중앙데일리

Cheaper flights expand possibilities for day trips

KTX no longer the best option for heading to spots like Mount Jiri, Naeyeon

July 16,2016
Gwaneum, the sixth of Mount Naeyeon’s 12 waterfalls. With cheaper flights from Gimpo International Airport to Pohang, North Gyeongsang, travelers are now able to make day trips to the mountain. [LIM HYUN-DONG]
When people consider traveling within Korea, most think about taking a train rather than a flight.

There are a number of cheap flights to Jeju Island, but flying to other destinations has seemed extravagant - particularly with the arrival of the affordable KTX bullet train that connects many cities around the country.

This has hit Korea’s small regional airports hard, many of which have seen their domestic routes become unprofitable.

Attempting to revive sluggish demand for domestic flights, airlines have been working with travel agencies, as well as federal and regional governments, to offer travel packages for day trips around Korea that are cheaper - and faster - than taking a train.

“Just because domestic airlines are lacking profits, we can’t abolish the airports,” said Lee Min-kyu, an official from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. “To better serve the public interests and to stimulate travels to other regions in Korea, we are trying to improve and keep operating domestic routes.”

Three domestic routes have currently been discounted: Gimpo, Gyeonggi to Pohang, North Gyeongsang; Gimpo to Sacheon, South Gyeongsang; and Gimpo to Yeosu, South Jeolla.

Korean Air has particularly slashed prices on domestic flights for 11 travel agencies including Mode Tour, Lotte Tour and Hanjin Travel, which are offering different day-trip packages.

To check their reliability, a group of reporters headed to Mount Naeyeon in Pohang and Mount Jiri near Sacheon.



Mount Naeyeon

When travelers fly to Pohang from Gimpo, they can arrive as early as 9:30 a.m. Since the last flight back to Gimpo is at 6:25 p.m., travelers have around nine hours to look around. This gives them time to check out waterfalls around Mount Naeyeon, a three-hour roundtrip, and still make it to Gyeongju, which is only 30 minutes away by car.

The reporters participated in a package from Tour Baksa that includes roundtrip airfare, roundtrip bus fare from Pohang Airport to the entrance of the mountain, the entrance fee and a meal for 135,000 won ($117.5). This is cheaper than taking the KTX and then a cab to the entrance of the mountain.

Bussing from the train station to the mountain is not recommended as there is no direct route and it takes about two hours one way.

8:40 a.m. The reporters’ plane took off from Gimpo International Airport. It was about one-third full, and most of the other passengers seemed to be from Posco, which operates a steel mill in Pohang.

9:30 a.m. The plane arrived at Pohang Airport. If the reporters had taken the KTX from Seoul Station that departs at 8:40, they would’ve probably just been passing Daejeon Station.

10:00 a.m. The travel agency’s bus from Pohang Airport headed to Mount Naeyeon, which is about 40 kilometers from the airport. After arrival at Bogyeong Temple, the reporters were fed a late breakfast of bibimbap. Both the meal (8,000 won) and the entrance fee (3,500 won) were included in the package.

11:30 a.m. The reporters were met at the ticket office by their tour guide, Lee Sun-yeong from the Culture and Tourism Committee. According to a posted sign, it takes 40 minutes (2.7km) to hike from the office to Yeonsan Falls, but Lee disagreed.

“Usually it takes an hour,” Lee said. “To get there in 40 minutes, you won’t have time for a break.”

He also explained that Mount Naeyeon has 12 waterfalls, but most visitors see only seven because the paths to the others are difficult.

The first waterfall that reporters encountered was Sangsaeng, followed by Bohyun, Sambo, Jamryong, Mupung and Yeonsan.

As they passed the first waterfall, Lee offered a word of caution.

“Travelers ought to pray to the spirit that lives in Gomodangsin, a holy place located in front of Sangsaeng,” Lee added. “If the traveler passes by without praying, they will sprain their ankle.”

12:40 p.m. The arrival to Yeonsan was delayed because the reporters spent so much time taking pictures of each waterfall, but they regretted not rushing to get here. The walls surrounding the falls are filled with 400 beautiful rocks carved with names and messages of different visitors. Among the most well-known is the artist Gyeomjae Jeongseon (1676-1759), who visited the falls sometime in the autumn of 1734. The mountain inspired his famous paintings “Naeyeonsanpokpodo” and “Naeyeonsamyongchu.”

1:20 p.m. The reporters climb the stairs to the Seonildae observatory located on top of the Jamryong waterfall, which was newly built last December. Many remarked that the view was astonishing, but they were far from the first to do so.

“There is an ancient story that a Taoist hermit hid in a valley because he fell in love with the scenery here,” Lee said.

2:00 p.m. After returning to Bogyeong Temple, the reporters ate a lunch of dotorimuk-muchim [seasoned acorn jelly] and another bibimbap at a local restaurant. These meals were not included in the tour package.

4:30 p.m. The same bus as earlier departed for Pohang Airport, leaving plenty of time to account for possible traffic.

6:25 p.m. The flight departed, again only about a third full. Reporters arrived at Gimpo International Airport less than an hour later, and most were back home by 8:30 p.m. If they’d taken the KTX from Pohang Station that departed at 6:50 p.m., they would likely only be passing Osong Station by then.



From Left: Seonildae observatory, located atop the Jamryong waterfall; Mount Jiri’s peak, Cheonwangbong, which reporters were able to reach only six hours after leaving Seoul; Rotary Shelter, which marks halfway to Cheonwangbong; Chulreong Bridge, which is a 20-minute hike from South Gyeongsang Environmental Training Institute.
Mount Jiri

One of the most appealing parts of the new packages is that Seoulites can now summit Mount Jiri’s Cheonwangbong Peak and return home the same day. That’s not possible by KTX, because even if travelers take the earliest train from Seoul Station (5:45 a.m.) and the last train from Jinju Station (5:33 p.m.) close to the mountain, they’re only left with six and a half hours to finish a hike that takes more than eight.

Seven travel agencies currently sell tour packages involving the Gimpo-Sacheon route, but only Tour Baksa offers a one-day hiking package. It costs 129,000 won.

6:55 a.m. Reporters boarded the flight from Gimpo International Airport to Sacheon Airport in South Gyeongsang. Less than half the seats were filled, mostly by businessmen, which made the plane feel more like a morning bus to work.

7:55 a.m. The plane touched down at Sacheon Airport, which was smaller than the reporters expected. They were met by the travel agency’s bus, which made the 50-minute drive to Mount Jiri’s Hiking Information Center.

There are two courses of varying difficulty. The first is all hiking, and it starts from the Hiking Information Center, passing by Kalbawi and the Rotary Shelter before arriving at Cheonwangbong. The other also starts from the Hiking Information Center but involves a shuttle bus to South Gyeongsang Environmental Training Institute and skips Kalbawi. The reporters used both, taking the latter up the mountain and hiking all the way down.

9:00 a.m. The reporters arrived at Hiking Information Center, but not before stopping along the way to buy a few jumeok-bap [rice balls] for lunch. Since the tour package only contains roundtrip flights and bus fare from the airport to the center, travelers have to buy their own water, lunch, and snacks. The reporters were also on the hook for the shuttle bus up the mountain, which costs 2,000 won.

9:30 a.m. After taking the shuttle, the hike began from South Gyeongsang Environmental Training Institute. It had been only 2 hours and 35 minutes since the reporters left Seoul. If they’d taken the KTX that departs at 5:45 a.m., they would probably have just arrived at Jinju Station. The hike started out easy, but after about 20 minutes, the path got rougher and more difficult. The reporters remained in good spirits, however, thanks to the beautiful yellow poppies and white magnolias that were visible along the way.

10:40 a.m. After around an hour of hiking, the reporters reached the Rotary Shelter, which marks halfway to Cheonwangbong. Beobkye Temple is only about 100 meters away from the shelter, but there wasn’t enough time to explore it. The path gets particularly steep from the Cheonwang spring, which is just 300 meters from Cheonwangbong. The final leg includes an iron staircase that seems like it extends straight into the sky.

1:00 p.m. Seven hours since leaving Seoul, the reporters summited Cheonwangbong. They ate their jumeok-bap under a cloudless sky.

2:20 p.m. After taking a break, the reporters began the descent, this time skipping the shuttle service.

5:50 p.m. It took the reporters about three and half hours to climb down. This brought the total walking time to about 8 hours and 30 minutes, including breaks, during which 11.9 kilometers was covered.

7:00 p.m. The bus back to the airport took off, but not before reporters grabbed a dinner of sanchae bibimbap (9,000 won), which includes various mountain vegetables.

8:30 p.m. The flight to Gimpo International Airport took off, this time with fewer passengers but still mostly businessmen. The reporters landed at 9:25 p.m., not quite believing they’d been up Mount Jiri and back in a single day.


BY SON MIN-HO, LEE SEOK-HEE [estyle@joongang.co.kr]











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