for Asian countries, especially after the recession struck in 2008. With the help of discounted travel packages and a new line of budget airlines, the Far East is now easily accessible to backpackers, families going on a holiday, and even students on a budget who have a bit of time off from school.
Many travelers now seek out the mystical ashrams in India, the lush rice paddies in Vietnam, the many modern buildings that continue to crop up in China, the relaxing baths in Japan in contrast to their buzzing cities, and the beautiful beaches in the Philippines. These days, Korea is also nudging its way in the market, with a steady stream of tourists visiting this country each year.
Most of the travelers who fly to Korea tend to visit the city of Seoul. But for those of you who have never been or are planning to come back, expand your horizons and dare to venture outside the city. This charming peninsula, home to over 48 million residents including the likes of international pop star Rain and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, has a lot to offer if you just take the time to get to know your surroundings better.
Here are a couple of places you might want to check out if you want to step outside the bustling city of Seoul.
Compared to the country’s capital, Busan is a more diverse city. In this modern and bustling city, you will find a mix of different cultures that are not present in Seoul. Busan is the second-largest city in the country, next to the capital Seoul. Visitors to the city can check out Texas Town, which used to be a United States military base. Interestingly enough, the entrance to Texas Town is through a beautifully carved gate inspired by Chinese influences. If you’re feeling peckish, try one or two of the Russian pierogies to abate your hunger pangs. For those who aren’t familiar with this food, a pierogi is similar to a tart that is filled with meat, vegetables, potatoes, and cheese; it is usually fried or cooked through boiling and then served with a generous helping of sour cream.
Busan is actually a coastal city that is otherwise known as South Korea’s own version of San Francisco. It overlooks the Sea of Japan and is also a hub for traders and other small, international companies.
As the years went by, more and more people belonging to different cultures gradually came to Busan and settled into their own communities in the area; this, in turn, gave the city a warm and friendly atmosphere, and always welcome visitors.
What makes the city unique and attractive is the balance between its natural features and the urban city. Nature lovers can enjoy a weekend hike in the tall, lush mountains after a week’s worth of hard work in one of the many office buildings in the city.
Numerous beach resorts line the coast that caters to different personalities; the serene beaches in Songdo and Haeundae’s high profile resorts are all ideal places to soak up the sun and have some fun in the water. You can even check out the summer attractions in Haeundae including the exhibit for sandcastles and also the rock festivals. Recently, Haeundae also garnered worldwide recognition when it achieved the Guinness world record for having the most number of parasols put up on one beach.
For some attractions off the beach, feel free to visit the galleries or shop in the boutiques in the area. At noon, you can go up the mountain for a quick hike and cool off at the beach by sundown.
Damyang County is nestled between two massive mountains in the southwestern region of the country. The town is small and quaint, but the real reason why people come here is the 25 hectares of lush, dense forest filled with thousands and thousands of bamboo. Modern technology has undoubtedly given us plenty of luxuries in our time, but along with it came pollution and now, global warming. Other cities in the area often suffer from smog and too much humidity, but this rich natural reserve manages to keep things in the right balance. In the bamboo forest, temperature sare usually about five degrees lower compared to other parts of town.
Visiting Damyang is ideal in the summertime when everyone is complaining of the heat and shying away from the sun. Even the locals who live in far-off cities take the trip to Damyang to enjoy the cool, fresh air. However, a vacation here during the latter part of the year is a visit to a winter wonderland that you’ll surely enjoy.
There are a number of activities that you can do in Damyang whether you’re by yourself or traveling with your family. For instance, you can have a nice picnic under the swaying bamboo stalks; couples can take a romantic walk among the bamboo and even carve out their initials on the softwood. Local vendors also offer a number of products made of bamboo: panpipes, placemats, and even wind chimes.
If you’re feeling hungry, don’t be surprised to find bamboo in every single one of the dishes offered in the local restaurants. There’s no better day to sample the bamboo stew, bamboo pastries, bamboo soup, and oh yes, bamboo noodles!
If you want to spend your honeymoon in Korea, look no further than Jeju Island. This spot is undoubtedly the most popular island in Korea among newlywed couples who are going on their honeymoon. The island will remind you a bit of Hawaii and also South Padre Island in Texas.
Not all the areas in Jeju island are occupied by sandy beaches. The Hallasan mountain stands tall at Jeju, looking over the metropolis; the volcano, which has remained dormant for quite some time (others even believe it to be extinct) is also considered as the highest mountain in all of South Korea. If you’re in the mood for some hiking, you can follow the trail to the mountain top and take some pictures against the amazing backdrop.
Horses are common on the island, and equestrianism is quite popular among the locals. For travelers who are confessed animal lovers, you won’t run out of the places to visit where you can go horseback riding. In a lot of these facilities, you can even don a cowboy costume just for the heck of it.
A good way to check out the various beaches on the island is to go and rent one motorbike that you can drive around the town in. The waters here remain cool and unbelievably clean even during the summer. During the winter months, however, a lot of penguins come to Jeju Island for some fun in the water.
When it comes to accommodation, you can choose from a variety of hotels that will suit your budget and even your fetish. You can get a standard hotel room, or opt for one that strictly follows the honeymoon theme (think heart-shaped everything, from bathtubs to rugs, to beds and even the light fixtures.
Nightlife on the island is never dull. In preparation for a night of (ahem) romance, you can visit Jeju Loveland, which just happens to be Korea’s one and only theme park dedicated to sex. Thanks to a small group of art students in one of the local universities, you can visit the theme park and walk past a number of sculptures that depict couples in mid-coitus, people going solo, not to mention the sex organs in humongous proportions.
Gyeongju is ideal for travelers who want to sit back and take it easy. A visit to Gyeongju will not only infuse your body with fresh, clean air, it will also clear your mind of unwanted noise and mental clutter. The coastal city of Gyeongju will transport you to another place in time, where there are no tall buildings to be seen, no wide concrete roads, and no escalators, either.
The pace here in Gyeongju is nothing like the hectic atmosphere in bustling cities like New York or Tokyo. Here’s no one rushes because they’re not hurrying somewhere; instead, people take their time as they go about their day-to-day lives. For visitors, this means you have plenty of time to admire the various historical sights to be found in the city. Don’t rush yourself when you visit the different structures. Instead, explore and immerse yourself in your journeys. Take the time to learn about the local culture and history and at the same time, the people that make up this island.
There is a temple complex in the city that houses the Seokguram Grotto. This grotto is considered to be among South Korea’s proudest and most famous historic structures. There is also a beautiful Buddhist park where you can linger and dawdle and do practically nothing but relax. There are also a number of art pieces here depicting Eastern influences, which makes the park a sort of museum set out in the open.
Here, you can find gilded Buddhas and also stone pagodas. Another place worth visiting is the Bulguksa temple, which was also declared a national treasure. All the artifacts and most of the structures you will find in the city are part of the once named Silla Dynasty, giving you a glimpse of what the place was like in earlier years.
If you feel that you’ve had enough rest and can take on a short adrenaline rush, you can opt to visit Han-Ho, which is known all over the world for its go-karting track.
Visiting Gyeongju in April will guarantee you a wonderful experience as the town celebrates two festivals: one dedicated to rice cakes and the other dedicated to soju. If you’re not too familiar with the local cuisine, Korean rice cakes are a kind of sweet dessert that can be quite addicting; and the soju is an extremely potent alcoholic beverage that is popular with Koreans.
Tea is quite popular in Boseong County, so if you want to enjoy a cup or two of this refreshing beverage, then don’t wait any longer. Boseong is home to miles and miles of fields growing green tea. We don’t exaggerate when we say that the county is complete with rolling hills and acres of tea in varying hues of green, and leaves that are wet from the early morning dew.
These fields all full of green tea are extremely popular with filmmakers and tv producers. There are many times when this is has been used by filmmakers as the location for their movies and perhaps one or two television drama series. Every now and then, a crew makes its way to the fields to shoot a tv commercial. This area is also popular with the locals who like to go on day trips. If you visit Boseong, a lot of companions will be the Koreans themselves armed with big cameras trying to take numerous pictures of the fields.
Boseong County is located in the province of South Jeolla. The word among insiders is that this area produces the best green tea that you can find in all of South Korea. If you want to confirm or debunk this rumor, you can make your way to the Daehandawon plantation and sample their local product. The Daehandawon plantation is considered to be the oldest in the area, not to mention the largest, too. The plantation is located inside a cedar forest which makes it even more charming than it already is.
If you’re finished with your cup of tea, you can hail a taxi or hop on a bus and make the 15-minute journey to Hwa-dong. This is a small village built by the coast that offers the most relaxing baths you can imagine. And to add more enjoyment to your experience, the locals add green tea to your bath.
So, there you go. We’ve done our part and given you five places in South Korea where you can experience history (Gyeongju), a mixture of different cultures (Busan), sensual pleasures (Jeju), nature’s wonders (Damyang), and extreme relaxation in a terrific bath (Boseong). Now, do your part and book a ticket to Korea.