Where To Go in South KOREA

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Where To Go in South KOREA

Post  Princess_Louis on Tue Apr 19, 2011 2:05 pm

The Korea National Tourism Organization offers a special English language Travel Phone service for overseas visitors. The number is 1330 and can be called from all over the country (daily 0900-1800). If calling from overseas the number is (0082) 2 1330.
A ‘Goodwill Guide’ service is also available (website: www.goodwillguide.com), by which registered volunteers provide free interpretation services, guided tours of sights and festivals and advice about making the most of your trip to the Republic of Korea. To take advantage of this service overseas visitors must register at least seven days in advance.

Korea (Rep) is a mountainous peninsular which divides the Chinese Yellow Sea from the Sea of Japan. Alpine to the north, the southern Island of Cheju basks in an almost subtropical climate. The country has several dozen National and Provincial Parks and a ruggedly scenic coastline. Despite some moves towards a political thaw, the border with Korea (Dem Rep) is closed and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Seoul
Seoul’s many attractions and excellent transport links make it the Republic of Korea’s number one destination for foreign visitors and the logical place from which to embark on a tour of the country. The capital since 1394, it is a bustling, sophisticated commercial center, which nevertheless retains numerous reminders of its rich heritage. Seoul’s greatest attractions are perhaps the royal residences, several of which are UNESCO-listed.
Changdokkung Palace is surrounded by the picturesque Secret Gardens, while the nearby Chongmyo Shrine, set in wooded grounds, contains the ancestral tablets of the Kings of the Joseon Dynasty. A colorful Confucian ceremony takes place here annually on the first Sunday in May. The Museum of Modern Arts is within the grounds of Toksukung Palace, a former royal villa which presents an interesting contrast with the surrounding skyscrapers. Kyongbokkung Palace, the most impressive of the palaces, dates in part to 1394 and has the excellent National Folk Museum and temporary displays of treasures from the fantastic collection of the National Museum of Korea within its grounds. The symbol of Seoul, the Great South Gate (Namdaemun) was the main gate in the city’s 15th-century defenses. Pagoda Park (Tapkol Park) commemorates the 1919 Korean Declaration of Independence and is a good place for people-watching. For fine city panoramas it is worth ascending Seoul Tower, which sits atop landscaped Namsan Mountain in the heart of the city. The War Memorial and Museum on Yongsan-gu military base traces the history of conflict on the Korean Peninsular. Seoul is a great place to see performances of Korea’s vibrant performing arts. For those interested in finding a unique souvenir, the traditional shopping area of Insadong offers everything from antiques to calligraphy brushes. Bargain hunters will enjoy the city’s huge markets such as the daily East Gate (Dongdaemun) Market, while for fashion shopping and nightlife the Itaewon district is the place to head for. Lotte World is a massive entertainment complex featuring everything from a major theme park to sports facilities and a luxury hotel.

Excursions
Just north of the capital, the forests and cliff-top temples of Pukansan National Park offer great hiking and recreational facilities. One hour from Seoul, on the border with North Korea, is the truce village of Panmunjom, where the 1953 armistice negotiations took place. Access is possible only on an official tour, but many will find the sight of the North Korean landscape and soldiers well worth it. The Everland leisure complex, one hour from Seoul, features a huge theme park, a zoo and a speedway-racing track. Also part of the complex, the superb treasures of the Hoam Art Museum will appeal to anyone interested in Korean art. South of Seoul is the Suwon Korean Folk Village, a functioning rural community and wonderful reconstruction of the past. Craftspeople can be observed at their trades and there are daily performances of traditional folk dances and entertainments. The impressively preserved city walls and defenses of nearby Suwon City are UNESCO-listed. Southeast of Seoul, Icheon is a traditional center of Korea’s ceramics industry. Attractions include the Haegang Ceramics Museum and nearby hot springs. Incheon, the location of South Korea’s new International Airport, is a major seaport and famous for the 1950 ‘Incheon Landings’ of UN troops during the Korean War. These days visitors flock to the many shopping malls and the amusement park and waterfront attractions of the Wolmido area.

The East
Eastern Korea provides breathtaking mountain and coastal scenery, a blaze of color in autumn and a fine setting for wintersports with modern, fully-equipped ski centers. The mountains run down to the sea along much of the 390km- (240 mile-) east coast but are interspersed by harbors, fishing villages and long, sandy beaches, such as the popular resort of Hwajinpo. The beautiful beaches of the Samchok area range from tiny, undiscovered coves to large resorts. The incredibly scenic volcanic island of Ullungdo lies 130km (80 miles) off the coast and is accessible by ferry. Three of Korea’s National Parks, Soraksan, Odaesan and Chuwangsan, are accessible from the East Coast highway. Soraksan National Park, the northernmost, is widely considered to offer the most beautiful scenery in Korea with its rugged peaks, waterfalls, forests and temples. Excellent tourist facilities range from hiking trails and campsites to the Osaek Springs luxury hot spring resorts. The resort village of Soarkdong is a popular starting point for climbing expeditions and a cable car runs from the village to the ancient Kwongumsong Fortress from where there are spectacular views. For wintersports, the nearby Alps Ski Resort is well known. Odaesan National Park is famous for its ski resorts, as is the Dragon Valley (Yongpyong) area further south. Rock climbers will enjoy the challenges of the Chiaksan area.
Towards the center of the country, Songnisan National Park is another area renowned for its natural beauty. The famous Popchusa Temple dates back to AD 553 and has an impressive pagoda, and a number of art treasures such as an immense standing Buddha. Rural Andong district retains much of its traditional culture and the Musil Folk Village and Museum is well worth visiting. The nearby Hahoe Folk Village is particularly known for its mask makers and dancers. The annual Andong Folk Festival and Masked Dance Festival takes place in October.

Kyongju
Known as Korea’s ‘museum without walls’, Kyongju is a repository of ancient Korean history and Buddhist culture and has been designated by UNESCO as one of the world’s 10 most historically significant sites. Capital of the Shilla Kingdom from 57 BC to AD 935, many traces of the temples, palaces and monuments of that era still remain. The most impressive structure to survive is undoubtedly the seventh-century Chomsongdae, an observatory that ranks amongst the oldest in Asia. Nearby Tumuli Park contains 20 tomb mounds of Shilla Royalty, one of which, the Heavenly Horse Tomb, can be entered. Many treasures of the area, including golden crowns excavated from the tombs, can be seen in the Kyongju National Museum. The Anapji Pond and Gardens are a reconstructed pleasure garden complete with pavilions. The surrounding hills are dotted with ancient monuments and temples and laced with scenic hiking trails.

Excursions
Within easy reach of Kyongju is the Pomun Lake Resort, a complex of hotels, a convention center, golf courses, sports facilities, a casino, marina and shopping centers. Nearby Pulguksa Temple is one of the country’s most famous and a major tourist draw. This large wooden temple is beautifully painted and very atmospheric and the stone foundations and pagodas date back to the eighth century. High on the mountain above Pulguksa is the fascinating Sokkuram Grotto, an ancient and highly complex cave-like structure containing a large granite Buddha and wall carvings of guardian deities, all of great artistic importance.
50km west of Taegu City is the Kayasan National Park, at the center of which is Haeinsa, Korea’s best-known temple. Built in AD 802, it houses the extraordinary Tripitaka Koreana, a set of over 80,000 wooden printing blocks engraved with the complete Buddhist scriptures. Completed in 1252 after 16 years of work, they are still in perfect condition.

The South
Busan, on South Korea’s southeastern coast, is the country’s largest sea port. There are great views from the Busan Tower, and the city’s attractions include Pomosa Temple, Kumjongsansong Fortress and the large, busy fish market. The nearby coast boasts two major beach resorts, Haeundae and Songjong. Haeundae is the more popular and has a long, sandy beach with a good range of hotels and restaurants. Additional attractions are sightseeing boat tours and the nearby medicinal hot springs. Another hot-spring resort in the area is Tongnae, while Kumgang Park features unusual rock formations and historic monuments, including a pagoda and several temples. The superb Ulsukdo Bird Sanctuary offers world-class birdwatching.
Chirisan National Park is known as a fine hiking and mountaineering destination. Located on the flank of Mount Chirisan, Hwaeomsa Temple is famous for its ancient pagodas and annual lantern festival.
Korea’s southwestern area offers dramatic coastal scenery, most notably the 1000-plus islands that make up the Tadohae Haesang Marine National Park. Of the islands that offer accommodation and facilities for visitors, scenic Hongdo and craggy Huksando are two of the most popular. The area is famous for its beautiful sunsets. The coastal town of Mokpo is the location of the excellent new National Maritime Museum and departure point for ferries to many of the National Park’s islands and also for Cheju-do Island.

Cheju-do Island
Lying off the southwest coast of the Republic of Korea, the scenic resort island of Cheju-do is dominated by Mount Halla, Korea’s highest mountain at 1950m (6400ft). Just a one-hour flight from Seoul, the island’s warm, sunny climate and myriad leisure facilities mean that it is the country’s most popular honeymoon destination. Hikers will enjoy following the trail to the summit of Mount Halla while those in search of a beach holiday will find sandy beaches, warm waters and sports facilities. The Chungmun tourist complex offers watersports, a golf course and a ‘Pacific’-themed leisure center. A major amusement park, Cheju World, provides fun for lovers of thrills and rides. Numerous natural attractions include the Samsonghyol Caves, three spectacular waterfalls and the volcanic scenery of Songsanilchulbong Park. Tours of the many tangerine orchards and visits to Songup Folk Village are also popular. Cheju-do is famous for its seafood, some of which is still harvested by traditional haenyeo women divers.

The West
South of Seoul, South Korea’s western area is known for its jagged scenic coastline and numerous National and Provincial Parks. Particularly notable is the Kyeryongsan National Park which includes the two beautiful temples of Kapsa and Dongkaksa. 35km (20 miles) apart, both Kongju and Puyo were once capital of the ancient Paekche kingdom. Today, numerous burial mounds are still to be found in the area and both towns boast branches of the National Museum featuring fine displays of artifacts dating back over 1000 years. The Kongju National Museum also houses the crowns and other treasures excavated from the tomb of King Muryeon. Nearby, a reconstruction of the tomb is open to visitors. Not far from Puyo, the Nakhwaam Rock is renowned for the tragic suicide of 3000 women of the Paekche court during the last days of the Paekche dynasty in the seventh century AD. Further south, Teogyusan National Park has numerous waterfalls and is famous as the southernmost skiing area in Korea (Rep). The temple of Tapsa, located at the base of Mount Maisan, is renowned for its 80 unique pagodas, built with thousands of small stones by a Buddhist hermit.

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