The ongoing Winter Olympics have put the remote, beautiful place of Pyeongchang (South Korea) on the world map - this underrated and relatively unknown mountainous region located about 200 kilometers from the capital city of Seoul is hosting the Olympic Games.
Pyeongchang is chilly and cold, yes - but it’s also spectacularly gorgeous, offering stunning views of the rugged granite mountains rising up into the blue skies with frozen streams twisting around them. It’s culturally rich and diverse (far away from the commercial tourist trail). Whether you’re seeking adventure, culture, nature or solitude, this is your place.
Cool, adventure vibes
If you’ve watched any K-pop music videos, you’d know that South Korea has a pretty interesting, bold and cool vibe going on. That same vibe resonates through all of Pyeongchang - don’t be surprised to see dozens of neon clothed snowboarders and skiers streaking down the slopes through the night as the latest Korean pop and hip-hop songs blare over the speakers. It’s a party on the slopes that rages on through the night, and everybody is invited! Round off your late night activities with a nightcap of soju (a clear, colorless distilled beverage of Korean origin) that’s sure to warm you up.
If culture spotting is more your thing, here are some suggestions for you to live the local life. After a long day of skiing and snowboarding, warm yourself up by indulging in one of South Korea’s favourite pastimes, jjimjilbang. These are mineral and steam baths where you can steam yourself and relax your muscles.
Dragon Peak at the top of the gondola is where you'll get your pop cultural fix: The iconic lodge there served as a key setting for one of South Korea's most famous TV dramas, "Winter Sonata." As you're skiing down, you can pose for "Winter Sonata" selfies in the photo zones. Gangneung has the vibrant Sacheon and Gyodong districts near the famous Gyeongpo Beach are home to the Ojukheon House and Municipal Museum is a well-preserved 16th-century Joseon Kingdom-era house. The Jeongdongjin Sunrise Park arguably provides South Korea’s best mainland sunrise view.
For scenic views, try Odaesan National Park and the Woljeongsa Buddhist temple, which offers overnight stays. You can hike Mount Seonjaryeong and visit sheep ranches in the mountain town of Daegwallyeong. You can pedal “rail bikes” amid the mountains at the Jeongseon Railbike Park, an abandoned coal-mining railway track, or walk over a cliffside see-through floor at the Jeongseon Ski Walk on Mount Beyongbangsan.
What to Eat
The tastes of the region will explode on your tastebuds - spincy, pungent, barbequed, marinated, fermented and delicious. Gangwon Province is known for its mountain vegetables, or sanchae, and is dotted with rustic restaurants that provide an idyllic experience. The table will be served with dozens and dozens of small plates featuring greens and roots, prepared and presented in different ways for a delicious feast. Enjoy platters of potato pancakes and mountain vegetables paired with the local makgeolli, or rice wine.
Did someone say PARTY? The Korean nightlife
If you really want to party, you’re best heading off to the South Korean capital of Seoul for some serious partying and nightlife. Seoul is electric, loud, bright and young - plus a little bit crazy too. It’s home to some of the world’s best clubs - in particular, check out Club Cocoon and M2. Club Octagon (which we featured in our list of the world’s best nightclubs) is located in the famous Gangnam District and offers a taste of the real Gangnam experience. It is slick and modern, with a fair share of fancy add-ons (because why not) and some great house and techno music. Voted number 6 in the world's top clubs by DJ Mag in 2015, Octagon is one of Gangnam's best for serious clubbers.
The only way to finish this Korean night off properly -- if you haven't already keeled over from all the snow, steam and soju -- is to sing. Head to a noraebang, which is a private karaoke room. Make some new friends, sing your heart out - and relish every moment of this Korean adventure!
Picture credits: Flickr, Open access images from Google Images, Wikicommons
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