Roadtrips’ Product Manager Greg Enns just got back from a second visit to South Korea, where he was busy checking everything out for the 2018 Winter Games packages that we are putting together and was very happy with what he saw there. “I already had a favorable impression of the people, but this visit I have this inherent confidence in Korea and Koreans, and that all of their infrastructure, all the new highways, hotels, and venues will be completed on time,” says Enns. “Nobody is sweating the issues at all, they’re all positive and ready to bring in the world.”
South Korea might not be on your bucket list, but it should be, and the Winter Games is the perfect reason to go there for the first time. “There’s this juxtaposition when you fly into Seoul which is this huge global city of 10 million people, with ex-pats and business, shopping and multicultural restaurants, and then you get out on the highway to the east coast where all the venues are going to be and it is an entirely different world,” says Enns.
“PyeongChang, where the alpine events are going to be held, and Gangneung which will have the indoor arena events, they historically cater more to Korean and other Asian tourists,” explains Enns. “These places clearly don’t have many western tourists, and they are eager to put themselves on the map so that people come not only for the Games but want to come back again and again.”
South Korea is a fantastic destination that is somewhat under the radar still, and is an all-seasons destination too — they have great beaches as well as awesome skiing. “Everyone knows Seoul, but there’s so much more to this nation,” says Enns. “A lot of people are like, huh? South Korea? But this is a super cool destination.”
People may not know much about South Korea, but Korean food has certainly become very popular in North America over the past few years (Anthony Bourdain describes it as delicious and exciting… with a whole spectrum of flavors). Visiting South Korea will mean that you get to taste some incredible food, and experience the unique culture that comes with that.
“I saw seafood restaurants that go far beyond anything you see in North America, with huge tanks filled with crab and live fish, and there are tons of fusion flavors with other Asian cuisine. When I was back in Seoul I found a Canadian restaurant and lounge and found a Korean poutine, which had a base of fried potatoes as you’d expect but it was topped with spicy Korean style BBQ pork, kimchi, and finely sliced hot peppers, and a drizzle of what tasted like sriracha mayonnaise. It was a neat twist on our cuisine,” says Enns. “I also found some neat food vendors in the night market I visited in Seoul. People were grilling up lobsters on the street and squeezing lemonade.”
The South Korean people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Enns said that even those that he met who didn’t really speak English expressed how excited they were to have westerners coming to their destination, and that he was going to help bring more North Americans there. “Every hotel that we went to we couldn’t just shake hands and see the rooms, we had to sit down and have tea. Every single person was so welcoming,” he says. “People can expect that their experience in South Korea will be shaped by warm people who want you to see their home surroundings.”
As for how prepared South Korea is for the Winter Games, Enns observed that many of the venues seem to be completed already. “This winter they’re already having test events two years before the Games even begin,” he says, “Things are ahead of schedule.”