Karen is a consultant in Maverick, who has been working for almost three years. She has been handling clients from different industries, including Microsoft and Sennheiser. Karen is a big fan of the K-Pop culture and sceneries. In December 2016, she took her Personal Development Fund to visit South Korea, the country that she has been dreaming of. This is her journey.
Living in the hustle and bustle of the capital city for almost a quarter of a century, I had been aiming to spending some of my time off in a much more tranquil place. A place where I can soothe my mind and gratefully rejoice the magnificence of nature. I usually relish this dream by watching movies at times, movies with beautiful nature as the setting.
For years I could only dream of going to such places to ‘create my own movie’. But then Maverick helped me turn the dream into reality through Personal Development Fund (PDF). PDF is a benefit that Maverick offers to every employee who has been working for more than a year. Just like its name, PDF encourages us to develop ourselves personally. Either learning new courses, traveling to a place that we’ve never been before, or anything else that we want.
I applied for my second Personal Development Fund (PDF) at the end of 2016 and Maverick granted my wish: a 12-day trip to the ginseng country, South Korea!
While I was planning the trip, I decided to re-watch some of my favourite dramas and variety shows because I wanted to go to the places where they were shot. It was winter when I went for the trip and I wanted to experience the winter season to the fullest (experiencing the snowfall). Thus, I divided my trip into four element: culture and tradition, history, nature, and snow.
The Culture, The Tradition. Trying to Live Like a Local.
Two of the most common places that can reflect the culture and tradition of South Korea are Jimjilbang and Korean Folk Village.
Jimjilbang is a Korean bath house that provides various hot baths, spa, saunas and fomentation, as well as bed bunk (yes, we can have a sleepover here). Basically, this is the right place to go when people feel tired after a long walk or a trip. I visited the Jimjilbang after I had a winter hiking at Bukhansan National Park. I spent a lot of time at the sauna and fomentation area, which was divided into different rooms – each room had different temperature and attributes: charcoal, salt, mineral rock, infrared ray, ice, and more. I tried all the rooms and it really healed my soreness and fatigue!
Korean Folk Village is a place that consists of Korean traditional structures, such as private houses, village street, nobleman’s house, and Confucian academy. It has a strong traditional culture atmosphere. That’s why Korean Folk Village has become the set for a lot of popular dramas such as “My Love from Another Star”, “Sungkyunkwan Scandal”, and “Dae Jang Geum”. I felt like riding into the Joseon dynasty when I visited the village.
The History. Getting to Know It.
One word that came to my mind when talking about Korean history? The Palaces.
South Korea has four palaces. Although I initially wanted to visit at least two of the palaces, it already took me more than a half day just to explore one. So I decided to fully explore Gyeongbokgung Palace, the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. The palatial complex was indeed huge. Aside from the main buildings, there was also a garden, ponds, a museum, a gallery, and the Street of Memory. The wind blew very strongly that day, but it didn’t discourage me to explore the palace.
In addition to the palace, I also would like to learn about the history of South Korea and North Korea. Therefore, I used a local tour to visit the border between South Korea and North Korea. It’s called Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Tour. One of the most unforgettable locations in the DMZ is the Dorasan Station that links South Korea to North Korea (although it is not used at the moment). Should South Korea and North Korea ever reunite, Dorasan Station will be the one that connects them. It for sure reflects a lot of hopes, as seen in one of the billboards, “Not the last station from the South, but the first station toward the North”.
The Nature. (Almost) A Thousand Miles.
I was looking for serenity in my trip. As such, I gathered up my courage and ran into the winter to visit several locations that were famous for its beautiful nature, such as Seoraksan, Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm, and Pocheon Herb Island.
The name ‘Seoraksan’ consists of two different words: ‘Seol’ which means ‘snow’ and ‘Ak’ which means ‘big mountain’, meaning the snow would not melt for a long time, keeping the rocks in a permanent state of white. And it stays true to its name. It wasn’t a snowy day when I visited Seoraksan, but the mountain area was already covered with snow. I decided to ride a cable car to reach the mountain peak because my energy level had dropped after walking for hours to another side of the mountain, where the waterfall was located. Once I arrived at the peak, I was nothing but amused by the view.
My love for nature called me to a place in Pyeongchang area namely Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm. It took me more than 6 hours from Seoul to arrive at Pyeongchang by buses. And it took me around 2 hours from Pyeongchang to the Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm by taxi. The long ride, however, was paid off. As soon I entered the Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm, I knew I made a right decision to come here. The landscape of broad meadows, covered with snow (it wasn’t a snowy day either though), as well as the cuteness of the sheep answered all my needs for serenity.
Another highlight of this part is Pocheon Herb Island, the home of Korean herbs that was decorated in classical and European styles. Almost everything here was related to herbs, including the food and beverages. I grabbed lunch at one of the restaurants, which turned out to be also decorated with herbs. The main course, the side dishes, as well as the tea, had some herbs in them. So yummy and healthy!
The Snow. My First Time.
Although I’ve seen snow in some of the previous places, I still haven’t had the chance to experience the snowfall by myself… until the day I went to Chuncheon area to visit Nami Island and the Garden of Morning Calm. I had to take a Korea Train eXpress (KTX) and a bus to reach Chuncheon. And from the bus stop, I still had to ride a ship to reach the first place, Nami Island. The snow started to fall when I was still in the journey. It didn’t stop until I arrived at Nami Island and had hours of walks there. It was beautiful and I was too blessed as the snowfall completed all four elements that I planned in my itinerary.
This trip marked my first encounter with freezing winter and snow. And I enjoyed it so much. Thank you Maverick for encouraging me to experience new things every year!