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Creek which was right in front of our caravan.
Every time we go to Inje, I'm overawed.  And I ask myself, ''Why don't we come here more often?"  For nature lovers, this region is just too gorgeous not to go back to again and again.

Any time of year, the mountains, rivers, air, the whole environment is breathtaking.

We were particularly fortunate to make the journey last weekend, just after a typhoon, so the creeks and rivers were running fast and clean.


We opted to stay in a caravan park - our second experience of caravaning Korean Style.  This particular caravan park would not be described as modern.  In fact, the caravans were.... well.....  pretty daggy.

But, they were cheap and clean.  And the location was perfect.  Nestled in amongst a thicket of pine trees, right on the bank of the creek pictured above.  So even though the facilities were not five star (barely 2 star actually), the outlook more than made up for it.

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Sunset from our caravan
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A random roadside vista
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Clouds shroud the mountains early in the morning
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Perfect playground
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Building sandcastles in the misty rain

12 선녀탕

On Sunday, we got going early and headed to what is the Eastern side of Sorak Mountain - only a 5 minute drive from our accommodation.  Here you'll find a hike known as 12 선녀탕.  This particular hike is famous for the waterfalls along the hiking trail.  It's supposed to be where Angels come to bath - and I wouldn't doubt it.

We didn't get too far along the trail as we had to head back home before the traffic, but even an hours walk gave us a taste for more.  There are tracks all over the mountain, and you could hike for days if you were so inclined.  But no matter what your time limit, even a short hike from the base is worth it.

So if you're wanting to breath in some fresh mountain air and experience full-on gorgeousness, go to Inje.  It's located in the mountains of Gangwon province.

The district is famous for whitewater rafting, bungy jumping and in the winter, ice-fishing.

If you don't have a car, buses depart regularly from Dong Seoul bus terminal.

Feel free to send me a message if you'd like more information.

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My daughter said angels collect drops from the stream and place them on the spider-webs.






















 
 
About 120km South of Seoul is the historic town of Gongju.  The town is a former capital city (back in AD 475 to 538) - an amazingly long time ago, and consequently the area holds a lot of important historical treasurers.

We ventured down to Gongju to try out the increasingly popular Korean pastime of Caravan stays.  The kids have been pestering for months to stay in a caravan, so we finally gave in.

The region surrounding Gongju is very scenic.  Lots of farms, pretty creeks and small villages, as well as plenty of historic sights to visit.  

The Caravan Park experience was dampened (pun intended), by the fact it rained most of the time.  2 young children cramped up in a caravan is not recommended.  However, a break in the weather allowed us to check out the Gongsan Fortress (Gongsanseong, 공산성). A 1500 year old mountain-top fortress looming over the Geumgang River.

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The Geumgang River looking impressive after more than 100mls of rain overnight
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Rice fields in the valleys.
Gongsan Fortress Wall
 
 
Jagalchi Fish Markets
If you're in Busan, you have to visit the Jagalchi Fish Market!  It's almost compulsory.  Busan is famous for its seafood and this is the largest fish market in Korea. So if you want fresh seafood (raw or cooked), this is where you go.

They have everything from mackerel, sea squirts (ascidians) and creatures I've never seen before.  Most of the people who sell the fish are women, and are called 'Jagalchi Ajumma'.

We made our way to the markets quite early in the morning, so missed all the action of the night time festivities, but we were able to have a great look around.

Directions
Jagalchi Station (Busan subway line 1), Exit 10.
Turn right onto Jagalchi 3(sam)-gil Street.
Walk for 5min, then turn left to arrive at Jagalchi Market.

For more information on the Jagalchi Fish Markets, to go the Visit Korea website.

 
 
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A weekend mystery tour lead us to a small coastal town about 40kms North of Sokcho on Korea's East Coast.

Desperate to do some exploring and swimming, we found a cheap hotel by the water, and headed off.

We discovered the most beautiful pristine bay, near the village of Goseong, with calm clear water filled with all kinds of sea plants and animals.

Being early May, the weather was slightly chilly, but not cold enough to stop the kids from swimming.   We spent a lovely relaxing weekend exploring the area, and the best part - without all the tourists. 

Goseong, Korea
A starfish and this amazing little blue creature. I thought it must have been a plastic toy, but it was real.
Goseong, Korea
This seaweed was like green fishing line - amazing stuff.
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The kids named this place the "Sea Garden". It was like a miniature tidal river system, with creeks, tributaries and all kinds of creatures and plants.
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Crystal clear water
From high on a large rock, the sunset was spectacular.
 
 
The weather is amazing at this time of year, so we decided to head out of town and spend the weekend at one of our favourite destinations in Korea - the town of Mungyeong, and surrounding areas.  It's practically smack-bang in the middle of Korea and is a popular place for hikers, with gorgeous trails for all levels of fitness, as well as loads of history in the area.

We love the fact you can pull off the road virtually anywhere and enjoy the crystal clear waters of the creeks and rivers.  This time of year, cherry blossoms are on the verge of blooming, and there are splatters of colour with the wild azaleas beginning to flower on the mountainsides.
I woke early on this morning, grabbed my camera and wandered around the farming roads waiting for the sun to peak over the mountains.  Was so peaceful, with nothing but the sounds of the odd cow or rooster in the distance.



It appears the valleys are utilised mainly for horticulture, and we saw lots of farmers out in the fields planting this year's crops.  I wondered who will take on farming as an occupation in the future, as it seems very few young people are returning to the farms in Korea.



I love this grass - such a common scene along the waterways in Korea.



Reflections early in the morning.  The water was like a mirror.





A typical farming track winding through a small village.



We pulled off the road for a play at this mountain creek.  My kids were busting to get in the water, and named the little patch of sand in the water "Paradise Island".  Water looked so tempting but was icy cold.



This photo was taken on another trip we took to Mungyeong, in February so towards end of winter.  There's a great sledding slope in the town which runs all year round and I think I've tasted the best doenjang jjigae ever at Mungyeong. 

There is so much fascinating history in this area, including Mungyeong Saejae, the mountain pass where the old road from Busan to Seoul passed over the Sobaek mountains and out of the Gyeongsang region. The three gates which controlled traffic on that road are now maintained as tourist attractions.

It's a lovely place for a weekend getaway.  We usually stay at the Mungyeongsaejae Youth Hostel (http://www.saejae-yh.co.kr/english/main.asp), which is in the centre of town, and right at the foot of the sledding slope - great if you have kids, and it's cheap and clean.



 
 
There's not been much snow this winter, and the kids were complaining that they haven't been able to use their sleds this year.

So instead of following the masses to one of the nearby public sledding slopes, we decided to go in search of our own private (and free) slope.

We threw on some warm clothes, grabbed some gloves and the sleds and headed East.  Fortunately for us, the weather forecast was for heavy snowfalls - and it didn't disappoint.  Over the next 2 days, approximately 10cm of snow bucketed down on the Eastern coast of Korea.

We made it to the area of Pyeongchang, took a random exit off the highway and found a quiet country road which had a nice slope and great cover of snow.

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How's this for an awesome private sledding slope. 

After a couple of hours of sledding and snowball fights, we decided to continue East to the city of Gangneung, on the coast.

We were met with a wild and wooly coastal scene.  To see a beach white with snow was totally beautiful, albeit a little bizarre.


A couple trying to take a romantic evening stroll on the beach.


Kids walking through the snow - such fun!


Bamboo plants formed a lovely archway from the weight of the snow.


Fish drying in the open air is a common sight in this part of Korea.


Gangneung is famous for its beaches, and well worth the drive - 240km East of  Seoul.  There are endless accommodation options including pensions and hotels. 

Pyeongchang too is lovely all year round.   In Winter there are ski resorts, Autumn and Spring are spectacular with the natural seasonal beauty, and in Summer you can cool off in any of the numerous streams and rivers.
 
 
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Winter in Korea is cold, and what better way to warm up then with some traditional Korean food.

And if you're after atmosphere, value for money and flavour, you can't go past the Gwanjang Market (광장시장).

Apparently the Gwangjang Market is  Korea’s first market and is famous for fabrics, and of course the food.

As you make your way through the market, you'll find food vendors tightly packed along the allies, with customers packed equally as tight.  It seems any time of day or night, these markets are busy feeding the hungry hoards.

Vendors are grouped together according to the food they sell, which include Bipimbab, Sundae, Kimpap, Janchi-guksu, and one of the most popular - Bindaeduk.   These crispy pancakes are made from ground mung-beans, beansprouts, garlic and shallots, served with a soy-sauce dip and kimchi.  And the meal isn't complete without a bottle of Makgeolli - the traditional rice wine.

So if you want to experience Korean food at its most authentic, head out to the Gwangjang Market.  I'm hungry just thinking about it.

For details on how to get there, check out Korea Tourism Org.



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Some ajumas in good spirits, while they prepare Bindaeduk
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A mound of delicious japchae noodles
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Blocks of kimpap - warm and fresh
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Mini rolls of kimpap - by the handful
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One of the main entrances to the markets
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Will enjoying a bowl of Janchi guksu - a simple warm noodle dish made with thin wheat flour noodles
 
 
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If you live in Korea and need to escape the craziness of Seoul, I can highly recommend taking the 2 hour drive to Inje, in Kangwon. Amazing mountains, clean water and fresh air. It's quite high in altitude too, so you're literally in the clouds.

We headed up there this summer - it was gorgeous!

There are endless self contained accommodation options (pensions), camping facilities, or it's even close enough for a day trip if you get going early.

The area is also famous for white-water rafting - great fun if you're looking to cool off from Korea's stifling heat

Stop at one of the road-side stalls for some freshly cooked, locally grown corn (옥수수).

And on the way home, be sure to have some Chicken Kalbi (닭갈비) at one of the 100's of kalbi restaurants in Chuncheon.

Put Inje on your 'Korean places to visit' list.

GETTING THERE:
Buses from Inje to Sokcho (W6500, every 40 minutes) go via Osaek in Seoraksan National Park's southern part and Yang·yang. Buses also run to Chuncheon (W7000, every 1½ to two hours) and Dong-Seoul (W12, 600, hourly between 7am and 7pm, three hours,).

Or if you can, the drive is spectacular.  Just use your GPS, or if you don't have one, take what's known as the 'Romantic Road' - Number 46 to Chuncheon, and then on to Yanggu, then transfer onto No 31.  Follow the signs from there.

We stayed in a lovely isolated pension which could only be accessed by Cable Car - Which the kids were wildly excited about.   바람부리 펜션 (Baramburi Pension).

Check some pictures in the Gallery titled 'Inje - A Weekend in the Clouds'