You may get a glimpse of taste of the latest trends in Korea if you travel Jejudo Island, Busan or Songdo in Incheon.
Challenging the old beach vacation formula, with tons of almost-identical seafood restaurants, Woljeong-ri Beach in Jejudo is accompanies by a boulevard of cafes, boasting unique interior designs and localized menus.
“I dropped by to spend a few relaxing hours at the beach, to feel the ocean breeze and have fun in a comfortable way,” a soldier in his 20s said at a cafe on the beach.
The cafe faces the sand beach and the emerald-green South Sea, with white wind power generators picturesquely dotted along the faraway horizon.
Canal Walk in Songdo
A number of visitors are also relaxing on the creatively designed rooftops and terraces of the cafes, some with friends, spouses or kids.
The “not too tiring, not too crammed” rule also applies at the other end of the country, on Canal Walk, a rising hot spot in Songdo about 20-minutes’ drive from Incheon International Airport.
“In the past, people used to be obsessed about the must-dos and must-buys in the crowded must-visit hot spots,” says Han Ji-hee, a 32-year-old office worker of a trading company.
“Now, they seem to be more into idling along the fancy streets, with take-out coffees in hand.”
Han and two of her peers are strolling along Canal Walk, a shopping area in the International Business District of Songdo.
“Shopping is only an option,” Han said. Lots of trees, stone sculptures and glassy walls fill up the garden-like shopping spot, which was modeled after world-famous waterfront hot spots, such as Canal City of Fukuoka, Japan, River Walk of San Antonio, Texas, and Boat Quay of Singapore.
About 340 brand outlets are lined up along Canal Walk, offering up to 80 percent discounts on off-season clothing and fashion items. The 800-meter-long canal passes four blocks, each named Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, adding to the ambience of the place.
Locals describe Canal Walk as a “place for everyday culture.”
“We take a walk here every day, mostly for a daily workout,” says Yim Yong-gyu, a 53-year-old office worker and Songdo resident, as he walks along Canal Walk hand-in-hand with his wife.
“I think the place is also very pleasing to the eye,” he says.
Yim’s wife also adores the free atmosphere of Canal Walk. “People here are not afraid to visit cafes alone because they understand the essence of culture ― it is one of the things I love about Songdo.”
If Canal Walk, Songdo, is the up-and-coming hot spot on the West Sea, Marine City, Busan, is its counterpart on the Southeast coast.
Busan Marine City
About 5 to 10 minute drive from the Haeundae Beach, the cream of Marine City is the waterfront boulevard that surrounds the silver-metallic high rise skyscrapers and the 800-meter-long “Street of Cinema.” Locals and visitors walk, run and cycle along the breezy quayside, as the sun elegantly readies to vanish in the evening fog on Tuesday.
“Among local vacation spots, I am more into Haeundae and Marine City in Busan than other places, like Gangwon Province,” says Kim Sook-hyun, 24, a student and returning tourist from Seoul. “They have different atmospheres and designs from famous spots in Busan,” she said, as she strolled down the Street of Cinema with her mother.
The two ladies agrees that Marine City makes a good spot for pictures and walking, yet wishes to see more trees and places to eat.
The night scenery of Marine City is one of the most beloved subjects for Korean photographers. The lit skyscrapers and streetlights along the quay boulevard reflects are majestically reflected in the blue-black East Sea, resembling the Star Perry Pier of Hong Kong.
The nocturnal beauty of Marine City is best observed from the neighboring island of Dongbaekdo or the ferry sailing between the island and Marine City.
By Chung Joo-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)