A little taste of the Alps, affordably, in local mountains

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A little taste of the Alps, affordably, in local mountains

You want to get out of the city for a couple of days, maybe to the mountains, but are worried about where to stay. Korea's cheap hotels, yeogwan and minbak, are usually cramped and leave a lot to be desired. The resort housing that Koreans call "condominiums" are also unmemorable, and quite often unclean.

So what's a traveler to do? Fortunately, a new kind of accommodation is becoming popular, offering comfortable rooms, nice views and plenty of extras: the European-style pensions (pensyeon in Korean). They give you privacy, but also the chance to meet fellow sojourners in a common lobby, a fun part of traveling you don't often get in Korea.

Pensions are springing up mostly in the scenic mountain regions of Gangwon province. They are small, with 10 rooms or less, and provide better service and amenities than most hotels. Most of them are in beautiful places and are run by their owners, who usually provide "family-like" services.

While Korea's first pension opened on Jeju Island two years ago, pensions seem to have found their natural habitat in the mountains and rivers of Gangwon province.

Each pension room has its own kitchen, shower and toilet. In the evenings, the guests are often invited to barbecue parties hosted by the owners. If you want to stay on a weekend, you'll need to make reservations at least a month in advance. Below is a list of pensions worth visiting in Gangwon province.

Hangyeryeong Osaek Pension

(www.osaekpension.com, 033-672-3700)

In Yangyang-gun, this pension is on National Road No. 44, just south of Hangyeryeong, after passing Osaek mineral springs. This building is reminiscent of villas in the Alps. The cost of accommodation for one night is 10,000 won ($8) per pyeong (3.3 square meters). For couples and families, 7- and 10-pyeong rooms are available. There are table tennis courts, a basketball court and areas for playing "foot volleyball." The Osaek mineral springs and hot springs are just a few minutes away by car, and Naksan Beach is a 20-30 minute drive. The owner teaches guests fly fishing on the Osaek River.

A River Runs Through It (033-673-0941)

This pension is close to Yangyang-gun, in a very quiet area, where you can hear a nearby river. Namdaechun Bupsuchi river valley is also close.

To get there, take National Road No. 7 from Hajodae, then take local route No. 418 and go 12 kilometers toward Bupsuchi. There are nine rooms at the pension, ranging in size from 6 to 14 pyeong. On weekends, prices are 10,000 won per pyeong. Hajodae and Muin Lighthouse are just 20 minutes by car. The owner, Ju Gi-yong, 41, teaches fly fishing in the Bubsuchi river valley. Mr. Ju will also drive you by jeep to a scenic trail for a day of trekking.

Juryungo Mountain House

(www.juryungol.com, 033-763-3080)

In Wonju Shillimmyeon, this pension is a five- minute drive from the Sillim Interchange on the Central Highway. It is also in the middle of Chiak Mountain Park. There are four rooms, of 4, 6, 12, and 40 pyeong. Weekend prices range from 40,000 won to 280,000 won. The 40-pyeong room has a large hall with a fireplace and two extra rooms, and can lodge up to 20 persons. It is owned and managed by the painter Gwak Ae-ri, whose works are all around the pension, giving it the air of an art museum.

Edelweiss (033-336-3598)

In Pyeongchang-gun by Heungjeong Valley, Edelweiss can be reached by getting off the Yeongdong Highway at the Jangpyeong toll gate, then heading toward Heungjeong Valley. There are five rooms with prices from 70,000 won to 100,000 won. It is run by Han Seong -rae, 34, of Bongpyeong. Since this pension is 700 meters above sea level, it is cool in the nights even in the middle of summer. In the backyard, vegetables and herbs grow in a quaint garden, and chickens roam about, making it an ideal place to bring children.

by Sung Si-yoon

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