Last night we cruised the Han River. Ten to 20 years ago this river was very polluted but the government put lots of money into rehabilitating it and now fish that were thought to be extinct have returned. For about 8 miles on either side of the river you will find cycling trails, pools, parks, several viewing stadiums and recreational areas.
Korea hosts over a million visitors each year. All around, preparations for the next Olympic’s in Korea seem to be underway. Pyeongchang will host the next winter Olymics in 2018. In 1988 the Summer Olympics were hosted in Seoul; this was the beginning of South Korea coming out to the rest of the world. Except for a decline in the early 90’s, South Korea’s economy has done nothing but grow in the last three decades. From the early 60’s till the early 80’s, within one generation, S Korea went from a receiver of support from the OCD to a contributor. She is the first country to have ever achieved this accomplishment.
Seoul has a very cosmopolitan flair. Both Gangnam and Myeong-dong have fabulous shopping and interesting tastes to try. Myeong-dong is listed as the ninth most expensive shopping streets in the world and Gangnam hosts the second highest concentration of plastic surgeons in Seoul. Korea also has relatively inexpensive medical services which makes medical tourism a strong draw to Korea.
There are tourist information booths at all of the cultural sites we have visited thus far with informative brochures available. Gyeonju, a city with at least 2000 years of history, is indeed a ” museum without walls”. When we were there last week, our tour guide was professional, informative and very interesting. To be a guide in Korea, she needed to pass the national exam which contains questions on history, geography, culture and other important information. Any questions I or the others asked were readily answered. Do not miss Seoul tower to experience a fabulous interpretive Center of all the cultural and natural amenities Seoul has to offer.
Getting around Seoul, where half the population of SouthKorea lives, is easy. One can use a downloadable interactive subway map to get around Seoul or onto trains that leave Seoul to other parts of Korea. I have seen hikers get onto the subway late on a Sunday evening, obviously returning home from a day of hiking, which can be reached at the end of many subway line. Seoul is surrounded by a range of mountains, which in days of old acted as a natural defence to the city along with the wall that surrounded it. Today, you can camp and hike in the mountains and in the winter take your skis or snowboard up to enjoy the snow and the view.
In one of our history lessons the visiting professor showed us a map of the extensive hiking trail system all along the mountain range that runs from the north end to the south end of Korea with the ability to visit Shaman’s and Buddhist temples along the way. Up in the mountains is where temples are built. We visited two of the eleven world Unesco Heritage sites in the Republic of Korea. The Korean’s are proud of their rich cultural heritage as well as their current pop culture or K-pop, also known as the the hallyu wave. Even at the traditional folk village, there was one gift shop dedicated to current K-pop artists like Exo along with memorabilia and DVD’s of popular Korean dramas. Cookin’ Nanta was a great example of current fusion which takes the traditional Samul Nori folk music and makes it into fresh current sounds.