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Old 3rd June 2011, 08:09 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Little towns in S. Korea you haven't seen

Little towns in S. Korea you haven't seen


Above: Guryongpo beach in Pohang.

Tired of the same few destinations? Think you've seen it all? Why not head to the industrial part of the country?

By Andrew Ponnampalam, The Star | Tue, May 31 2011


THE names struck an oddly industrial clang: Pohang, Ulsan and Mokpo. In fact, these cities are mainly known for commerce and industry, not tourism potential. The travel agencies and airlines which I approached about doing such a tour were aghast.

"Individually tailored tours to these places in South Korea for upmarket clients? We have ski packages, romantic destinations and even cultural tours rich in historic grandeur, all on the major tourism routes. Why would you want to go to the grimy industrial places where tourists never venture?" they asked.

The reaction of the Korea Tourism Organisation was worse. They were not just unhelpful and uncooperative; they were downright unpleasant and negative.

But I was resolute about my plan, and eventually I met up with an old friend who immediately saw the potential of my proposed itinerary.

Cooper Huang is one of Malaysia's most experienced travel professionals. His company, Malaysian Harmony Tour & Travel, is one of the leading tour companies in the country, handling both outbound and inbound tourism.

Low-profile and often under the radar of individual travellers, the agency is nevertheless well-known and highly rated by airlines and foreign tour operators.

Huang was intrigued by my choice of destinations. Rather unexpectedly, he offered to host the full trip.

"This would be the exact opposite choice of itinerary for the affluent traveller on an independent, specially-tailored tour, but knowing you, I think you might make the most extraordinary of discoveries!" he said.

The elegant, white-haired veteran's words proved prophetic. In my very brief swing through the hidden heartland of South Korea's post-war economic miracle, I did indeed discover exquisite delights and memorable surprises. Getting off the tourist trail and into the heartland of any country will bring its own set of challenges, however, and it was no different in South Korea.

English is sparsely spoken, but people are curious and kind. Advertising and shop signs are only in the local script, but most road signs are marked clearly in English. Restaurants have completely local dcor and signage, but menus frequently have English translations beneath each dish. Towns may seem nondescript and mundane-looking, but gorgeous photo-opportunities abound for those with an eye for local colour.

South Korea's heartlands has a wealth of authentic delights. The first thing I discovered in the southern part was that the most nondescript and grimy local industrial ports have a mouth-watering cornucopia of seafood delights!

Take Pohang, for instance. This dusty traffic-choked city is located in North Gyeongsang Province on the southeast coast of South Korea. It is mainly known as a major seaport and the home base of Pohang Steel Company (Posco), one of the largest steel producers in the world. Although the city receives hundreds of foreign visitors every year, they are mainly businessmen visiting Posco and its subsidiaries.

The city itself seems grimy and unattractive, but what great seafood it has!

The region surrounding Pohang has some very interesting attractions, too. We drove east about 30 minutes to Homigot Cape, a piece of land jutting out into the Sea of Japan. Homigot is one of the easternmost points on the Korean peninsula, and as such serves every year as a gathering place for thousands to greet Korea's first sunrise of the New Year.

The beach is also home to the famous Hand of Harmony sculpture (right). The fishing boats are a rustic attraction for photographers. The main attraction in this little spot is the variety of small, family-run restaurants, outdoor cafs and stalls - all selling fresh and delicious seafood. Prices are a fraction of that charged in the cities, and the food is wonderful.

No wonder Homigot Cape is very popular with domestic tourists! There is also a small Marine Museum and a larger National Museum with imposing architecture at this small resort.

Speaking of museums, I must point out that there are some excellent ones in Ulsan, another city with a strong industrial image. The Ulsan Industrial District is the industrial powerhouse of South Korea and home to the world's largest automobile assembly plant (operated by Hyundai Motor), the world's largest shipyard (operated by Hyundai Heavy Industries) and the world's largest oil-refinery (owned by SK Energy).

Each one offers conducted tours, but these must be planned and booked in advance.



A major attraction in Ulsan is the Jangsaengpo Whale Museum (top). The port of Jangsaengpo served as the outpost for whaling in Korea until whaling was banned in 1986, and the whale museum is the only of its kind in the country. The museum provides information on whales, how they travel and how they live. It also features a live dolphin show and an underwater aquarium, an exciting 3D film and numerous small aquariums displaying a variety of decorative fish.

Outside the museum are several decorative sculptures and displays. There are other fascinating museums and interpretive centres in and around Ulsan, including the whale-shaped Ulsan Petroglyph Museum, the Ulsan Art Museum and the huge Ulsan City Museum. These are all suitable for travellers but it is advisable to have a Korean-speaking guide.

There are some excellent seafood restaurants in the downtown area of Ulsan - small, typically Korean eateries with both Western-style tables and chairs, and Korean low tables called sang, where diners sit on a wooden platform. Due to the large number of expatriates, there are also restaurants serving Chinese, Indian, American, Italian, British and other types of cuisine.

Meanwhile, in the southwest corner of the peninsula is the charming little town of Mokpo (below). It is a popular domestic destination, being a seaside resort and historical port. Located mid-way between Seoul and Busan, Mokpo requires five hours by bus either way. It is also connected to Seoul by the superfast KTX train.



The city is full of motels catering to the domestic market. They are very ornate and gaudy from the outside, and have funny and fanciful names. There is a large esplanade in the city centre, with fun things to do for families with children. Shopping offers largely Korean-made items like clothes, toys and foodstuff.

Like any coastal town in Korea, Mokpo has a lot of seafood restaurants! Some are large and fanciful, while others are small and homely.

Mokpo is another seafood lover's paradise, and true gourmets will love the freshness and variety of cuisine here. Even more than Ulsan, Mokpo is great for sight-seeing because it has an amazing number of museums on an equally amazing number of themes, and they are all found in one convenient area called the Gatbawi Cultural District. The National Maritime Museum, Mokpo Natural History Museum, Outdoor Museum of Colonial Korea and Mokpo Museum Of Modern History are just some of the fascinating attractions here. You can spend a full day in this part of Mokpo, actually.

As we explored the various small towns and villages, I noticed that my guide, the operations manager of a prominent Korean inbound tour company, was as busy taking as many photographs as I was. When I asked him about it, he sheepishly explained that although he had covered the usual tourism destinations a zillion times, this was the first time he was discovering these hidden treasures!

Source: http://relax.com.sg/relax/features/6...en_t_seen.html

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Old 3rd June 2011, 08:24 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Little towns in S. Korea you haven't seen

i feel more travel agencies shld hv packages for these small towns. these little towns hv their own unique charm n travellers often focus too much on e big cities like seoul n busan to notice these little beauties. big cities r really not much diff frm singapore.

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Old 9th June 2011, 08:36 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Little towns in S. Korea you haven't seen

By traveling little towns, visitors can more acquaint themselves with the local culture and people. I also agree that these little places have a unique beauty that should not be missed to see. They generally offer a peaceful and relaxing vacation time.

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Old 19th July 2011, 05:24 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Little towns in S. Korea you haven't seen

yes,i have seen,haha

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