PyeongChang Winter Olympics officially opens tomorrow. If you happen to be visiting Korea for the Olympics, let the Korean take you around. Like my last attempt at a travel guide, this is not a collection of "best of"s or "must see"s; it is just a number of things I would suggest if we were friends. If that sounds good, off we go.
Before We Go
Let's go over some super basics. This is where we are going:
We will be hanging out in Gangwon Province, the mountainous eastern seaboard region of Korea. It is not far from Seoul (less than two hours on a high speed train,) but it will feel very different from Seoul. Gangwon has beautiful nature (both mountains and the ocean!) and interesting food that draws from fresh ingredients. Oh, and it will be really, really cold. PyeongChang Olympics may end up being the coldest Winter Olympics ever, with single digit temperature throughout the Games. But don't worry--there is plenty on this trip to make up for the cold weather.
To get in the mood, I'd suggest watching a few Korean movies set in Gangwon, perhaps on the plane ride to Korea. Welcome to Dongmakgol [웰컴 투 동막골], set in a remote, isolated village in Gangwon, features a relevant topic: reconciliation with North Korea. For a movie featuring the stark and striking beauty of Gangwon in winter, I recommend End of Winter [철원기행].
You will likely land in Incheon Airport west of Seoul. (If you want to check out the sights in Seoul, you can take a look at my previous travel suggestions that include a 3-day itinerary for Seoul.) There is a high speed train going directly from the airport to the Olympic sites. The roads are also straight and smooth should you choose to take a bus or drive. On the way there, you can listen to some classic Korean pop music about the winter. My favorite is The Winter Sea [겨울 바다]. At the Ski Resort [스키장에서] is also solid if you want something more upbeat.
Now that we are in the mood, we will get going. Gangwon can be roughly divided into two parts: west and east of the Taebaek Mountain range. PyeongChang is in the west, nestled within the jagged mountain range. But much of the Games (usually involving skating and indoor activities) will also be in Gangneung, a port city on the other side of the mountains. (They are about a 30 minute drive from each other.) Both sides of Gangwon have something different to offer, so do visit both cities at a minimum.
(More after the jump.)
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