Travel Thru’ The Lens: Winter Olympics Pyeong Chang 2018 FAM Trip

A 360 planet view of the Gyeongpo Cherry Blossoms. You can check out the 360 photo here.

If you are finding the right reasons to visit Korea during Winter perhaps the best timing to go is during the upcoming 23rd Winter Olympics 2018 happening at PyeongChang from 9 to 25th February 2018. The Winter Paralympic will also happen at the same venues from 8th to the 18th of March 2018.

The games will be played in two main areas – PyeongChang will be at the opening and closing ceremony and hosts all the snow and slide based sports such as Ski Jumping, Luge, Big Air Snowboarding and Gangneung holds all the ice based sports such as ice hockey and speed skating.

Soohorang the White Tiger and Bandari the Sun Bear welcomes visitors to Korea.
Germaine, E-Lynn, Atiqah. Angela Nam (lovely guide). Emma and Matthew from England.
Alpensia Ski Jump Tower’s commanding presence over the Alpensia region, sitting on top of the hill overlooking the resort and the lake during my misty morning walk around it.

Alpensia

I have the chance to visit Alpensia Ski Resort, a sprawling complex with multiple ski slopes and a commanding ski jump tower that overlooks the whole area and is the main event venue of the Winter Olympics 2018

The same Alpensia Ski Jump Tower and at the foot of the ramp is the Alpensia Stadium, converted to a football pitch during the non-winter months.
There’s a ski museum documenting the history of the skiing and the introduction of the winter activities in Korea.
The monorail system transport athletes from the Stadium to the Ski Tower.
The view at the top of the tower. The Sliding Centre is on the left and the ski slopes in the centre. The sliding events include the luge, bobsleigh and skeleton. At the foot of the hill is the Alpensia Village where the Holiday Inn Suites are located.

 

Alpensia (The Alps in Asia) is about 184km from the capital city and is designed to be an all year round mountain top resort 700m above sea level. The whole complex has three main accommodation options namely the ultra luxurious Intercontinental Resort Hotel,  Holiday Inn Resort and Holiday Inn Suites. Of the three, the suites provide a more homely feel and in some ways, can save more money.

I was pretty surprised to find a movie theatre at the heart of the resort’s retail village. As I visited the place just after the winter skiing period, most of the shops are closed except for the G25 convenient stores, 4 of them (or more) throughout the village so getting something to eat shouldn’t be a huge issue more so when the area is back to skiing season again.

The Phoenix Snow Park.

Bokwang Pheonix Snow Park

Pheonix Snow Park is another venue that will host most of the snowboard events (Cross, Half Pipe, Slalom, Slopestyle) and also free style Skiing. If you are into the snowboard events, there’s accommodation there too from Hostels to Hotels.

Red got stuck in one of the snow fields.
The Snowboard Halfpipe with E-lynn and a representative from Kyrgyzstan

Around Alpensia

Woljeongsa Temple / Odaesan

Alpensia will get a wee bit boring after a while if you are not really into winter sports. There are still places to visit around the area and Woljeonsa Temple located at Odaesan should be at the top of the list. If you do have time, you can also indulge in a temple stay experience there too. During Autumn in October, there is also the Odaesan Mountain Buddhist Culture Festival where the arts is used to highlight on the environment and ecology of the area. Since you are already at Odaesan might as well do the mountain trekking around the temple. Perhaps even indulge in some nature photography during the milder seasons to capture musk deer, turtledoves and woodpeckers in the area.

Woljeongsa Temple is also the site of Seongbo Museum, displaying artifacts and treasures from Buddhist culture of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), including a nine-story octagonal pagoda, also called as the Sari-Pagoda (relic pagoda), and a Stone Seated Buddha figure. Also there is the Jeokmyeolbogung where Buddha’s bones are said to be preserved, and the large sermon hall Jeokgwangjeon Pavilion (taken from visitkore.or.kr).

The Vajrapani Door or the Door of Strength usually describe the diamond and the thunderbolt.

Colourful lanterns are hang around the Temple grounds. The 360 view of the lanterns can be seen here.
There is a temple stay program at Woljeongsa Temple and during our visit, we are given a bowl of 108 wooden beads and a string to make prayer beads. Usually every time the devotee would bow to Buddha and one bead is added to the string. Good thing we only have time for a few bows and proceed to complete the prayer beads which I might add is a good souvenir.

The Gangneung Ice Area. It will be hosting the ice skating and short track speed skating competition.

Gangneung

Although the Winter Olympics is known as PyeongChang2018, the Coastal City of Gangneung will also host all the sports and games that are ice based. The coastal City of Gangneung will have two main venues, the Gangneung Olympic park and Kwandong Hockey Centre.

The total seating capacity of the Ice Arena is 12,000. The Gangneung Ice Arena is designed to house two ice rinks (60m x 30m) for competition and training respectively. The building has four floors aboveground and two underground levels (Wiki).
The is the 10000 seater Kwangdong Hockey Centre located within Catholic Kwangdong University. We are witnessing the match between the Dutch and the Koreans during the 2017 Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship.
The Ra-Ra Cheerleader looks a bit like Jay Chou.
Here fly…
…there tumble. The Koreans putting up a good fight.
The first goal!
The celebration. Korea wins 2 goals to nil. Both goals by Han SJ and Korea top the Group A rankings with The Netherlands coming in 2nd. The Koreans are promoted to 2018 Division I B.
It is small but definitely more intimate and fun to visit – Jumunjin Fish Market/Harbour.

Around Gangneung

Jumunjin Fish Market

This place certainly reminds me of the more famous fish market of Korea – Busan’s Jagalchi Market. The good thing about Jumunjin is that it felt less crowded and more intimate. While visiting we have the chance to observe a live auction of the sea produce right off the pier. There are also eateries around the area so having fresh produce from the sea for lunch or dinner is not a problem at all.

Really fresh right off from the boats.
Check out the size of the Octopus.
Oh Crabs! See how they are stacked up!
I could smell the freshness off the BBQ pit.
Normally we associate the rayfish with sambal. Dried? hmmm…must be a local delicacy.

Ojukheon (乌竹轩)

There are a lot of history when it comes to Korea as my previous trips to Suwon Fortress, Hanok villages can attest to that. The same applies to Gangneung. Ojukheon, its name came from the black bamboo surrounding the house, is the home of  Shin Saimdang (申师仁堂) and her son Yi I both of whom contributed to Korea. Shin Saimdang is famous for literature, poetry, calligraphy, embroidery and painting.

Her son Yi I is also a prodigy having finished the Confucian classics by the age of seven and passed the Court examination by the age of 13. He followed up with a total of 9 top honours in the various civil exams gaining him vast experience in governance in various positions within the government that contributed greatly to the country through his social reforms. Both mother and son are featured in the Korean Won’s 5000 and 50000 bills.

See that house on the 5000 Korean Won note? Yup that’s it. There’s also the black bamboo too. The birthplace of Yi I.
Outside the compound of Ojukheon where both the mother and son lived. The Fengshui here must be really good hor?

Haslla Art World

I first heard of Haslla Art World when one group from the Samsung NX Trip to Korea actually experience a hotel stay in this unique place and all are enthused by the accommodation (no chance of me staying to take the interiors, unfortunately). That piques my interest and quite honestly its quirky nature is the reason why one should visit. There are art installations throughout the place taking up the hillock overlooking the hotel as well as the coastal area around the hotel itself. If you are into photography, the installations are good subjects to make images with. I particularly like the black/white bicycle hanging precariously off the cliff.

One word: Precarious
A nice use of the old bathtub.
The resemblance is purely coincidental. Just happens that Grace Anh sports short hair and I am of the right size too.
Shooting through the Cherry Blossoms.

Gyeongpo Cherry Blossoms Festival

Although you won’t really get to see Cherry Blossoms if you are visiting this part of Korea during the Winter Olympics, during the Cherry Blossoms season, Gyeongpo provided much need relieve from the throngs of people in more popular areas of Korea to look at Cherry Blossoms. Gyeonpo is still quite popular with the locals though but I manage to sneak a few shots devoid of people which are good! The whole area is a huge lake so do put aside a couple of hours if you wish to walk around the lake and enjoy the scenary with Odaesan mountain in the background.

Check out the size of the crowd. Yes, it is Friday late afternoon just before work ends for the day but still, would prefer here than the more crowded places.
The row of Cherry Blossoms around Gyeongpo lake with Odaesan in the backdrop. Picturesque!

Check out my 360 video of my stroll through the Gyeongpo Cherry Blossoms https://s.insta360.com/p/69cc8a8ca5eefa3529a42ee03155e7ee.

Philip from La Monde look suave here as though he is the captain of the ship at Unification Park.

Unification Park

Nowhere other than Panmunjom can you feel the real danger than at Unification Park. Here you can see a decommissioned warship given by the U.S. Navy to the South Korean Navy. The ship served the South Koreans until it was decommissioned and placed here at Gangneung. A more interesting artefact is actually a small submarine used by North Koreans special forces in 1996 to infiltrate and spy on military installations in the South. I can’t believe 26 poor sods actually squeezed into this sorry excuse of a military craft. There’s also a wooden boat used by North Koreans to escape to the South too. Interesting place to visit to understand the War Between the Two Koreas.

Interesting submarine. 26 people in this? Seriously?
I am basically knee walking inside. 26 pax…oh my goodness.

Other Places to Visit or Things to Do Around Seoul

Gwangmyeong Cave

Location: Gahak-dong, Gwangmyeong-si, South Korea (Map)

A disused coal mine is now transformed into a living museum and historical site that speaks of the Japanese colonial past. It was closed and then refurbished with gaudy lighting. There are some highlights though. Right at the back is a wine tasting store although most wines on sample are more sweet wine rather than the typical wine we all know. Not a fan though. There is also an exhibit by Weta Studio, the special effects company behind the Lord of the Rings franchise. There is also an amphitheatre and aquarium too. The place is unique in itself though I very much prefer the naturalness of the caves using warm coloured light instead.

Evidence of its past life.
The Wind Tunnel…
The Light Space…
The Weta Studio Exhibit. This is interesting!!
All that glitter isn’t gold.
The best place to age wine…
…cheers!

Korean Folk Village

It may sound like a tourist trap but it is one of the nicest tourist traps I have been. Visited 3 times and each time is a different experience and there are a lot of things to shoot too as there are staff who dressed up like locals during the Joseon period. Imagine the Forbidden City with staff dressed up like court officials and the courtesans walking around. It just gave you a quick glimpse of the past as though you have travelled back in time (if you tune out all the other ‘modern’ visitors). What I appreciate too are the cultural performances so you will get a good idea of the Korean Culture.

Check out my 360 video of the farmers dance here.

K-Tigers

I am always a fan of martial performances and what better way to really enjoy them than to put K-Pop into Korean Taekwondo. That is what K-Tigers have done and I have enjoyed all the performances that I have the opportunity to witness. Merging all the hip-hop and military precision dance routines into Taekwondo means the amulgamation of movement, power and energy into one single performance. Your jaw will be touching the floor most of the time with flips and flying kicks (not to mention flying wooden boards too).

The Painters: Hero

The Painters: HERO is an innovative non-verbal performance that stages the entire process of painting combined with incredible visual effects and a witty blend of mime, dance and comedy. Audiences will enjoy a play, an art show, and a musical in a single performance that creates about 10 art pieces live on stage through an 80-minute, excitement-filled show.

The performers are thoroughly engaging and you will definitely laugh at their antics. Most of all, their ability to draw part of an image on the canvas that you would not have guessed until they put it all together. If you have watched Jeju’s famous Nanta, I would say The Painters (it is used to call The Drawing Show) is rated as high as them.

And you thought it is just some doodling until…
…the colour is projected unto the canvas. They have drawn this so many times they know where are the lines (or was there some help somewhere?)

How to get to Alpensia / Gangneung

Before the promised KTX high speed train link is completed by the end of the year, the only way to Alpensia / Gangneung is basically via the 3/4 hour bus service from Incheon Airport. Costing from 70k Korean Won or SGD87 for a return ticket it is actually quite cost effective. The only thing is to book the ticket online (for Alpensia) before proceeding to collect the bus ticket and board the bus at Exit 1 at the airport’s arrival hall. If you plan to visit Seoul first, you can buy tickets and board from the capital city, however do note that the pickup point will change so best to check your ticket voucher.

If I am to plan a trip (highly likely during the January period), perhaps having a car to go around will be a better idea as there are also three more stand-alone venues – Yongpyong Alpine Centre, Jeongseon Alpine Centre and Bokwang Snow Park, to visit if you are really into the winter sports.

As for Gangneung, here’s a website you can try. Personally I will still wish for KTX service. Pay more yes but the time saved (easily 2-3 hours) is worth the money.

Getting the Tickets to the Winter Olympics

If you are planning to attend the Winter Olympics now is the time to get online and enter a ticket lottery system between now and 23 April. Following that the online general sales will be opened from the 5th September 2018. Onsite sale will happen in October 2017. To buy the tickets click here.


The Food We Ate

Starbucks (Yes we need to warm up from the wet and cold Seoul weather when we arrived)

Typical Singaporeans. The Special Starbucks Cherry Blossoms Matcha drink. Mirrorless, Compact and Mobile Phone. All in except DSLR.
The drink in question. The Frap version.

Jeonggangwon (静江园)

Jo Jeong-gang, who ran a renowned traditional restaurant named Dongchon for many years, opened this site, covering about 33,000 square meters, to exhibit the traditional Korean food culture. There is a food museum, a kitchen to learn how to cook Korean foods, a seminar room, a fermentation room, and a vegetable garden in this complex. Visitors can stay overnight as well!

We actually cooked our own Dopokki at Jeonggangwon, Korea’s first institute to allow Tourist to experience cooking Korean traditional food. This is also the place where The Grand Chef was filmed. With me are E-lynn, Matt and Jonathan.
The non-spicy version of Bibimbap.
Kimchi heaven! Fermentation in progress!

Korean BBQ (A Lot of Styles)

At this particular restaurant, we actually can buy the meat we want to eat. Usually, we are not given the choice but here you can pick it up from the shelves and then pay for it before proceeding to the tables. I like this style!!
This restaurant serves beef BBQ, the beef is famous around the Gangneung region. Really delicious!
This restaurant serves Pork BBQ. Yes yes yes…see the amount of fats there….WHO CARES?!
Just burn those fats!!
If that is not enough how about fried rice with CHEESE~~ ah sinful!!

Gaeul Donghwa Antique Cafe
Location: 470-1, Jukheon-dong, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do (Map)

Here’s another eatery that is made famous because of K-drama. The Antique Cafe was featured in the 2000 romantic drama serial – Autumn in My Heart. This is a French restaurant using the freshest produce from Gangneung and you really can’t imagine how beautiful the pan fried fish is until it melts into your mouth. Superb Superb place to eat. Oh yes have to call in for reservation first.

This is the first time I have seen using Blueberry yoghurt used as salad dressing.
The prawn was meaty and certainly super fresh with good tomato based sauce to go with it.
Pan fried fish with home baked bread. I totally miss this!
The light and fluffy Blueberry pound cake.
Angela and Germaine with the boss cum waitress. Love the hospitality.
The Korean stew casserole at the Korean Folk Village. A lot of vegetables for once! LOL!

The Hotels We Stayed

Shilla Stay Gwanghuamun

Situated about 10-15 minutes walk from the gates of Gwanghuamun, Shilla Stay nestled amongst the office buildings of Gwanghuamun area and so if you are looking for a place to stay for the shopping districts this won’t be at the top of the list. I do however miss its very homely reception area and comfortable rooms. The scene outside gave me that Tokyo vibe as well!

The view outside my room.

Alpensia Intercontinental Resort Hotel

When you see the word InterContinental, the brand itself will give the place a bit of the luxurious feel. And we are not disappointed. Superb accommodation with beautiful scenery all around it.

The wood and stone tiles gave it a rustic and warm feel to the place. Felt welcome already especially if the weather is particularly cold outside.
By the time we reached Alpensia the snow has melted save for those on the slopes. You can imagine the winter wonderland feel to the place just by imagining the snow fields just right outside of the hotel room.

One last photo with the girls at Hotel Prumir E-Lynn, Germaine, Angela, Atiqah.

For more photos do visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wilzworkz/albums/72157679215684883/

Many thanks to Korean Tourism Office Singapore for inviting me for this familiarisation trip.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s