Let’s face it – when the Winter Olympics roll around, we become different people. The Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics is no different. We become people who are getting their nails done while watching CURLING (yes, I just did that. How do they push that stone with a broom?). People who just know snowboarding downhill at 90 miles an hour is the new normal. People who believe that they call it SKELETON because that small sled is the only thing between you and becoming a skeleton. And, don’t forget Super G (that stands for Super Giant Slalom). We become so superior that we just can’t believe that a skier missed a gate at 80 miles an hour even though we haven’t skied in 20 years. Well, you get the picture. However, to me, one of the most amazing things is that most people don’t even think about all that a country has to offer until they see it showcased during the Winter Olympics. And, here again, the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, is no different.
When you are in California, you think about skiing and beach within a day apart. But, did you know that the beautiful beach by the Ice Skating Arena is less than 1 hour from the downhill slopes???? That is what is so amazing about South Korea. You could take a South Korea tour in July and see a tropical and lush Florida type of experience. If you take the same tour in the months of November thru March, you will see a winter wonderland and have a Colorado type of experience. Needless to say, either way FOX TRAVEL can get you there.
Let’s go back to the reference to California. Did you know All of South Korea would fit in the area between Los Angeles and San Francisco? North Korea is 1/3 the size of California. Therefore, ALL of Korea is about 2/3 the size of California. Also, with the train and bus system in Korea, getting around is very easy. In addition, it isn’t all about busy cities. The majority of Korea is rural. In fact, one of our employees, Meg, spent some time with a family outside of Seoul, near beautiful rice paddies.
(Most of the pictures that you will see in this blog are Meg’s actual photos of the trip.)
There are rolling hills, and beautiful beaches that will take your breath away. Take a look at this amazing you tube video that shares just a taste of the country side
Not even the demilitarized zone is a hive of activity (except for the check points). This 2.5-mile wide, 148-mile border stretches the width of the Korean Peninsula near the 38th parallel. Access is restricted with Military from both sides patrolling. It is now a lush haven for wildlife and plants in the region. Many wildlife species that have dwindled in other parts of Asia have now found protection in the DMZ. Therefore, you will see rare birds as well as animals on special tours that will actually take you to the DMZ on a high speed train.
In Seoul itself you can visit palaces (In the pictures), eat fabulous food, do lots of shopping and go clubbing. The public transit system is generally very clean and organized. Most people in the towns speak English but it can help if you have a native speaker guide. It can be crowded and there can be a lot of pollution, but the people are extremely polite.
For the ladies: skin care in Korea is HUGE. We’ve all seen Korean beauty products filtering into many of the cosmetic stores and now they are available online here as well…but shopping there is a lot of fun. There are endless face masks, serums, lotions, etc. and many are made with more natural ingredients. There is a volcanic mud festival every year on a beach in Korea where the mud is high in minerals. This mud is used in many beauty products. The Korean Spas can be found in even the smallest towns. These are similar to communal Roman baths. Upon entering, you are given a spa outfit (t-shirt and shorts) and a towel and you take off your outside shoes. The locker rooms are segregated by gender and you take a shower as soon as you drop your personal belongings in your locker. After you shower, there are different temperature pools and saunas, but everything is nude. You can also opt for a full body scrub (Meg advises that it was, literally, the best spa and massage experience you can have), a massage, mani, pedi or facial. In fact, Meg has made it a point to find Korean Spas in the USA since her trip.
Now, let’s talk food: YUM If you are curious, you can get a taste for Korean Cuisine here in Houston. Specifically, there are several Korean BBQ places down near Bellaire. Many times, Korean BBQ is served at a table with a grill in the middle. They bring the meat out raw and you cook it yourself. The staff will definitely help if you need it. You order the marinated meat of your choice and they generally bring out rice and banchan (small side dishes that complement the meat). Sometimes the meal comes with lettuce so you can make a wrap with the meat. Of course, nothing compares to the food in Korea. If you are fortunate enough to visit with local families during your stay, your meals are traditionally served while sitting on the floor. You may also want to get take out noodles with a black bean sauce (Jajangmyeon), that will be delivered on bike. In any case, the hospitality can’t be beat.
Meg wants everyone to know that the best thing about Korea is the people. They are so kind and welcoming–even at her most vulnerable moment at the spa, the other ladies in there laughed with her when she blushed pink–not at her. She also says “I was lucky enough to travel with my best friend’s family (my second family). We visited Grandma and all the aunts, uncles and cousins. I had personal guides around the city every day. I had eaten dinner at Cathy’s house before then, but I had never been to South East Asia before. Without her family, the trip would have been overwhelming, especially by myself. I have traveled throughout Europe by myself before, but enough was familiar that I was able to figure out most dishes and road signs (not true with the Gaelic road signs in Scotland!). This was immersive and awesome, but I was very fortunate to have such a unique experience. There were probably things that I missed traveling around and at some of the tourist attractions because most of the cousins didn’t speak English. I probably would have gotten a lot more out of the tourist part of the trip, had I been on a tour.”
Come on…. You know that you secretly want to experience South Korea for yourself after seeing just a taste of it on the Olympic Coverage. And, the most amazing thing is that you CAN. Many Tour companies now offer terrific priced packages. Members of our staff have also traveled to Korea so we know the ins and outs of this wonderful country and can “head off the stress”. So, let Fox Travel and our experts assist you so that you will be the NEXT blog writer on this Enchanting Land of the Morning Calm.
Also, don’t forget that The 2018 Winter Paralympics, officially known as the XII Paralympic Winter Games or as the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics occurs: Mar 8, 2018 – Mar 18, 2018. These exciting Paralympic Games feature some amazing athletes that prove how incredible that the human spirit can be.