When somebody tells you that they are travelling to South Korea, the destination is almost always either Seoul, Busan or Jeju.
Well, you can’t blame us since most airlines only fly to those three locations for now.
But there is one place we must talk about because it is getting far too little credit, even among fans of Korean culture – Gangwon
Gangwon Province is located on the east side of the Korean Peninsula. With beautiful mountains and clean beaches spread throughout the province, whether it is in the spring, summer, autumn or winter, Gangwon offers some of the best sceneries and vacation destinations all year long.
In case you didn’t know, the recent 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics were held in Pyeongchang in Gangwon. As the province is blessed with a lot, and we mean a lot
of snow, Gangwon is practically heaven for winter sports enthusiasts.
Two weeks ago, Korea Tourism Organization, Gangwon Province and AirAsia X brought us along on a special trip to experience snow in Gangwon
and here’s what we did!
HOW TO GET TO GANGWON
Gangwon is just a 90-minute train ride
away from Seoul if you take the high-speed train system, Korean Train eXpress (KTX)
When you arrive at Incheon International Airport, you can take a train directly to Gangneung Station
in Gangwon. But if you're already in Seoul and would like to head straight to Gangwon from the city, you can take a train from Cheongnyangni Station
located in Dongdaemun, which also has a direct route to Gangneung Station.
Gangneung Station was completed last December to serve the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter games, so it still looks very new and modern. It’s practically like an airport!
WHAT TO DO
#1 Go skiing or snowboarding
One way to fully immerse yourself in winter and snow is to head straight for the winter sports at Korea’s first ever ski resort! Located in Pyeongchang county spanning an incredible 17 million square meters, Yongpyong Ski Resort
is the largest ski and snowboard resort in South Korea.
The resort sits at the foot of Balwangsan Mountain with an annual average snowfall of 250 centimeters, which makes perfect conditions for skiing and snowboarding.
The ski season here starts operating from mid-November all the way till early-April, that’s almost half a year long!
Yongpyong Resort offers some of the best facilities for skiers and snowboarders. At Dragon Plaza
is where you will find clothing and equipment rental, lockers and even a school for beginners!
So if you caught the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games recently, now you know where to fulfill all your skiing and snowboarding dreams.
#2 Ride the gondola
If you’re not much of a sports person and the idea of going down the ski slopes scare you a little bit, there is still another way to enjoy the mountain’s scenic view at Yongpyong Resort.
Take a ride up to the top of Balwangsan Mountain on the Rainbow Gondola
, Korea’s longest sight-seeing gondola. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.
The ride takes about 15 minutes each way, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the breathtaking snow scenery.
Once you arrive at the top of Dragon Peak, you can either enjoy a hot cup of coffee, play with snow, or even ski down the Rainbow Slopes if you have your gear with you.
By the way, this place also happens to be one of the shooting locations for hit K-dramas Winter Sonata
So if you’re a fan, you might want to put this one your list of ‘Places To Take #OOTDs’. You’re welcome!
#3 Visit Uiyaji Wind Village
Uiyaji Wind Village is a mountain village situated on top of Daegwallyeong in Pyeongchang. It is so windy here that it has made a name for being one of the coldest spots in the province. During the winter months, snow can accumulate up to one metre high!
But besides enjoying the cold wind and heavy snowfall, there are many activities you can experience here, such as making cheese, strawberry jam and ice cream
, as well as feeding sheep
There is a small group of middle-aged women who are ready to teach you step by step on how to make your own cheese at the Cheese Experience Centre
We had the opportunity to learn how to make cottage cheese from this very energetic ahjumma
(middle-aged or older woman) and she was quite a character!
And our handmade cheese turned out to be very delicious too! We might actually start thinking about expanding to RD cheese products.
Once you’re done binging on cheese and plotting your future cheese business, you can step outside to a small ranch nearby and say hi to the sheep!
Now these sheep may look adorable on the outside, they’re actually quite aggressive when they see food. As we approached the wooly creatures, we were surprised to hear a deep ‘boo’ sound instead of the stereotypical ‘meh’ sheep are always associated with.
You may not be allowed to go into the compound and pat them, but you can get friendly with the sheep by feeding them, just don’t get too carried away.
So if you’re not afraid of animals, come and get your fingers nibbled on by sheep at Uiyaji Wind Village. Just kidding.
#4 Check out Jumunjin Port
Jumunjin is a town located in Gangneung city. As one of the main fishing ports on the east coast, Jumunjin Port
is home to more than 350 fishing boats.
The East Sea is where warm and cold waters meet, which is why it is the ideal spot to catch a variety of fishes, including squid, pollack, mackerel, herring, anchovy and crab.
You can find a whole lot of fresh seafood sold at Jumunjin Fish Market
just next to the port. It is also the largest seafood market on the east coast that comes with a fried seafood section and sashimi centre!
After indulging on some of the freshest fish and seafood around, take a walk to Jumunjin Breakwater
, which by the way, is also another filming spot of Goblin
The breakwater was built to protect the coastline from the effects of erosion and longshore drift. But this dull place turned into a famous attraction after its appearance on the hit K-drama.
So if you want to reenact the romantic scene between Gong Yoo and Kim Go Eun in Goblin
, come to Jumunjin Breakwater and get in line! Make sure you get the correct one because there are three in total.
Oh well, you shouldn’t miss it with this obvious signboard.
#5 Have a cup of coffee along Anmok Coffee Street
Gangneung is the first local district in Korea to host a coffee festival to support local coffee artisans and promote the development of coffee.
With the existence of Anmok Coffee Street
, Coffee Cupper Museum, a coffee factory, barista academy and more, Gangneung has become well-known as the city of coffee.
The city’s best coffeeholics are also proud to present their own unique coffee roasts and recipes, so you can pick from one of the countless coffee shops here and have a cup of joe while admiring the beautiful ocean view on Anmok Beach
So if you’re a coffee addict, come and enjoy a romantic coffee date with your loved ones here.
#6 Make traditional Korean sweets
, or traditional Korean snacks, has history that goes all the way back to the era of the three kingdoms when various confections were consumed by royals.
Many of these traditional sweets have been passed down through generations, and in order to preserve the culture and tradition of hangwa
, several culture centres were set up throughout Korea. One of them was Galgol Hangwa Village
Just like any other rural village, Galgol Hangwa Village takes you back to how old towns used to look like. As you walk through the building, you will see pockets of traditional items and exudes the aura and spirit from the olden days.
This particular village was selected as a village for preserving traditional food in 1989 and it has been educating locals and visitors about traditional Korean snacks ever since.
You can even sit through a class to learn how to make some common hangwa
, so why buy them as souvenirs at costly prices at the airport when you can make them yourself?
So don’t deny your sweet tooth and visit this village for the complete hangwa
WHAT TO EAT
#7 Sliced raw fish
As Gangwon is blessed with clean beaches all-year long, you can bet that this province is also home to some of the best seafood in the world.
Like we mentioned earlier at Jumunjin Fish Market, if you can’t seem to get enough of sashimi, Gangwon is the
place to enjoy a few slices of raw fish
The plethora of fish and seafood available along the east coast will take you to sashimi heaven. You can literally enjoy them fresh on the spot at the markets!
But if raw seafood isn’t your thing (but why not?!), just step into any restaurant and request a hot and spicy fish stew instead. Whether it is in the winter months or summertime, you can’t say no to a pot of fresh flavours from the ocean.
#8 Soft tofu
One of the signature dishes in Gangneung is Chodang dubu
(tofu). This type of tofu is unique to the city and loved by many for its simple yet deep taste.
Chodang tofu is prepared with soft and savoury tofu that is made using sea water. The name ‘Chodang’ originated from the name of a famous family that once lived in the area, known as Chodang-Heoyeop.
Heoyeop was a scholar in the Joseon Dynasty and governor in Gangneung in the 1500s. He became famous for making tofu with clean sea water
because people loved the plain and savoury flavour.
This special tofu is then incorporated into many different types of dishes here, one of them being spicy stew.
The Koreans really love their spicy stew, don’t they? But we can’t say we hate them either, just look at this pot of goodness!
#9 Dried pollack fish
Dried pollack fish, a.k.a. hwangtae
is a fish that is one of a kind. The meat has a delicious and chewy texture
that is a result of repeated thawing and freezing in the fluctuating cold weather.
After undergoing a process of freezing and defreezing, the fish turns into somewhat of a yellow colour. You can enjoy it roasted, grilled or again, in a pot of stew.
It doesn’t matter whether you like fish or not, the dried pollack is definitely worth trying!
#10 Cold raw fish soup
We know, the thought of drinking cold soup with raw fish may sound daunting. But cold raw fish soup, or mulhoe
, is a famous Korean delicacy.
This dish cannot be produced without the freshest fish, so you really shouldn’t miss the harmony between the sweetness of the fish and sourness of the soup right here on the east coast.
If you’re an adventurous one when it comes to food tasting, give mulhoe
a shot. We guarantee you will have the meal of your life, even in the cold winter season!
And guess what? We've got good news for you because you can experience Gangwon with our favourite low-cost airline AirAsia X
because they fly to Seoul up to 18 times a week
Book your flight to Seoul from now till 15 April 2018 to enjoy promo fares as low as RM329
and travel between now until 30 September 2018
In case you missed it, we also had a complete K-drama experience in Gangwon. You can read more about it here
We couldn't have done it without the good people from AirAsia X, Gangwon Province and Korea Tourism Organization. So thanks for the whirlwind trip, guys!