Experience slow lifestyle in South Jeolla
This is the fourth in a series featuring ``must-see routes’’ for foreign tourists, developed by the Visit Korea Committee. A total of five routes spanning the country will be presented over a three-month period. The series will introduce a high-quality tour biweekly and is in conjunction with the nationwide campaign to promote the ``2010-2012 Visit Korea Years.’’ ― ED.
By Lee Hyo-sik
If you look to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life in Seoul and large cities for peace and serenity in rural settings, South Jeolla Province is the place to go. This southwestern province provides a comprehensive travel package for tourists searching for complete relaxation.
Beaches and other breathtaking tourist spots along the coastlines put their minds at ease, while a wide array of seafood-based dishes please visitors’ taste buds at affordable prices.
If you take a KTX-bullet train from Yongsan Station in central Seoul, you will arrive at Mokpo Station in little more than three hours. Visitors are recommended to check out Mokpo Peace Park, Mokpo Natural History Museum and other landmarks in the southwestern port city.
If you are a fan of professional car racing, the F1 Korea Grand Prix Stadium in Yeongam County is the place to visit. The stadium hosted two Formula One races in 2011 and 2010, the world’s fastest and one of the most expensive sporting events. Visitors will be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the stadium.
From Yeongam County, if you head toward the West Sea, you will arrive at Sinan County consisting of hundreds of islands. There, tourists can learn and experience how to produce salt in a natural setting. Afterward, they can visit a salt healing center where visitors can receive a range of health-beneficial treatments using naturally-produced salt.
``There are so many things to do and see in South Jeolla Province, which is famous for its slow lifestyle. If you are an English teacher or engage in other professions in Seoul and other cities, you should come and take full advantage of this unspoiled nature,’’ said Han Kyung-ah, executive director of the Visit Korea Committee. ``When you visit Mokpo and other cities in the southwestern part of the province, you will be pleasantly surprised by what they offer non-Korean visitors. Particularly, tourists can enjoy a wide range of authentic Korean dishes cooked with fresh seafood and other locally-produced ingredients at affordable prices.’’
Han also advised foreign tourists to see more by traveling along the southern coastal lines. ``If visitors arrive at Yeosu, a southern port city, via the KTX, it will be much easier to fully appreciate the beautiful southern coast.’’
With Yeosu hosting the World Expo in May for three months, this presents a perfect travel opportunity for those seeking to visit the area, she said.
``During the three-month period, you can tour exhibition halls set up by more than 100 participating countries. On top of that, tourists can visit famous spots in and around Yeosu, and enjoy delicious local cuisine. This is as good as it gets,’’ the executive director said.
Mokpo Peace Park and Gatbawi: The park has a 1.2 kilometers-long trail built along the shoreline offering eco-friendly space. The place is a comprehensive cultural and leisure spot for both locals and tourists. It is particularly popular with inline skaters and cyclists. Gatbawi, a rock on the shore that glows with the sunset, is one of the eight scenic spots in Mokpo. For its natural and cultural value, it was designated Natural Monument No. 500 in April 2009.
Mokpo Natural History Museum: This is a two-story building that opened in August 2004. It is divided into two sections _ natural history hall and local history hall. The natural history hall is dedicated to the 4.6 billion-year history of the earth, while the local history hall allows visitors to learn about the culture and history of the southwestern part of the country. Every exhibition room displays state-of-the-art models of natural ecology reflecting the regional flavor and characteristics.
Yeongam F1 Korea Grand Prix: Korea’s international motor racecourse. Facing Yeongam Lake, the track, the stadium and other facilities were built in the architectural design that reflects the spirit of Korea. The stadium has dual-structured multi-purpose hybrid circuit, and features the unique racecourse that goes in an anti-clockwise direction.
Sinan Jeungdo Salt Museum: One of the novelty museums in Korea. Based on the genetic thinking that ``every living creature remembers the sea from where its life began,’’ the museum presents the history of salt, which has been an inseparable object from human history.
Sinan Jeungdo Taepyeong Saltpan: Taepyeong Saltpan is the largest single saltpan in Korea, producing 16,000 tons of sun-dried salt each year, accounting for 6 percent of the country’s total production. The history of Taepyeong saltpan goes back to 1953 when the banks were built on the mud flat between Jeonjeungdo and Hujeungdo, which were used as stepping stones for refugees of the Korean War to cross during the flood tide. The saltpan was created as the refugees needed to earn a livelihood.
Damyang Juknokwon: Juknokwon, the bamboo forest theme park, was built on 160,000 square meters of land in May 2003. It has a 2.2-kilometer trail consisting of eight different theme treks, including “Unsudaetong-gil” (good luck track) and “Jukmagowu-gil” (old friend track). A trail with stone steps ascending from the entrance of Juknokwon, coupled with the wind through the bamboo grove, will certainly relax and refresh visitors’ body, mind and soul.
Damyang Metasequoia Forest Road: The road with Metasequoia trees planted on both sides was designated as a pilot road under the national tree-lined road project in early 1970s. It is now filled with fully-grown trees. The road was named as the most beautiful forest road by Korea Forest Service in 2002.
Yeosu Expo Publicity Center: This opened in April 2007 in front of Odong Island, offering a glimpse of what Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea will be like. Since then, it has been one of must-visit sites for those traveling to the port city. The expo is scheduled to open its doors on May 12 through Aug. 12 under the theme ``The Living Ocean and Coast.’’ The international trade fair is expected to attract a total of 8 million visitors, including 550,000 from overseas.
Muan yeonipbap (lotus leaf rice dish): Lotus leaves are stored for a year before being used for cooking. They are edible and used as medicine in oriental medicine. Yeonipbap uses lotus leaves and lotus roots produced in Muan Hoesan white lotus land. Yeonipbap is served with onion kimchi (another specialty of Muan), which softens the taste of the lotus leaf. Baengnyeon Broi (061-283-7011) and Mannagibap (061-284-5205) are two popular restaurants in Muan County.
Gurye sanchae jeongsik: Mountain vegetables such as pine mushroom, bracken and deodeok found at the foot of Mt. Jiri are typical ingredients of sanchae jeongsik. Mountain vegetables are chemical free and available on Gurye traditional market. Yewon (061-782-9917) is one of famous restaurants for the full-course meal in Gurye County.
Damyang daetongbap (bamboo rice): When non-glutinous rice, sweet rice, black rice and black bean are sufficiently soaked in water, ginko nuts, chestnuts and pine nuts are added to them. They are then inserted into bamboo tubes. Water seasoned by salt is poured into bamboo tubes that are covered with Korean paper. The tubes are tied with paper strings and steamed in a pressure cooker. Bamboo of at least three years old is used for this dish to get the full scent of bamboo to permeate the rice. When served with bamboo shoot bean paste soup and sweetand-sour bamboo shoot vegetables, the taste of daetongbap is further enhanced. Gukbo966 (061-381-9662) and Bakmulgwanapjip (061-382-1990) are known to offer authentic daetongbap.
Yeongam Mokpo galnaktang (beef and octopus soup): Yeongam galnaktang is one of the representative dishes of South Jeolla Province. It uses only Korea’s homegrown beef ``hanwoo’’ and small octopi caught in nearby mud flats. With these two ingredients combined, galnaktang is said to help one regain vigor. For those seeking to taste the authentic version of this food, they are recommended to visit Dokcheon Restaurant (061-472-2222) and Chungha Restaurant (061-473-6993) in Yeongam County.