Trips to the country for tired urbanites

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Trips to the country for tired urbanites

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A group of kids goes for a ride on a cow-drawn cart at Mountain Flower Village in Cheongyang County, South Chungcheong. By Kwon Hyuk-jae

In Daechi-myeon, Cheongyang County, South Chungcheong, there is a mountain village called Gwanggeum-ri. Tucked at the foot of Mount Chilgap, it’s a cozy place with only 37 houses. Known as Mountain Flower Village, it was named after the cherry blossoms that bloom in spring, the wildflowers that decorate the landscape in the summer and the budding lotus flowers scattered across the pond at the center of the village. Last week, chestnut blossoms danced down the village streets.

The flowers have turned Mountain Flower Village into a tourist attraction that gives city dwellers a chance to escape their urban existence and experience rural life.

There are no extravagant events going on here. But that may be just what is needed at this time of year, when the heat steaming up the sidewalks, the stress of work and the pressures of school necessitate a little peace and quiet.

The villagers provide a simple but hospitable welcome - along with a few sights straight out of yesteryear, when all the kids would pile into the car and take a trip out to grandma’s country house.

The only cow in the village takes children on a cart ride around town. And while the adults are busy making bibimbap, mixed rice with vegetables, with wild greens native to the area, young people amble down to the lake to go fishing with their friends.

Recently, the town created a “deer clinic” to bring injured animals back to health. It wasn’t intentional, however. One day, a young villager discovered two baby deer lying in a village field, starving. At the time, no one knew that bringing them into the village would be the start of a program that has attracted tourists from around Korea. But the program has become a real treat for visiting city kids, who rarely have a chance to see woodland creatures.

Mountain Flower Village is just one of around a thousand others nationwide offering summer tour packages.

One program pits adventurous families against nature in a three-day, two-night trip to a deserted island with no television and no electricity.

“This, indeed, is an experience that will be difficult to forget. It’s something that will leave a lasting impression on children,” Kweon O-jin, the head of the trip organization Making Memories with Dad, said.

So close your eyes, and let your imagination take you away to a village where thousands of stars embroider the night sky; where frogs sing somberly through the night and you catch minnows in a brook. These are places where you can sit around on a hot summer’s night, eating watermelon and reminiscing about a simpler time.

These days it’s not hard to find information about vacationing in the countryside. Many government organizations, including the improbable Ministry of Public Administration and Security, provide travel information. One Web site, http://tour.invil.com, has recommendations for about 900 such trips. And the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has started a campaign in conjunction with the Korea Tourism Organization to promote domestic tourism. With so many options it’s hard to know which to choose. Here are just a few places to start.


Making Memories with Dad

Is it possible to survive without television or electricity?

Every summer since 2002, adventurous families have trekked out to a deserted island on an action-packed trip that might give “Survivor” a run for its money.

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Children laugh during a break from river rafting near Haedam Village in Yangyang County, Gangwon.

On the trip, families spend two nights and three days on an uninhabited island in the West Sea. They participate in programs that have them riding in a bamboo boat, exploring caves and desalinating salt water to make drinking water and salt for use in cooking, frying fish and building a fire.

Moms can take a break from these adventures, but participation for dads is mandatory.

Prices are 300,000 won ($234) per person. Trips will be held on July 31 and Aug. 7. Call the group, Making Memories with Dad, at (031) 261-5294 or visit http://cafe.naver.com/swdad.


Experience the DMZ

Explore the 248-kilometer-long demilitarized zone on a trip that takes visitors to military units, historical sites, underground railroads and 10 observation platforms where North Korea can be seen at close range. At one military unit in Gangwon Province, visitors can have lunch with the soldiers stationed there. The five-day, four-night tour departs from Ganghwa, Incheon, to Goseong County, Gangwon, every Tuesday. Prices are 340,000 won for adults and 260,000 won for teenagers and children. Call DMZ Tour Korea at (02) 706-4851 or visit www.dmztourkorea.com.


Planetary observation

If stargazing is your thing, you might want to journey to one of the country’s many observatories.

The Yeongwol Byeolmaro Astronomical Observatory on top of Mount Bongrae, Gangwon, offers spectacular views of the mountain and the starlit sky. During the day, visitors can go rafting, listen to astronomy lectures, tour the museum and observe the sun.

The program is for groups with 20 people or more. Prices are 35,000 won for adults, 30,000 won for teenagers and children. Call (033) 374-7460 or visit www.yao.or.kr.
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By Son Min-ho [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]


Days of sun, nights under stars


From Korea Tourism Organization

Gyeonggi Ansan Seongam Fishing Village

The tidal flats of Seongam provide the backdrop for shellfish picking and soap making, a trip to a salt farm, fishing and beach biking. Accommodations at Gaetbeol Pension, (03) 886-4658, or Achim Nongjang, (032) 886-1598, cost 100,000 won for a family of four and 200,000 won for a larger group.

Call the village (032) 886-6133 or visit http://seongam.seantour.org.

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These kids find time flies while digging for clams on the tidal flats near a village in Sinan County, South Jeolla.

Gangwon Hwacheon Lake Village

Fishing is the thing here, and you can do it all year round. There is also kayaking (10,000 won) and tomato picking (15,000 won for a family of four). Other attractions include Paro Lake and a literature theme park. Accommodations at Woncheon Pension, (033) 441-5400, cost 100,000 won for a family of four; rooms at Hwangto Minbak, (011) 9244-3730, cost 70,000 won.

Visit http://woncheon.invil.org.



Gwanggeum-ri Mountain Flower Village

In this village near Mount Chilgap, visitors can make flower candy (4,000 won), ride in a cow-driven cart (2,000 won), go fishing and make flower tea. Accommodations at a village pension cost 10,000 won per person and rooms at the community center cost 50,000 won per night for a family of four.

Call (041) 944-2007 or visit www.sankkot.com.



Gangwon Yanggu Omi Village

Located near the North Korean border, this is a mountainous district where visitors can make their own tofu (8,000 won) or go hiking around the Peace Dam and Jikyeon Falls. Accommodations at Naeum Pension, (033) 481-6403, cost 100,000 won for a first-floor room and 60,000 won for a second-floor room.

Visit http://omi.invil.org.



Gangwon Yangyang Haedam Village

Sit near the seashore at Hajodae Beach or Naksan Beach or hike around Daecheongbong path. Visitors can zoom around on ATVs (10,000 won to 30,000 won), catch fish with their bare hands (10,000 won), ride on log rafts (5,000 won) and do archery (5,000 won for 20 arrows). There are RV camping facilities inside the village. Accommodations in a village bungalow, (033) 673-2233, cost 40,000 won to 150,000 won and rooms at Gaeul Minbak, (033) 673-1698, cost 100,000 won to 120,000 won per night for a family of four.

Visit http://hd.invil.org.
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