May is among the most beautiful times of the year in Korea. The lovely weather is perfect for friends, families and couples to head out for a weekend getaway, and the Korea Tourism Organization has stepped in to help people choose the best trip with their list of the top five May destinations: Gochang in North Jeolla Province, Taebaek in Gangwon Province, Yeongyang in North Gyeongsang Province, Anseong in Gyeonggi Province and Naju in South Jeolla Province.
* Daetigol in Yeoengyang, North Gyeongsang Province
As May flowers come into bloom, people start to long for more in-depth communication with nature. Daetigol in Yeoengyang, North Gyeongsang Province, offers city dwellers the chance to enjoy fresh air and beautiful forest walks. Sanchae bibimbap, a dish of rice mixed with wild mountain vegetables, offers visitors a chance to enjoy the flavors of the unique herbs and plants gathered from Ilwol Mountain. From May 19 to 22, there is a local festival celebrating the delicious wild vegetables of the area and bringing people together to enjoy the season’s edible offerings.
|(From left to right) Students and teachers enjoying a forest stroll in Yeongyang, North Gyeongsang Province (Yonhap News)// Canola flowers at Gochang in North Jeolla Province (Yonhap News)|
Gochang in North Jeolla Province has a wide variety of attractions, from the beauties of nature and fantastic walking paths to interesting history. May brings special delights, including green fields of barley, blooming camellias at Seonusa Temple and royal azaleas at Gochang Eupseong Fortress. The town holds a festival in April and May to show off its barley fields, which slowly turn from green to golden as the month draws to a close.
Seonunsa Temple is also another must-visit place in Gochang. The red camellias that surround their temple are at full bloom this month, and the path linking the temple with Dosoram is perfect for anybody looking for a good trekking course. Visitors with historical or archaeological interest should be sure and visit Maesan-ri, a UNESCO World Heritage site that has hundreds of dolmen, or check out Gochang Eupseong, a spectacular historic fortress that provides an enlightening and easy walking course for people of all ages.
|Green barley fields in Gochang, North Jeolla Province (Yonhap News)|
* Naju, South Jeolla Province
Naju is located by the Yeongsan River. In the past, Naju’s Yeongsanpo Port used to be an active trading center, bringing together the bounty of both the land and sea. It’s also home to Korea’s first inland lighthouse, which is one of the many early 20th century buildings in the town, giving the city a charming, old-fashioned air.
At Naju Eupseong Fortress, people can learn more about the history of Naju by exploring Najumok, a Goryeo period administrative district.
Gourmands have plenty to look forward to in Naju, as well, from the town’s famous pears to its beef soup, Naju gomtang. People with very adventurous palates can also try the local specialty of fermented skate, which had a distinctive ammonia tang.
* Anseong in Gyeonggi Province
Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, bustles with cultural events every weekend. The newly-built Namsadang Performance Center hosts performances of the Namsandang-nori on a regular basis, bringing the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage into the limelight. Similar to today’s circus, Namsadang-nori, which was originally performed by a traveling troupe of the late Joseon Dynasty period (1392-1910), used to be one of the most popular forms of entertainment for commoners.
Traditional dance performances, including the court dance Taepyeongmu, are staged every Saturday at Taepyeongmu Initiation Hall in Anseong. These performances are especially popular families and overseas tourists.
Anseong is also convenient for visiting Bokgeo Village and nearby temples like Chiljangsa or Cheongnyongsa. Bokgeo Village which recently decorated with spectacular murals, has become a highlight for photographers and art lovers. Chiljangsa Temple is where Im Kkeok-jeong, a rebel leader during the Joseon Dynasty, lived. A few years ago, the Korean broadcaster SBS produced a TV drama series portraying Im’s life. Cheongnyongsa Temple is strongly associated with Namsadang performer groups.
|(From left to right) Namsadang-nori in Anseong (Yonhap News) // Flowers come into bloom in Bunjuryeong, Taeabaek, Gangwon Province (Yonhap News)|
In May, Bunjuryeong in Taebaek, Gangwon Province, turns into a paradise of colorful flowers. Nearly 900 kinds of wild flowers come into full bloom and cover the area around the path linking Dumundongjae and the Han River at Geomryongso, creating a picturesque view for hikers. This path is a great course for families traveling together.
After enjoying the wildflowers, visitors can head over to the Taebaek Paleozoic Museum or Taebaek Coal Museum to learn more about the natural history of the area. Yongyeon Cave, located at Hwajeon-dong, is another great area for children and spelunking enthusiasts to visit.
For those who want to relax and rest, Taebaek Forest is a good place to experience the relaxing nature of the Taebaek plateau area.
By Yoon Sojung
Korea.net Staff Writer