With Gatwick to launch flights to Seoul in April 2012, here’s a list of 5 super things to do in South Korea
1. Spend a day at Incheon Airport
Yes, you did read that right – South Korea’s Incheon Airport, located 70km west of Seoul, really is a place worth visiting; it was voted the world’s best airport every year between 2006 and 2010. While many airports simply offer a WH Smith and a Tie Rack to waiting passengers, Incheon has a garden, a spa and a golf course. Don’t worry: it also has a place to buy magazines and ties.
If you want to enhance your travel experience before you get to Incheon then why not check out FHR’s cheap Gatwick parking options. The travel services company can also arrange a Gatwick airport hotel prior to your departure.
2. Decide which is better: Seoul’s World Cup stadium or its Olympic arena
The Seoul World Cup stadium was built especially for the 2002 tournament but rather surprisingly only hosted three games. However, the first and the last games were dramatic affairs –Senegal shocking tournament holders France by beating them 1-0 in the competition’s opening game South Korea being defeated 1-0 by Germany in the semi-final in front of 66,000 fans.
South Korea might not have won the tournament but they certainly won admiration for the stadium’s architecture – the roof is shaped like a traditional Korean kite. At night, bathed in illuminations, it resembles a Korean lamp.
Seoul’s Olympic Stadium has an even greater capacity than the World Cup Stadium – it now seats 70,000 (it seated 100,000 during the 1988 Games).
Another gem of engineering and design, its outline resembles a Korean Joseon Dynasty porcelain vase when viewed from the neighbouring Han River.
3. Visit the South Korean President
It was during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910) that many buildings at Cheongwadae, the South Korean presidential office in Seoul, were built. Sadly, most of these buildings were destroyed by Japanese imperialists during the period of Japanese colonial rule (1910 to 1945) – no wonder South Korea were so pleased when they went further in the 2002 World Cup than co-hosts Japan!
Thankfully, what remains of Cheongwadae, and what has been rebuilt, means that the Korean presidential office is far more scenic than any other presidential office in the world
Its oval-shaped lawn– its hedge-encircled oval lawn, mountain backdrop, pretty ponds and trio of pavilions really puts America’s White House to shame!
Tours are available on every day of the week bar Monday and offer the chance to catch a glimpse of existing President Lee Myung-bak. Lee will be president up to February 2013 – he was elected in 2008 and South Korean presidents can only serve a maximum term of five years.
4. Watch martial arts fights at Namsan Pavilion
Every afternoon (apart from Monday) crowds gather at the gates of Seoul’s Namsan Pavilion to watch choreographed martial arts displays performed by fighters dressed in traditional costumes bearing sticks and shields.
Martial arts are highly valued by South Koreans; taekwondo originates from Korea and is the country’s national sport.
Did you know that taekwondo translates as ‘the way of the hand and the foot’? Watch the Namsan Pavilion fighters set about each other and you will appreciate just how physical this sport is.
5. Take a trip to one of the Seven Wonders
Located just off the coast of South Korea, Jeju Island was voted one of the Seven Wonders of Nature in a poll which attracted more than a million world-wide votes in 2011. Considering the fact that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the USA’s Grand Canyon didn’t make the list, this was no mean feat!
Jeju is home to the dormant volcano Hallasan; the tallest mountain in South Korea and now a National Park rich in diverse plants and animals – many of which are endemic to the island. The lava tubes through which molten magma once flowed now form an intricate cave system containing some of the largest caves in the world.
Those worried about eruptions should bear in mind that the last volcanic activity was recorded 800 years ago. Just relax and enjoy the hiking and cave-exploring opportunities on offer!
By James Christie
Gatwick Airport will launch three weekly Korean Air flights to Seoul from 29th April 2012.