Now that we are about to enter December and the weather has gotten cold in Korea I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about my favorite winter activities. One of the perks of living and teaching in Korea is that you can experience all four seasons and although the weather can he harsh at time, there is still plenty of fun activities you can do. Below are my five favorite winter activities.
1. Plan a Ski Day
Korea is ideal for skiing and snowboarding in the Winter. As the host nation for the 2018 Winter Olympics, the country has invested a lot of money into the upgrades of ski-resorts and ski-facilities. Currently, there is a high-speed KTX rail line being built, to connect Seoul and Gangwondo - the host province of the Winter Olympics. It is also in Pyeongchang county which boasts the steep gradient of the Taebaek mountains and the highest snow fall area in Korea.
A day-trip from Seoul to Pyeongchang is relatively easy to plan and there are various modes of transportation you can take. The top 3 resorts in Gangwondo are High1 Ski Resort, Alpensia Ski Resort and YongPyong Ski Resort. Almost all of the ski resorts offer shuttle services from Seoul's city center and Incheon Airport. They are a little pricier than public buses, but public transport usually drops you far away from the resort, so you will need to include the cost of a cab ride.
2. Get into the Holiday Spirit
Christmas Day falls on a weekend this year so it is the perfect opportunity to book a festive lunch and get into the Christmas spirit. Itaewon area has plenty of Christmas lunch specials with traditional a traditional Western Christmas that includes egg nog, lamb and turkey. Some great places to check out would be Braai Republic, Suji's, Wolfhound Pub, Phillies and Southside Parlor. Foreigners come together at these places and create a great festive atmosphere. Prices should range from 80,000₩-120,000₩.
Another great idea, is to check-out the French Christmas Market in the French district in the Sorae Village of Seocho city. The event has been around for 13 years and you can experience French culture first-hand from the help of the Seoul French School. This is a great place to fill your belly with delicious chocolate crepes,rich cheeses and handmade gluvine. The Christmas cheer is all around the little market as plenty of people stroll through the various stalls after giving Santa a hug.
3. Be Spontaneous on an International Trip
For a unique international trip, you can travel to the Winter Wonderland in Harbin, China! Harbin hosts the world-renowned Harbin Ice Festival. The festival is magnificent with ice-sculptures, fireworks show, ice-lanterns, skiing, sledding, winter swimming and the coolest frozen fruit Popsicle! The festival is being held in 2017 from January 5th - February 28th and is just a 2 hrs flight from Korea.
I made the trip to the ice festival in February 2012. After obtaining our Chinese Visa, a friend and I flew from Seoul to Beijing and then caught a overnight train from Beijing to Harbin. Arriving in Harbin was surreal, as I had never been that close to Russia or North Korea, and was surprised to witness a city that was part Chinese, part European. The ice festival was on another scale to ice festivals I'd been to before and the night show was truly amazing. The only thing to keep in mind is that temperature average is -30C daily and the language barrier up North makes it slightly challenging for non-Chinese and non-Russian speakers.
4. Fill your Belly with Warmth
Korea is famous for their stews and soups called 'Jiggae' and Winter time is the perfect opportunity to fill your belly with all the different kinds of Korean soups and hotpots. Some famous Winter soups you must try are Gomtang (Oxtail Soup), Yukgaejang (Spicy Beef and Vegetables), Kongnamulguk (Soybean Sprout Soup), Samgyetang (Whole Chicken Soup), Honghaptang (Mussel Soup), and Dweji Gukbap (Pork and Rice Soup).
Korean soups are usually spicy which can be a great germ-killer, to avoid the flu! Stews and soups in Korea date back centuries and they are made with affordable ingredients such as animal bones, local vegetables and rice-cakes. Also, Korean cuisine is specific to location and before the royal family brought all dishes together, each region had their own specialty dish. So when you are traveling you can try a better version of your favorite 'Jiggae'or 'Guk', depending what province you're in.
5. Go Ice Fishing
One thing I highly recommend trying is ice-fishing, as I am sure very few have you have partaken in this activity before. What is even better is that Korea has its very own ice-fishing festival in Gangwondo province called the Hwacheon Sancheoneo (Mountain Trout) Festival. This festival is famous for ice-fishing and is held in the city of Hwacheon. It is a unique experience that you should not miss out on this Winter! The festival is held usually during the coldest months of January and February. To check out the exact dates for 2017 you can look on the Korean Tourism website after December 1st.
The festival is accessible by bus and you can travel from DongSeoul Bus Terminal to Hwacheon Bus Terminal in about 2hrs 40mins and the stream is about 15 minutes walking distance from there. At the festival you can partake in many activities like ice-fishing, bare-hand fishing, snow-ice rides, lanterns, LED lights, And a Ice-Plaza! Entrance fee for adults is about 12,000₩.
For those teachers whom this will be their first winter in Korea, I hope this blog is of help to you. Although the weather can be cold that doesn't mean you can't still have fun during this time of the year.
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!