+ A

Heading south for some rest and relaxation : Jangheung in South Jeolla offers visitors an ocean breeze and a dense forest perfect for hiking

July 05,2017
A visitor to Jangheung County’s Wood Land, known for its cypress trees, walks around to get some fresh air. [LEE SUN-MIN]
At Jeongnamjin Marine Fishing Park, one can stay at a floating guest house, left, and then fish right outside the house. From there, take a turn at catching some fish, middle. Visitors can fill up their stomachs with one of the region’s specialty dishes, jangheung samhab, right, a combination of three ingredients with beef, pen shell meat, and shiitake mushroom. [LEE SUN-MIN]
JANGHEUNG, South Jeolla - Figuring out whether to take a summer retreat by the water or deep in the woods is always a struggle. While some prefer the refreshing ocean breeze, others look to dense forests for an opportunity to breathe in the cool and crisp mountain air.

Offering a perfect marriage of the two, Jangheung, located in the southern part of the Korean peninsula, is a tranquil coastal getaway that offers travelers many opportunities for rest and relaxation. Head to the top of a mountain in the early morning, and then wash off some sweat while taking a dip in the South Sea after lunch, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Forest bathing

Escaping to nature has become more popular among city dwellers in Korea, who are often stuck under a hazy sky filled with fine dust and pollution. But a walk through the 100-hectare (247-acre) Jangheung Wood Land park quickly exposes visitors to all of the fresh air they could ever want. The tree-covered trails protect hikers from the harsh summer sun and hammocks set up between cypress trees offer those who want to lie down an ideal spot to rest. Inside the park, hikers can stop at the Salt House, a bath house with steam rooms to sweat out toxins and special baths that rejuvenate the skin and help sore muscles relax.

For those wanting more professional-level treatments, the forest manager has different healing programs specially made for different age groups or health conditions, so that visitors can experience ultimate relaxation. On weekdays, the forest is quiet with fewer people walking around and one may find themselves feeling like they are deep in the jungle, without needing to worry about running into any dangerous wildlife.

An overnight stay at a hanok, or traditional Korean home, is another peaceful amenity offered. However, the hanok guest houses are quite popular, and reservations are currently full until Sept. 4.

Visitors looking to see a view of the sky from above the trees, an easy hike up to the top of the mountain offers a breathtaking view of the entire county.

Another adventure is only a short drive away. Go to a parking lot near the Jangheung’s Public Cemetery, drive up the unpaved mountain trail to Gangjae Valley for about 10 minutes. At the end of the road, you can park your car briefly to get to one of the popular paragliding spots in town. Even if you don’t go paragliding, you can just enjoy the beautiful village view from there. There is also a wild trail that allows visitors to walk on the ridge without much of an incline. Some wide berries and flowers are often seen growing along the trails.

Gone fishing

Fishing is another peaceful activity that Jangheung is ideal for. Solo fishermen can sit tight and wait until the fish bite and use the time to empty their minds. Those in big groups can challenge each other to see who will come up with the largest catch. At Jeongnamjin Marine Fishing Park, visitors can rent a floating guesthouse which is easily accessed via short boat ride. The guesthouse has a small porch that makes a great spot to sit and fish.

If you are looking for something more exciting, make your trip to Jangheung during the annual Jeongnamjin Jangheun Water Festival.

The 10th edition of the event, to be held from July 28 to Aug. 3, features a major water parade going through the downtown area and ending up at the banks of the Tamjin River. Onlookers should get ready to get soaked, just like the famous Songkran Water Festival in Thailand, with many people firing water guns and balloons.

A special water fight begins at 2 p.m. every day throughout the festival. Those who don’t fear getting in the river can also ride a banana-shaped tube or other bicycle-like rides and get a tan under the sunlight. For the first three days of the festival, the organizers will have DJs playing music to keep visitors partying long after the sun goes down.

Food from land and sea

Koreans seem to love mixing ingredients, the best example of this being the traditional rice dish bibimbap. Here, people enjoy mixing local favorites like meat and seafood, and have made it appealing to outsiders. Called jangheung samhab, (samhab means combination of three in Korean), the dish comes with the county’s beef, pen shell meat, and shiitake mushrooms. One can simply grill or boil all three in a pan and pile them up together to get different flavors in mouth at the same time.

Locals use a special round-shaped pan which has high and low parts. In the lower part, they add additional hot peppers to make the clam meat taste fresher for those who think the overall taste gets too greasy after a few bites of all three main ingredients together.

Another local specialty is mulhoe, a raw fish served with vegetable in seasoned water. Locals here usually make the water with doenjang, fermented soybean paste, different from other regions which often use more gochujang (red pepper paste) or other ingredients that make the water sour.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

To get to Jangheung County, South Jeolla, on public transportation, go to Seoul Central Bus Terminal, and get on a bus to Jangheung Bus Terminal. It takes about five hours. Another option is to go to either Yongsan Station or Suseo Station and go to Gwangju Songjeong Station on KTX or SRT and then rent a car at the train station. The train takes about two hours and driving from the station to Jangheung takes about 90 minutes depending on the traffic. For more information about the Wood Land, go to www.jhwoodland.co.kr or call (061) 864-0063. More on Jeongnamjin Ocean Fishing Park, go to www.jhfishingpark.kr or call (061) 867-0555. Detailed schedules on the festival can be found at www.jhwater.kr.