South KOREA Activities

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South KOREA Activities

Post  Princess_Louis on Tue Apr 19, 2011 2:12 pm

The Republic of Korea has considerable experience in hosting major international sporting events, notably the 1986 Asian Games, the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, the 2002 Asian Games and the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which it co-hosted together with Japan – the first time this major sporting event has taken place in an Asian country. Sports facilities are therefore generally of a high standard, particularly in Seoul and in the larger cities.

Watersports
Visitors will find plenty of facilities for watersports along the southern coast and islands. The best time is from June to November,but swimming, paragliding and whitewater rafting are possible year-round. There are numerous scuba diving centers along the coast, with diving classes, equipment rental and air tanks all provided. Cheju-do Island (one hour by plane from Seoul) is the most popular destination for scuba diving enthusiasts; the waters surrounding the island are also considered exceptionally good for deep-sea fishing, and a number of hotels and companies offer organized fishing trips. Standard facilities for windsurfing, water-skiing and boating are widely available in all coastal resorts. (For further details on the most important beach resorts, see the Where to Go section.) Following a massive clean-up during the 1980s, Seoul’s Han-gang River now provides a range of watersports facilities and is a popular destination for those wishing to escape a busy city life.

Golf
There are more than 181 golf courses in Korea, the best ones located near Seoul, Kyongju and Chejudo. Many of them can be reached within one hour by car. Facilities for accommodation and other sports (such as swimming pools) are often also integrated within the golf complex. Reservations (which should be made at least one week in advance) can be made directly to the golf course or through a travel agent. Players should note that personal golf clubs must be declared to customs officials upon entering the country. For details of membership and fees, contact the Korea National Tourism Organization (see General Info section).

Skiing
There are 13 ski resorts all within four or five hours of Seoul. The principal ones are the Yongpyong Ski Resort (Dragon Valley International Ski Resort) at Tackwallyong Area and Chonmasan Ski Resort near Seoul.

Traditional sports
T’aekwondo is the main martial art practiced in Korea. The traditional Korean sport, Ssirum (Korean wrestling), is similar to Sumo wrestling and is a big spectator sport in Korea. Kite-flying and archery are also popular traditional games.

Festivals
Korea’s rich cultural, historic and religious heritage is celebrated throughout the year in the myriad festivals, some in honor of religious figures (such as Buddha’s birthday), others focusing on nature (eg the changing seasons). For dates of festivals and special events, see the General Info section A full and detailed list can be obtained from the Korea National Tourism Organization (see General Info section). The KNTO also organizes a variety of theme tours, focusing on history, religion, shopping and crafts as well as nature and health.

Historical and cultural tours
A variety of these are available, with particular focus on Korea’s Buddhist heritage. The country has over 10,000 temples and 20,000 monks. Given the increasing worldwide interest in Buddhism, Korean monks are now opening their temples and monasteries to tourists. Ceremonies, traditional dining rituals and tea parties are organized to cater for spiritual tourism, while more dedicated seekers can enrol in Buddhist retreats to practice silence, meditation and prayer for periods lasting anything from three weeks to several years.

Souvenir tours
More material-minded visitors may go on one of Korea’s souvenir tours, which are based on the country’s reputation as a shoppers’ paradise, with many shops providing special duty free prices for foreigners. (See the Shopping section) Fashion, antiques, medicine, herbs and spices, electronics and wedding clothes feature highly on Korea’s shopping itinerary; organized tours often combine souvenir and bargain hunting with sightseeing. The best shopping districts and markets are in the capital, Seoul, and include Namdaemun (Korea’s largest general wholesale market); Tongdaemun (one of Seoul’s oldest markets, good for bargains); Myong-dong (Korea’s fashion district); Insa-dong (antiques and art); and Changanp’yong (one of the largest antiques markets in the Far East); Itaewon (modern shopping district particularly popular with foreign tourists); Noryargjin (fish market); Yongsan Electronics Market (largest electronics and computer market in Korea); Koyndang (Oriental medicine, spices and herbs market); Hwangkhak-dong (flea market, good for second-hand shopping); Ahyon-dong (the ‘wedding street’, featuring over 120 wedding boutiques); and Shinch’on (a shopping street popular with young people, good for accessories and fashion).

Pottery and ceramics centers
Organized tours to Korea’s pottery and ceramics centers (such as the Yoju ceramic art village and the Kangjin Koryo Celadon kiln site) are also available, offering visitors the opportunity to participate in ancient pottery-making techniques.

Nature tours
Focusing on seasonal changes and festivals, the most popular itineraries for nature tours include the cherry blossom trails, Korea’s flower villages, mountain trips and birdwatching.

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