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On the trail this summer

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Published : 2012-07-27 20:31
Updated : 2012-07-29 15:47

The Korea Tourism Organization suggests budget-friendly, eco-friendly vacation ideas


Have you planned a summer vacation in advance, or are you looking for just any travel package at the last minute?

As summer vacation season approaches, the dilemma of choosing between going abroad or staying in the country inevitably arises.

Furthermore, many Koreans cannot afford to take off more than a week, even though summer vacation may be their longest break of the year.

Overloaded with work and out of travel options, many decide on their travel destinations at the last minute.

To change this vacation pattern, the Korea Tourism Organization is encouraging people to take a full week of rest and explore the country. 
Bicyclists ride on a bike path in Chuncheon during a week-long ride across Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces as part of the “Refresh Vacation” organized by the Korea Tourism Organization. (KTO)
“Koreans usually work too hard and leave for a short summer vacation, just three to four days. But for their work productivity, they need a true rest and time to recharge. We thought of campaigning for taking two-week vacations, but since this is not possible in Korea we decided to go for having a week-long vacation,” said KTO CEO Lee Charm, who set an example by taking the so-called “Refresh Vacation” with 30 cyclists on a bicycle trip last Sunday.

Jeong Ik-soo, director of the tourism culture team, said the week-long travel program comes at under 300,000 won per person. The bicycle travel program includes local restaurants, tourist attractions and accommodation.

“It is a new ‘fair travel,’ which helps revitalize the local economy,” said Jeong.

The KTO suggests a number of travel options that are easy and reasonably priced.

On your bike

The bicycle route that KTO head Lee took stretches from Jamsil Han River Park in the eastern district of Jamsil-dong, Seoul, to major natural attractions in Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces, such as Cheongpyeong, Gapyeong, Chuncheon and Yangpyeong.

The team of 30 bike riders and Lee covered a distance of 60 kilometers a day at a speed of about 20 kilometers per hour, according to Lee.

To keep up such distance and speed, beginners should get sufficient training before embarking on the ride. Lee said he once traveled from Germany to Spain on bike.

For those at intermediate or expert level, it will be a nice challenge as well as a chance to visit major local attractions without having to worry about parking space on weekends.

Some of the attractions include Nami Island, Jara Island, Animation Museum in Chuncheon, Vietnam War Memorial Hall, the literature village of the novelist Kim You-jeong and lotus garden Semiwon.

Of the many travel spots, Nami Island offers a relaxing and artistic experience.

The half-moon-shaped island is one of the most visited places by foreign tourists, and is expected to attract 550,000 foreign visitors by the end of the year.

The island, formed after the construction of Cheongpyeong Dam, is now home to galleries, eco-friendly parks, forests and guest houses, leading the recent eco-friendly and fair trade travel trend.

A few years ago, the island was named “Naminara Republic,” as a way to show its unique cultural characteristics.

Visitors may feel like they are in a foreign country as they enter the island through immigration office presenting visas and passports, and learn and use its own language and currency.

Entrance fees (called visa fees) are 10,000 for adults and 4,000 won for visitors aged from 3 to 13. A five-minute ferry ride takes visitors to the island.

They can also choose a more adventurous option ― the 940-meter-zipwire to the island.

For more information, visit www.namisum.com. The website is available in English and Chinese.

Travelers can sleep off the fatigue from bike riding at local youth hostels and pensions along the bike route, including Gangchon Youth Hostel, Hwacheon Train Pension and Pinetree Pension.

The riders spent on average of 36,000 won per day during the tour because they were able to save money on transportation fees.

“We plan to make the route a regular travel package that can be purchased at travel sites such as Korea Railroad Corporation,” said a KTO official.

The official added that they are considering making the travel route official once they finish ironing out some niggles.

“There are plenty of fun and low-budget vacation options in the country. Summer vacation doesn’t need to be expensive and burdensome. Let’s leave for a light and refreshing vacation,” Lee said.

On foot

If you consider yourself a walker, hiking trails at national parks offer the best experience. The newly-developed Jiri Mountain hiking trail stretches about 300 kilometers, divided into about 16 sections.

The KTO suggests setting up a base camp in Namwon, North Gyeongsang Province, and trying three sections each day ― Jucheon to Unbong (14.3 km), Unbong to Inwol (9.4 km) and Inwol to Geumgye (19.3 km).

From Seoul, there is a KTX train from Yongsan Station to Namwon Station, which takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

The trails take from four to eight hours depending on how fast you walk. Each trail is marked with signposts or arrows.

On the route between Unbong and Inwol, walkers will pass by some historical places such as the memorial pole of Hwangsan Battle erected during the Goryeo Kingdom era and Heungbu Village Forest Lodge. If you happen to visit the trail on the third or eighth day of each month, you will see a village market open for local residents. For more information about the Jiri Mountain trails, visit www.trail.or.kr.

Namwon also offers educational and historical experiences at the famous Chunhyang Theme Park, built based on the old Korean love story of Chunhyang. It has been used as a location for movies and TV dramas. It opens 9 a.m.-10 p.m. The entrance fee is 3,000 won for adults and 2,500 won for teenagers and 2,000 won for children.

One nearby attraction is the Namwon Aircraft and Space Observatory, where visitors can examine the skies on a clear evening. For more information, visit http://spica.namwon.go.kr.

For accommodation, the traditional Korean-style hotel Chunhyang-ga, featuring four different rooms based on characters of the old Chunhyang love story, offers a special experience. The rooms can host from two to 13 people. The price ranges from 100,000 to 400,000 won during the summer season. For more information, visit www.chunhyangga.com. For reservations, call (063) 636-4500.

The duration of the walking tour can vary depending on the number of trail routes you take, but taking three trails plus visiting some tourist attractions in Namwon will take up to six full days.

By Lee Woo-young  (wylee@heraldcorp.com)

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