Fall is Korea's best season! The weather is cooler and the countryside is sprinkled with a palette of Autumn hues and on every street corner there is the constant smell of roasted chestnuts and crisp air. Last week Korea celebrated the Chuseok holiday which leaves a festive atmosphere looming over the country and is one of the first signs Fall has arrived. As a person who has now spent multiple years living and teaching in Korea, I want to provide you with a list of my three favorite Fall activities you should try to ensure you enjoy the final season before the cold of Winter arrives.
Fall is the best season for hiking. Cooler temperatures provide ideal conditions for hiking and the Fall season is also my favorite time to travel locally and see the many beautiful mountainsides Korea has to offer.
Mt. Sorak is Korea's most famous mountain to see Fall foliage. The scenic views are breathtaking as you hike up Ulsan-Bawi, with the landscape being scattered in changing Autumn colors. Currently, Korea is constructing a train line to the city of Sokcho, where Mt. Sorak is located, for the Winter Olympics in 2018 so accessibility will be even easier soon!
Seoul is also surrounded by rugged terrains and Mt. Acha and Mt. Bukan are great places to enjoy a days outdoor excursion. Both mountains are easily reachable by subway and require minimal walking to the entrance gates.
Most of Korea's mountainsides are protected areas that are National Parks. Soraksan National Park is one of the more famous parks boasting an array of unique fauna and flora, like the off white-naped crane, the Siberian Musk deer and the Black squirrel.
When hiking make sure to pack a picnic lunch and a water bottle as there are natural springs and numerous scenic picnic spots.
Korea has many unique seasonal foods and Fall food is some of the best! Ssangpyeong, Korean Rice Cakes, are probably the most famous snack during the Fall. During the Chuseok holiday (Korean Thanksgiving) it is a tradition for families to prepare Ssangpyeong on the eve of Chuseok. The rice cakes are filled with red bean paste and often can be made with a variety of ingredients such as pumpkin and black bean.
Roasted chestnuts and baked Gokkuma (Korean sweet potato) also fill the streets with sweet smells, and can be purchased at one of the many vendors who sell them.
Seasonal fruits include persimmon and pears. Korean pears are bigger than their Western cousin, and are uniquely delicious with a golden tinge on the outer skin. Koreans love persimmons and you can see them hanging in many of the home gardens. You can also buy them at a store dried, frozen or squeezed.
Finally, November is famous for Patjuk, a Korean rice porridge. It is served warm and sweet, filled with red beans that will warm you up before the Winter months. You can accompany this with some Sujeonggwa which is a hot beverage made from perssimons, ginger and cinnamon. It will often come with jujube and pine nuts.
Festivals pop up all over Korea in the Fall, since it is the perfect time to travel. Korean festivals include a lot of local flavor and they are a great a great way to experience Korean culture and learn some of the country's traditions. Also, at this time a lot of crops have ripened so there are a lot of delicacies to sample and sweet fruits to try.
In the historic town of Jeonju, there is the delicious Jeonju Bibimbap Festival. Anyone travelling to Korea must try Bibimbap, which is a popular foreign favorite! Bibimbap is served in a hot stone bowl with an assortment of vegetables, rice and meat. It should be mixed together with gotohujang (red chili paste) and sesame oil and often an egg will fry in the bowl as it is being served.
The Seoul Lantern Festival is another must-see attraction as lanterns run all the way down the Cheongyecheon stream in Seoul's city center. This years theme is Lights of PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Seoul and there will be hundreds of messages wishing a prosperous Olympic games trailing for 1.2km upstream.
I hope this blog has been helpful as you begin to schedule some of your weekend plans during the Fall season.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!