Road trip rest stops

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Road trip rest stops

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The beautiful scenery of the East Sea at Okge Hyugeso on the Donghae Highway entices many a driver to stop at this rest area. [JoongAng Ilbo]

If you’re in a foreign country, driving through it can be a better way to explore its hidden charms than being shuttled about on a tour with the rush of one hour here and another one there before the whole group is herded on to the next location. Having a car gives you access to traditional houses tucked away in the woods or the long-forgotten temple that no guidebook will ever mention. These are things to be savored.

When you need a break, the rest stop is the traveler’s oasis, providing the promise of a hot meal, a cool splash of water and a moment to reflect on your experiences.

In Korea, there are rest stops that are tourist sites in and of themselves. Sometimes the beautiful scenery and ocean view at these places are the things that attract the busy traveler’s eye, at other times you just need a late-night snack and a long drive.

These roadside rest stops can earn annual revenues of over 20 billion won ($16.7 million), more than what some small and medium enterprises earn.

But most travelers will simply want to know which rest stops are the best. To answer that question, the employees of Thinkware System Corp., a producer of car navigation systems, put their heads together and came up with a list of 30 of the best rest stops among the 156 scattered throughout the country. Here is a list of their recommendations.

Gyeongbu Highway: Swings for two

The Gyeongbu (Seoul-Busan) Highway is the longest in Korea, and four of its rest stops ranked among the most attractive in the country.

Geumgang Hyugeso (hyugeso means rest area) is known for its architecture and the beauty of the nearby Geum River. A walk along the long promenade that follows the river’s flow will relieve fatigue from a long drive. Swings fit for two that are interspersed along the route will soon be ready to accept weary guests.

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Haengdamdo Hyugeso on the Seohaean Highway makes 20 billion won (16.7 million doller) in annual sales, the second highest among rest areas in the country. Provided by Haengdamdo Hyugeso

At Gyeongju Hyugeso, the main attraction is hanwoo, or Korean beef. Its sonaejangtang (beef intestine soup) was awarded the silver medal in a Korea Expressway Corp.-sponsored culinary competition. The nourishing soup is made with beef, mushrooms, taro, leeks, licorice root and ginger.

Anseong Hyugeso is also a good place for a meal. Special dishes such as hanbang insam gomtang (thick ginseng beef soup served with rice) and blowfish soup will keep you on the road.

Chilgok Hyugeso, the last rest area before Daegu, has a free shower facility. Once you’ve cleaned up, the Pyongyang onban provides substantial sustenance for a long journey. Pyongyang Onban is a winter specialty from the Hamgyong provinces of North Korea. It consists of mung bean pancakes, broiled chicken served over rice and chicken soup.

Jungbu Highway: Medicinal herbs

As its name indicates, Insam (Ginseng) Land Hyugeso is known for the dishes it cooks up with ginseng from the neighboring Mount Geum. Here, even the walnut cookies are made with ginseng. The seolleongtang (beef soup with rice), pork cutlet and sogogi gukbap (rice in a beef-broth soup) are especially delicious. The rest area has a garden, fountain, artificial waterfall and, most welcome of all, a foot bath.

The featureless building that is Sancheong Hyugeso is deceiving. Head up the stone stairs to the octagon pavilion to see the picturesque landscape of the Gyeongho River. The pavilion stands on top of a turtle-shaped rock. Nearby, there is a monument for the Lee Seong-ju clan built during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Goseong Gongryong Nara (Dinosaur Land) Hyugeso is popular with children for its exhibition of dinosaur fossils. Although the area is associated with these ancient creatures, it has kept up with the times through the installation of a solar power energy facility. Eumseong Hyugeso has an octagonal pavilion, an artificial waterfall, a playground and an animal farm.

Jungang Highway: Best ramen

Cheongdo Hyugeso’s ramen ranks as one of the best in town. Their handmade broth is poured over the noodles, dyeing everything around in a rich and spicy red. The Thinkware survey team says that if there were a luxury brand for ramen, this would be it.

Chuncheon Hyugeso is a good place for a late-night snack. It is the first rest area from Chuncheon, Gangwon, and it has a lovely night view of the city. For the kids, there is a park with miniature animals and plants.

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Andong Hyugeso’s sogogi gukbap (soup made with the city’s famous beef) and mackerel are masterpieces. The botanical garden is popular with family travelers.

At Danyang Hyugeso, there are statues of General Ondal and Princess Pyeonggang, historic figures from the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo (B.C. 37-668). The promenade with a wildflower theme park is a pleasant place for a break.

Seohaean (West Coast) Highway: Salted fish from Gwangcheon

Haengdamdo Hyugeso earned the second highest revenue, 22.7 billion won, among all the rest areas in the country last year. It features a majestic view of the Seohae Bridge and Mediterranean style buildings. Stay the nigh at Ocean Park Resort or just stock up on information at Seohae Bridge Information Center, both are nearby.

Seosan Hyugeso was selected as the best place for food along the Seohaean Highway. Thinkware’s survey team described the salted Ganwol Island oysters with hot peppers as both stimulating and addictive.

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The observation deck at Daecheon Hyugeso is a great place to see the sun set over the Yellow Sea as you enjoy local specialties including Gwangcheon salted fish.

Gochang Goindol (Dolmen) Hyugeso has a park with dolmens and fountains. There is also a facility for bicycling and dodgeball so you can stretch your legs before heading back out on the road. The Pungcheon rice topped with broiled eel and Naju beef soup are tasty and nutritious.

Namhae Highway: Sunsets on a southern sea

The view of the sunset from the bridge at Seomjin Hyugeso is so pretty that people often make an extended stop here. Hungry travelers can indulge in a brothy clam soup and tteokgalbi (beef or pork ribs with rice cakes) made with green Japanese plums.

A winner of two culinary competitions, Jinyeong Hyugeso is famous for its food. From September to March, it makes just 50 servings of steamed persimmon galbi stew per day so one has to arrive early before they sell out.

Namgang Hyugeso’s baseball park is always filled with avid fans from Busan. Organic peppers, lettuce and chicory produced in the fields nearby are distributed to visitors for free.

Yeongdong Highway: Sanchae bibimbap

Baekyangsa Hyugeso’s sanchae (herb) bibimbap (rice with vegetables) includes over 10 herbs such as fernbrake and balloon flower roots from Mount Baekam.

Deokpyeong Jayeon Hyugeso won a Korea Architecture Award and an award from the Korean Architect Association in 2007 for its lush interior spaces. There is a steady stream of shoppers who stop here after visiting the outlet stores down the road.

Yongin Hyugeso serves a winning sambap. Sambap is a combination of three foods, in this case chicken, seafood and vegetables. The restaurant also serves raw tuna bibimbap, Hamheung naengmyeon (cold noodle soup), handmade jjajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce) and, oddly, taco salad.

Yeosan Hyugeso’s animal farm has boars, rabbits and chickens. It hosts a benefit concert twice a week.

Gokseong Hyugeso has a dolmen park and sells crab from the Seomjin River, which was served to kings during the Joseon Dynasty.

Donghae Highway: The ocean blue

The Donghae Highway runs along the rocky coast of the East Sea and its rest stops are some of the most beautiful in the country.

Donghae Hyugeso has a observation deck overlooking the lovely Mangsang Beach.

The beach can also be seen from the observation deck at Okgye Hyugeseo, which is usually filled with weekend photographers.

Jungbu Inland Highway: Willow trees and a serene lake

Willow trees that are hundreds of years old line the promenade at Hyeonpung Hyugeso on the Guma Highway, which is part of the Jungbu Inland Highway. The view of the Nakdong River from the hilltop is also lovely.

Seonsan Hyugeso on Jungbu Inland Highway is near Gimcheon Junction. The building leaves something to be desired, but walk to the back of the building and a serene little lake appears.

Jirisan Hyugeso on Highway 88, also connected to Jungbu Inland Highway, has an old building surrounded by mountains. The building houses a small gallery and a restaurant that serves local specialities such as grilled pork and herb bibimbap.



By Jay Han [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

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