Hot Springs Amid Scenery and HistoryWhat is the best way to spend short winter breaks in Korea? National hot spring resorts that are only a few hours drive away from Korea's major cities can be the solution. And more than 500 hot spring resorts in 50 areas in Korea offer plenty for tourists or vacationers.
Follow National Road No. 3 and you will come to Ichon Hot Spring, Suanbo Hot Spring and Munkyong Hot Spring. Neungam Hot Spring at Yangsung-myeon, Chungju City, is noted for its carbonated water. With many other attractions nearby, it is the perfect area for family vacations.
On the way to Ichon, past Gonjiam, are many potteries where you can buy plates and other crockery at reasonable prices. The Miranda Hotel (031-633-2001) in Ichon also has a great hot spring of its own. The hotel has 165 rooms and a curved 35-meter swimming pool that also includes a toddlers' area. Entrance to the hot spring is 6,000 won ($5), with an extra 3,000 won ($3) for the pool.
Take National Road No. 38 from Janghowon to Chungju and you will come to Neungam Hot Spring Leisure (043-854-6800), which opened last year. The spring is said to offer the best naturally
carbonated water in the country. Admission is 5,000 won ($4.50).
Keep driving along the Local Road No. 599 from Gahung to a historical monument from the Koguryo Kingdom in the Three Kingdoms Era. Designated as National Treasure No. 205, the monument is believed to have been built by King Jangsoo around 500 A.D. After defeating his foes, the king built the monument to indicate the boundary and as a starting point for further conquests. You can also visit Tangumdae (Local Monument No. 4), where famous zither player Uruk performed, and Jungangtop, a seven-story stone tower nearby. Suanbo Hot Spring is just 30 minutes drive away from downtown Chungju.
Munkyong Hot Spring (054-572-3333) is around the corner past the Saejae and Ihwaryeung Tunnel. The spring is also well known for its carbonated water, which contains calcium and bicarbonate. The water tends to oxidize and turn red upon contact with oxygen. The water therefore always looks somewhat cloudy and opaque. Entrance costs 4,000 won.
Munkyong Saejae is where the popular TV drama "Wang Gun" - set in a tumultuous period of Korean history - is filmed. The Munkyong Saejae is a hilly road that connects North Chungchong province and North Kyongsang province and is one of famous ancient roads in Korea. The Saejae road passes through Juhulgwan, the first gateway, Jogokgwan, the second gateway and Joryeunggwan, the third gateway. Entrance to Mungeoung Saejae Province Park (054-571-0709) is 1,900 won for adults and free for children.
Past Suanbo Hot Spring, visitors can stop at Worak Mountain, where Korea's biggest Buddhist temple, Miruk Temple, once stood. Drive towards Jechon and you will come to the relocated Cheongpung Cultural Property, where local cultural assets and other relics are on display. The complex showcases two national treasures, 36 cultural items and 40 local relics.
by Kim Sae-joon