Life in Korea: winter – what are you waiting for?

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Author’s note: ‘Life in Korea’ posts are written with the newer expat in mind – this is a great place to share your expertise if you have some!

Korea is quick to mention its four distinct seasons – indeed, 겨울 (gyeo-ul, or winter) is typically cold, dry, and surprisingly beautiful. Although winter isn’t the prime season for tourists, there’s plenty of things to see and do during Korea’s winter.


Author’s note: ‘Life in Korea’ posts are written with the newer expat in mind – this is a great place to share your expertise if you have some!

Korea is quick to mention its four distinct seasons – indeed, 겨울 (gyeo-ul, or winter) is typically cold, dry, and surprisingly beautiful. Although winter isn’t the prime season for tourists, there’s plenty of things to see and do during Korea’s winter.

Several winter festivals help the locals enjoy the weather – the 평창송어축제 (Pyeong-chang song-eo chuk-je, or the Pyeongchang Trout Festival runs through February 6, 2011, while the 화천산천어축제 (Hwa-cheon san-cheon-eo chuk-je, or Hwacheon Trout Ice Festival) lasts from January 8-30, 2011. Both festivals offer the chance to go ice fishing, bare-hand ice fishing, and an opportunity to ride an ATV on the frozen water. Either way, you’ll be heading to 강원도 (Gang-won-do) east of Seoul to arrive.

One traditional winter Korean activity involves the 나무 썰매 (na-mu sseol-mae), or wooden sled. Imagine taking the blades from a pair of ice skates and attaching them to a wooden platform about two feet square. Next, sit down cross-legged and use a couple sticks with nails poking out the bottom to navigate on the ice. Use the sticks to propel yourself and your body weight to turn, and keep your center of gravity over the sled. With a little trial-and-error, you’ll figure it out.

Your more typical plastic or rubber tube sleds can be found at many sledding hills around Seoul – for a list, check out this list provided by Korea’s official tourism website.

Couples will find plenty of opportunities to go ice skating around Seoul – while the large ice skating rink inside Lotte World is open year-round, an outdoor ice-skating rink opens during the winter months in downtown Seoul. For more information, check out http://seoulskate.or.kr/. If you’d rather try out skiing or snowboarding, there are plenty of places to get active – check out Yongpyeong Resort or Vivaldi Park in 강원도 (Gang-won-do).

One thing I’ll be doing this winter is relaxing in an open-air spa. Unlike your average 찜질방 (jjim-jil-bang), these open-air spas offer hot water, supposed healing powers, and a gorgeous outdoor view. One of the first Korean open-air spas is called Ocean Castle Aqua World, and can be found in 충청남도 (Chung-cheong-nam-do), a couple hours south of Seoul. If needing to stay closer to Seoul, some of Seoul’s finest (and most expensive) hotels feature excellent spa facilities.

Finally, quite a few Korean tourist destinations take on a new look after a snowfall. (neung, or royal tombs) are quite beautiful , while the white snow can offer some contrast to the colorful Buddhist temples. Don’t stay inside!

For a couple schedules of winter festivals, check out Visit Korea’s winter festival page, or take a peek at fellow blogger Discovering Korea.

Readers in Korea: what are you doing for Christmas vacation? Any plans for getting out of town, or just settle in and watch the Yule log burn on YouTube?

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2010

This post was originally published on my blog,Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.




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