New Destinations Fam Trip – to Jeolla, Gyeonggi and Gangwon Province!
Towards this end of July and beginning of August, there are several familiarization trips where Korea Tourism Organization (Kuala Lumpur branch office) has organised for our local travel agents here. While our counterparts headed to Seoul and Jeju, we had another team here who were off to explore new destinations, whereby many of the places were very much not well known yet to the foreign travellers.
Taking on the main objective of this trip – to explore on the new destinations and what else Korea has to offer – we set our journey off to Jeolla, Gyeonggi and Gangwon province. With approximately a week’s time, we sure had covered a lot of places in which we are about to share below.
We landed at Gimhae International Airport, Busan, and immediately headed to our first location at Jinju Namgang. This place is where the Jinju Namgang Yudeng (Lantern) Festival will be held in October. The highlights of the festival are the floating of lanterns carrying personal wishes of the citizens along the Namgang River. Over here from the photos, you may see some of the 12 zodiac lanterns on dispay – in which will be beautifully lighted up and float along with the lanterns parade during the said festival.
As we were around that area, we headed to try the local delicacies to feed our hungry tummy. It is none other than broiled eels whereby we got to know that the eels were fresh catch from the nearby river!
After that we proceeded to the next destination which is Suncheon Bay Garden & Ecological Park for some sightseeing. One would be able to come across a large pond and it was surrounded by very well manicured themed gardens. We were greeted by the sight of young girls and families having a day out, taking pictures with the ever-ready picturesque background. The whole place was filled with fresh and vibrant flowers. As the place was very huge and due to our limited time of visit, we took the eco-car on a 20 minutes tour in which we were able to cover some parts of the garden.
Following that, we went to Naganeupseong Folk Village. Albeit the light rain, it did not dampen our mood as we continued our stroll at the village. The whole village is very well kept as there are still people who lived there. It is a very serene place surrounded by greeneries and we can see huts and houses from the olden days.
The Gokseong Train Village (Gajung Station) was our next stop and it was about an hour’s drive away from the Naganeupseong Folk Village. We had the chance to experience the steam locomotive which went on for about 30 minutes. The train was actually open solely for public tour and experience. We were hit with surprised as a very friendly ahjushi (uncle in Korean) welcomed us onboard with his funny and entertaining antics. He did keep us laughing for the whole journey and even let us taste the snacks where the local Korean kids had back then.
After breakfast on the following day, we headed straight to the Jayeon Dream Park. This is actually a place where one can experience and sample on ramyeon, beer and even makgeolli (Korean rice wine). The concept of this place is that it is eco friendly and even on their food that they produce; they do not put in preservatives unlike other brands out there in the market. It was an eye-opening experience as this was the first time we went into a ramyeon and makgeolli making factory! Oh..not to mention they had a mini mart in there where you can find all the products that they produced themselves. Of course, we couldn’t just leave the place without a little shopping there!
When at Jeolla, especially during the blazing hot summer in Korea, you will want to look for a shady place to cool down. The Bamboo Culture Village at Damyang was just the right place. It was a healing stroll among the green bamboo trees which practically surrounded us as soon as we passed the entrance. As we were within the area, lunch was of course..yes, you might have guessed it – a wide spread of dishes with rice served in bamboo! The aromatic dish was really mouth watering and we just couldn’t stop eating!
From the southern part of Jeolla, we travelled up to the northern part to Mt. Naejangsan and the Baekyangsa Temple located there. It started raining when we arrived there, but we were not affected at all as when we saw the place, the mist that emits from the lake gave off a mystical feel to it. We were enchanted instantly imagining the whole place, which was filled with maple trees, will turn into vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange during autumn.
We then proceeded to one of the well known tourist spot in the northern part (Jeollabuk-do) which is the Jeonju Hanok Village for sightseeing. As expected, the streets beside the hanok village were crowded with many local and some foreign tourists. This is as along the streets, you may find local products and even cafes and restaurants. We were trying our hard to resist the mouth-watering street food, remembering that we need to save up some space for dinner soon later on. However, we still managed to did some shopping at the stores there selling local and handmade products.
As seen in the photo above, the younger ones can be seen donned in colourful hanboks (Korean traditional wear). We also did come across a few shops offering hanbok rental with very much affordable and inexpensive price.
Our night ended with a sumptuous dinner at the Makgeolli Alley, which is about less than 10 minutes away by car from Jeonju Hanok Village. It was a wide spread of local side dishes that goes with makgeolli.
Leaving the Jeolla Province, we set off to the road again heading up to Gyeonggi-do. But on the way, we stopped by the Bear Tree Park at Chungcheongnam. The park is actually built to honour the Manchurian Black Bear and delicate balance between man and nature. We saw that the park is also very well kept by the care takers. Wild flowers and bonsais decorated the whole place, and visitors are also able to see the animals including the bears up-close. It started raining heavily while touring the place so we went into seek shelter at the souvenir shop in which they have a the cutesy stuffed bears up for sale!
From there, we travelled to Gyeonggi-do – stopping by a restaurant for lunch. We had steamed rice wrapped in a lotus leaf and this appears to be one of Korea’s famous and healthy food. Definitely a healing meal.
After the hearty lunch, we transited to one of a must-see destination in Gyeonggi-do. It is none other than Petite France, which is also well-known as the filming location for the popular drama “My Love From The Star”. As expected there are a lot of tourists flocking the place. We couldn’t help but to be excited and sprinted to take pictures with the colourful houses as our background!
As Gangcheon (even though it is located under the Gangwon Province) is not far from Petite France, we decided to visit there for the rail bike experience! It was a 7.2km ride but it didn’t felt that long as we were having fun riding through the scenic view which we came across throughout the journey! We truly enjoyed the ride, and definitely one of the recommended activities especially among family and friends.
The next day, we stopped by Oksanga for a short visit, which is a jade mine at Chuncheon. Only part of the mine was open and can be accessed by visitors. The locals also went there as part of the place served as a resting cum sauna place and we were told the place is like a natural healing area. We also looked through the beautiful processed jades on display and jewelleries made from the jade were also sold at the in-house store at a very affordable price!
Shortly after that, we went to the traditional market at Chuncheon, called the Nangman Market. It is situated just opposite the Chuncheon Myeongdong shopping street. We found a lot of local goods, as well as traditional handmade Korean snacks which were available at the traditional market. Knowing that we are a bunch of foreign visitors, the local ahjummas were very warm and friendly to us! We felt really welcome at the place even when most of us could only communicate with them via gestures and body language!
After the little shopping at the market, we headed to the opposite road for lunch. When in Chuncheon, you really got to try their signature dish, the Chuncheon Dakgalbi! It was indeed yummilicious and different from the ones we found at other cities in Korea.
Soon after lunch, we set off to Hwacheon for the Jjokbae Festival. “Jjokbae”, literally means small boat in Korean. This festival was held from 25 July – 09 Aug this year. We tried on some of the activities like kayak and zip-wire! Definitely a must-try especially during summer – whereby there are many of these kinds of outdoor activities available! I must say that we really had a lot of fun experiencing all the activities here.
After all the fun times, we checked out another festival site which is none other than the Tomato Festival also at Hwacheon. This festival was only from 30 July – 02 Aug this year. As we were there on the first day, we didn’t manage to take part at the “tomato event”(in which people will gather in a pool and throw tomatoes at each other) as they were getting ready for the opening concert that night. Nevertheless, we took a look at other events held on the site, such as tomato sampling, tomato facial mask-spa, games and many more.
The next day, we headed back to Gyeonggi Province and visited the MBC Yongin Dramia. One might have easily mistaken this place as one of the palaces but it is actually a filming location for Korean historical drama, built by the broadcasting station, MBC. Some of the famous ones include “The Empress Ki” and “Moon Embracing The Sun”. We were on our luck today as we even stumbled upon the shooting for the current prime time drama “Hwajung”!
We spent about an hour there and left for lunch just in time. We tried another local dish in which we were served a whole chicken broth with scorched rice.
Lunch was preceded by our tour at Gwangmyeong Cave. We felt instantly refreshed upon reaching the cave entrance as the cave emits natural cool air from inside! Definitely a must-visit place especially during the hot summer. One fun fact is that the temperature remains the same in the cave at all seasons! We also got ourselves a gold plate each whereby we wrote our wishes at the reverse side of the plate and then hung it at the wishing wall in the cave itself. Believe was that our wishes will come true one day.
Come evening, we took a quick freshen up at the hotel and then headed to the Ansan Star Village. The fantasy-like place is best visited when the sky darkens as the whole place will be lit up with colourful lights. It was as if we were surrounded by the sparkling stars themselves!
Day 6.. our last day!
Checking out from the hotel with a slightly heavy heart, we move over to Ilsan where we visited the One Mount – Snow Park. It is a theme park with the combination of Water Park and a Snow Park! Besides, there are a lot of other facilities which you can find around the area such as the jjimjilbang (Korean-styled sauna and public bath), restaurants and cafes, shopping areas, beauty salons, and much more.
Wrapping up our whole trip, we spent some time at the Hyundai Premium Outlet for some last minute shopping and lunch before we said our goodbyes. The Outlet was equipped with many local and foreign brands and it could be a one-stop shopping and leisure mall for shopaholics!
Although we were under the blazing summer sun most of the time, we were certain that we had left the place uncovering the other side of Korea. It was an eye-opener to all of us as we were given the opportunity to visit places less known to public, especially to foreign visitors. We would definitely make a trip back to these places again. Till then..annyeong!