Korea Travel Guides

Sports

South Korea's mountains, national parks and islands are more than accommodating when it comes to hiking and mountain biking. If golf is your game you'll be pleased to hear that there are over 60 manicured courses throughout the country. Indoor activities on offer include billiards, hot spring soaking and taekwondo, the national martial art.Visit this website for further information about Korean Mountain Culture

Skiing

Skiing has become extremely popular in Korea, and the country now boasts 12 major ski-resort areas, many within a three-hour radius of Seoul. The ski season lasts December-March, and most resorts offer a variety of runs and facilities. The largest are Alps Resort, near Seoraksan National Park; Cheonmasan Family Ski Resort, northeast of Seoul; Yongpyeong Resort (Dragon Valley), near the eastern coast; Yangji Resort, near Suwon's Korean Folk Village; and Bears Town Resort, northeast of Seoul. Ski-equipment rental and lodging are available at all resorts.

Dining

There are a number of good Western restaurants in the big cities throughout South Korea. The better ones have sprung up in the many new international class hotels. For example, at least half of the Hotel Lotte's 31 specialty restaurants and bars cater to the Western palate. More casual Western-style restaurants are common, including some chain restaurants like T.G.I. Friday's and Coco's. Fast-food places are becoming increasingly prevalent, too.

There are countless restaurants in South Korea serving local fare and national delicacies. Chinese restaurants are very popular among South Koreans. Japanese restaurants are pricey, but affordable sushi places have been popping up near office buildings to serve the lunch crowd. Seoul has a large number of international restaurants.

A 10 percent tax is added to restaurant bills at better restaurants. Tipping is not customary but is appropriate for outstanding service.

Two Korean dishes that nearly all visitors will enjoy are bulgogi (marinated sliced beef) and galbi (marinated short ribs). Both are mildly seasoned and grilled at your table. Another favorite is samgyetang (stewed whole chicken stuffed with rice and ginseng root). If you enjoy spicy food, try yukkejang (hot beef soup with noodles), kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew) and jeyuk bbokeum (sauteed spicy pork with vegetables). Milder dishes include mandu guk (dumpling soup), seolleongtang (beef soup) and tteok guk (rice-cake soup). A popular lunchtime food is bibimbap, a bowl of rice with meat (sometimes), vegetables, pepper paste and a fried egg on top. To eat it, mash everything together and use a spoon. The flat, fried cakes sold on the street at night are called hotteok. The cakes are filled with hot cinnamon-and-sugar syrup and are absolutely delicious. European and other Western foods (including U.S. fast food) are available (generally only at deluxe hotels and Western restaurants), as are Chinese and Japanese cuisines (although many of the dishes are different from Western-style Chinese and Japanese foods). On Jeju Island, be sure to sample the tangerines.

Beer (maekju), a popular beverage throughout the country, is available in two domestic brands-Crown and OB. It is a satisfying accompaniment to the many spicy dishes. Tea, the traditional drink, comes in many flavors-ginger, ginseng, and barley are only a few. A very pleasing white wine called Majuang is available for about W7,900 (US$10). And for hard liquor, soju (potato vodka) is a Korean favorite.

Water in major hotels is potable, but in other places it's best to stick to boiled tea and bottled drinks.

Shopping

As a rule, Korea is not an especially inexpensive place to shop, but there are great bargains and a tremendous selection. It would be easy to spend a week just shopping in Seoul. Look for maedeup (ornate macrame tassels), brass ware, ginseng, furs, sweaters, lacquerware, silks, wood carvings, jewelry, dolls, leather goods, bamboo ware, musical instruments, toys, paintings, custom-made clothes, masks, fans, painted gourds, and cutwork paper crafts such as boxes, ceramics, topaz, amethyst and china. Calligraphy paraphernalia (ink stones and brushes) and beautiful handmade paper are also available. Designer clothing and athletic shoes, made in local factories, can be purchased at bargain prices in outlet stores and at markets, but beware of fakes - they're everywhere. Antique furniture, paintings and handicrafts can be excellent buys, but before you buy an item made prior to 1910, check with the Art and Antiques Assessment Office to see if it can be exported (if so, they'll issue a certificate allowing export). If you're not allowed to export the antique of your dreams, consider the excellent reproductions of ancient Goyreo celadon and Jodeon porcelains.Visit this website for further information about Korean Arts

The Korea National Tourism Organization operates duty-free stores in Incheon, Jeju, Gimhae (Busan) and Cheongju airports, as well as in six seaports. There are also several dozen Tax Free Shopping stores that can issue a VAT Refund Check for purchases over 50,000 SKW. Bargain only in smaller shopping areas and arcades, not in department stores (where the prices are fixed).