TEXT AND PHOTOS BY EUDEN VALDEZ
As Filipinos, we are familiar only with summer and rainy days, which can be really extreme in a tropical country. It’s either scorching hot or very wet. So we can only imagine how it feels to live with four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter.
But when we do, winter is the season that makes us so dreamy. Oh how beautiful those landscape all white and covered in snow. How surreal it may be to feel the winter cold and most especially, to see snow falling.
In December, this author was sent to South Korea for work and it was winter. As part of a familiarization tour arranged by the Korean Tourism Organization in the Philippines, I got to experience snow season at one of the nation’s finest provinces, Gangwon.
Located east of capital Seoul, Gangwon-do is home to PyeongChang County, which hosted the recent 2018 Winter Olympics. It is, after all, where some of South Korea’s oldest and best ski resorts are located. Some venues of the global sporting event were also located in the neighboring city of Gangneung where mountains border one side and the sea, the other. And then right in the middle, is a scenic lake rests peaceful.
All this makes Gangwon-do the perfect destination for Filipinos to experience winter and behold snow for the first time in their lives. It is more probable than ever with the rise of Filipino tourists now visiting the Asian country.
A Philippine travel agent, who was also part of the familiarization tour, attested to this and credited it to this generation’s love for Korean dramas and idols. For the older and more-traveled Filipinos, South Korea is becoming the next “It” Asian destination after going to Hong Kong, Singapore or Japan.
With Gangwon-do filled with so much beautiful places, authentic Korean food, and unique activities during winter, there’s surely another reason for Filipinos to come to South Korea. It will surely even make traveling to the countryside even more worth it especially during winter. These are some reasons why:
1. You’ll know how negative temperatures feel
On a regular day during winter, temperature at Gangwon can easily go down below zero. The mornings and nights are especially colder with temperatures averaging up to -10-degree Celsius.
While it’s natural for us, who are used to 30-degree-Celsius temperatures, to be intimidated by winter, we can actually prepare for it physically and mentally. Boost the immunity, wear proper winter clothes—layers upon layers of it.
But when exposed outside to natural forces of winter, be prepared that the cold will still be felt even with those layers. And this can be very harsh and drying to the skin so make sure to always moisturize as well.
Soon, you’ll find yourself getting the hang of it. You can stay out even with negative temparatures—well even just for a few minutes to see the beauty of your snow-covered surroundings—before you return inside an establishment for cover.
2. Your winter #OOTDs can finally happen
Finally, you have all the reasons to layer up clothing. You have probably tried this once in Baguio or Tagaytay but with climate change, you realized that the cold is not just enough.
But with the winter cold, you can finally wear your knitwear and leggings, as well as your trench coats and down jackets. Bundle up with your colorful scarves, and finally, those knee-high boots!
You can show your personality with your winter style! Not only will you look good in your next Instagram feed, you will also feel warm in the inside.
3. You can try winter sports like skiing
There are theme parks in Manila that boast of snow attractions but never winter sports. This can only be tried where there is enough amount of snow that doesn’t melt.
In PyeongChang, the most first-timer friendly is skiing, which Korean travel agency Winter Friend is pushing for tourism through its Korea International Ski Camp (KISC) to Filipinos. Running for three years at five partner ski resorts in PyeongChang, KISC is a ski tour planner that includes accommodations at top ski resorts in PyeongChang and qualified ski lesson programs.
KISC is really the perfect opportunity for Filipinos to try skiing.
4. You can explore a ski resort
PyeongChang has four of the best ski resorts in South Korea including the very first one. Established in 1975, YongPyong All Seasons Resort covers 3 million acres of skiing grounds, 28 unique slopes and 14 lifts.
It is proud of its fine and abundant snow, and the natural sceneries all around. It does lie at the foot of Mt. Bangwalsan standing at 1,458MASL. It can be reached via a 3.7-km-long, 40-minute gondola ride.
Mt. Bangwalsan is a true beauty with 360-degre views of mountain ranges, the sunrise and sunset, sea of clouds, and the Pacific Ocean on the east. It is also is very symbolic and auspicious to Koreans. It is believed to be the birthplace of champions and the beginning of success. In fact, it has served as set for globally famous Korean dramas namely “Winter Sonata” and “Goblin.”
Besides the mountain attraction, YongPyong is also proud of its expansive ski-house, a mall, various hotels and residences, and the Peak Island Water Park and Spa.
5. You can visit Winter Olympic venues
Next to YongPyong All Seasons Resort is the Alpensia Resort, which houses the Winter Olympic 2018’s ski jumping slopes. This is found inside the Alpensia Stadium and it has an observatory with an uphill monorail.
Because of its proximity to PyeongChang, Gangneung lent a couple of its venues to the prestigious sporting event. The city has both the curling and skating sports complexes where athletes in the making are training. There is also the Gangneung Olympic Museum that exhibits memorabilia from the recent Winter Olympics like the official torch, medals, clothing and equipment.
Excited enough? You have until first week of February this year to catch winter in South Korea! Or you can save enough for the next winter in November!
(Parts of this story were lifted from the article originally written for Philstar.com)