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A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
Much has changed about the way we travel in the last 18 months. But I feel strongly that these changes will ultimately be for the best, as they open new ways to look at destinations and to participate in the global human experience. As for me, I am a fan of the old-fashioned photographic safaris that Ker & Downey got its start in over 25 years ago. Early morning wake up calls, days spent following predator and prey through the bush, and evening sundowners overlooking the vast, empty African savanna have always been my favorite way to travel. But as we have developed our expertise and explored different travel styles over the decades, I have often found myself inspired by destinations across the globe with both ancient and modern cultures juxtaposed across a living landscape — Peru, Australia, India, Japan, and more. While we have been sending travelers to East Asia for well over a decade, I am pleased to finally have the opportunity to properly introduce South Korea to our clients in partnership with the Korea Tourism Organization. South Korea is a destination of many marvels. The early to mid-20th century saw much strife for this nation of millions, but moving into the 21st century, South Korea has become a force to be reckoned with. Following the “Korean wave” of pop culture that has rapidly spread across the globe, the country has become unbelievably popular as a destination for travelers of all ilk, whether they are seeking a deep dive into Korean spa and beauty culture, an active adventure destination with plenty of outdoor space to explore, exciting gastronomic experiences, or a place with a rich and unique ancient cultural history. I am pleased to present here a small sample of what South Korea has to offer the high-end luxury traveler, and I hope that you will consider this as inspiration to explore this remarkable destination in your future travels. Whether you want to “shop ‘til you drop” in Seoul’s luxury boutiques or spend days exploring the hiking trails of Jeju Island in quiet contemplation, Ker & Downey is here to plan your unique journey.
David Marek President
ON THE COVER: Myeongdong shopping district, Seoul Photo courtesy of Cait Ellis_Unsplash www.instagram.com/igcait
GATHER AROUND THE TABLE By Haley Beham How many people planted gardens or learned to make sourdough bread from scratch last year? With all the extra time at home on our hands, it was the right time to try something new. There are those of us like me, however, who simply survived. And one of the ways I survived was by using a meal kit service to relieve the stress of trying to plan healthy meals for my family. And that’s when I was introduced to bulgogi and bibimbap. You might have guessed by now that a foodie I am not. But I do desire to serve my family tasty and healthy meals that my kids will eat and not just pick at. So, when they devoured the Korean dishes, I paid attention. There’s a lot to love about Korean food. Not only is it incredibly flavorful, but it is also some of the healthiest food on the earth. Seasonally driven and packed with vegetables and meats cooked with little oil, it is easy to see why Koreans consider food to be medicine. They even attribute their longevity to a daily intake of kimchi (salted and fermented vegetables) with at least one meal. But beyond the flavorful and nutritional aspects of Korean cuisine is the philosophy that food is meant to be shared around a table together with people you love. Traditional food requires a lot of time to prepare. The commitment and care it takes to create the dish are an expression of love for the people gathered around your table. The culture surrounding Korean food led to the creation of banchan, side dishes served on small plates on the dining table. It’s paired with large portions of several main dishes and steamed rice, all of which are meant to be shared. I may not be a foodie but sharing a meal with my family that nourishes both the body and the soul is a tradition I can get behind!
The Best Foodie Experiences in South Korea From traditional street food to royal court cuisine, here’s how to eat your way through South Korea.
Cooking Class in Seoul
Bibimbap in Jeonju
Learn the basics of Korean cuisine during a cooking class at O’ngo Food Communications. You’ll pick up a few tips and tricks to take home with you while making your own kimchi and bulgogi.
The traditional Korean dish mixes more than 30 ingredients selected according to the ancient wisdom of yin and yang and the five elements into one pot. A far cry from vegan Korean temple cuisine, Jeonju-style bibimbap typically features thinly sliced beef and an egg, in addition to spicy gochujang chili pepper paste and kimchi.
Temple Cuisine with a Buddhist Monk The 12th-century Buddhist Jinkwansa Temple sits on top of a mountain and is the preeminent location for Korean temple cuisine. Buddhist nuns run the entire temple and have for centuries grown, cooked, and eaten the Korean temple food to practice Buddhist teachings.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash: Felix Lannoo; Jakub Kapusnak | iStock
Korean Royal Cuisine in Seoul The Joseon Dynasty was the peak of royal culture in Korean history. The meals served for the king were prepared by the best cooks in the court with quality ingredients procured from across the country. The royal table, called surasang, was served with 12 dishes, including rice and soup, as well as stew, hot pot, kimchi, and sauces. Both white rice and sweet rice were served, and the most common soups were miyeok-guk (seaweed soup) and gomtang (beef bone soup).
Street Food at Gwangjang Market At Gwangjang Market you can find 5,000 stalls selling hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), traditional Korean street food, and innovative fusion cuisine. It’s famous for its mung-bean pancake (bindaetteok). Not only have the traditions of Korean food been passed down from generations, so have the stalls. It’s not uncommon to visit a stall that’s been in the family for multiple generations.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash: Mike Swigunski
Korean BBQ in Busan
Photos courtesy of Unsplash: Cj Dayrit; Markus Winkler
Unlike American and European-style short ribs, which include a thick slice of bone-in beef, Korean-style short ribs are cut lengthwise across the rib bones. The result is a thin strip of meat, about eight to ten inches in length, lined on one side with 1/2-inch thick rib bones. It is usually brought to the table raw, then cooked on tabletop grills by the diners themselves. The dish may be marinated in a sweet and savory sauce usually containing soy sauce, garlic, and other herbs.
Seafood in the Port Town of Busan Jagalchi Fish Market covers nearly two miles of space, much of which is indoors. Visitors can stop here with their guide, select fresh seafood, and have it prepared for them for lunch or dinner at a nearby dining establishment. The market is famed for the “Busan wives”, a tradition of women who sold any foods or sundries they could at Busan’s street markets during the Korean War to care for their children while their husbands were away fighting.
C U LT U R A L J O U R N E Y
HANDCRAFTED SOUTH KOREA: CULTURE & CUISINE 1 1 D AY S / 1 0 N I G H T S Ker & Downey delivers luxury South Korea tours as few else can. On this 11-day handcrafted trip to South Korea, discover Korean temple food at Jinkwansa temple, sample other Korean cuisine like bibimbap in Jeonju, and visit a number of historic and cultural sites.
Photos courtesy of iStock | Photographer IR Studio-Korea Tourism Organization
S U G G E S T E D J O U R N E Y AT A G L A N C E : DAY 1-4: SEOUL | FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SEOUL DAY 5: SEOUL/GYEONGJU/BUSAN | PARK HYATT BUSAN DAY 6-7: BUSAN | PARK HYATT BUSAN DAY 8: BUSAN/JEONJU | RAMADA BY WYNDHAM JEONJU DAY 9: JEONJU | RAMADA BY WYNDHAM JEONJU DAY 10: JEONJU/INCHEON | GYEONGWONJAE AMBASSADOR INCHEON DAY 11: DEPARTURE
KOREAN WELLNESS RETREAT 8 D AY S / 7 N I G H T S This journey is designed with a spa and wellness focus, but like all Ker & Downey suggested journeys, the itinerary can be customized completely to suit your own travel wishes. Whatever you choose, your journey is sure to strike a balance between history, natural beauty, and personal well-being.
Photos courtesy of David Magalhaes-Unsplash | Four Seasons Hotel Seoul | Brooke Lark-Unsplash
S U G G E S T E D J O U R N E Y AT A G L A N C E : DAY 1: SEOUL | ORAKAI SONGDO PARK HOTEL DAY 2-4: JEJU ISLAND | WE HOTEL JEJU ISLAND DAY 5-7: SEOUL | FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SEOUL DAY 8: DEPARTURE
LAND OF THE MORNING CALM What to see and do in South Korea By Vanessa Niven & Haley Beham
History, culture, and kimchi: visiting South Korea offers something for everyone. The food alone is reason enough to head to South Korea. However, there’s also 5,000 years’ worth of history and culture to explore, including 14 UNESCO World Heritage sites. While the bustling capital city of Seoul seems to be in perpetual motion, Jeju Island, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, is a peaceful escape.
Seoul Seoul is a city that never sleeps. As such, there’s so much to see and do. The Blue House Sarangchae Museum, located across the road from the president’s official residence, houses cultural and tourism-related exhibitions. Visit the 15th century Changdeokgung Palace complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for the harmonization between its natural setting and the official and residential structures originally constructed during the Joseon Dynasty. Take time to stroll through the Insadong shopping district, where local shops and restaurants make their home. For skincare enthusiasts, Sulwhasoo is one of South Korea’s most famous luxury holistic skincare brands, which is saying a lot considering how many amazing brands the country has spawned. Pop in for a massage or facial treatment at the Sulwhasoo Spa Flagship store, a delightfully designed space of glass and metal that creates a sparkling atmosphere.
A HIGHLIGHT The Korean Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, is one of the only existing military buffer zones in the world that tourists may visit. For those interested in the Korean War, it’s a must-visit. It’s about an hour’s drive from Seoul. But take note, the tunnel that is open to tourists is not easily accessible to those with mobility issues or those over 5’9”.
Photos courtesy of iStock
Gyeongju is the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Silla and a destination where Korea’s traditions and ancient culture take center stage. The entire city is essentially a museum with some of the best Buddhist art and architecture you’ll find. Explore Yangdong Folk Village, a Joseon Dynasty yangban (Korean aristocracy) village. It is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its careful preservation of traditional building styles and folk arts. Mt. Seolchang is just to the north of the village, and several viewpoints let you enjoy the stunning greenery covering this towering peak. Visit the Daereungwon Tomb Complex with royal burial mounds from the Silla period, and Cheomsongdae, the oldest astronomical observatory in Asia still standing. After the sun sets, explore Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond, both of which are popular sites to visit after dark because they are lit up so spectacularly.
Visit during the spring when the flowers are blooming if you can. The flowers juxtaposed with the brightly painted statues creates a truly beautiful sight.
A HIGHLIGHT Bulguksa Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Silla-era site, still serves as one of the head temples of Korean Buddhism. The complex is stunning with well-preserved art and architecture. Visit during the spring when the flowers are blooming if you can. The flowers juxtaposed with the brightly painted statues creates a truly beautiful sight.
Busan The port town of Busan offers a mix of urban living as South Korea’s second largest city with natural wonders like hot springs, beaches, and nature reserves. Visit the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, the only UN cemetery in the world. In addition to the graves of soldiers killed during the Korean War, the site is home to 29 permanent memorials and the Wall of Remembrance. The graves are interspersed with stunning red rose bushes, which, when in full bloom, add a layer of ethereal beauty to this somber location. Gamcheon Culture Village, often referred to as the “Machu Picchu of Busan” because of its layered streets and homes built up the mountainside, has a difficult history. It was originally developed by the city in the 1920’s and 1930’s to house the poor population out of sight but still within easy enough access of the bustling port to provide cheap labor. A 2009 renovation project saw improved infrastructure and homes painted in bright colors, which has attracted small retailers, museums, and artist installations to the district.
A HIGHLIGHT Spa Land in Shinsegae Centum City is a modern take on the jjimjilbang (Korean bathhouse). It offers 2 floors with 22 different spas and a delightful assortment of themed rooms. There's a four-hour time limit to explore and soak, and you’ll want every minute of it!
Photos courtesy of Unsplash: Thomas Roger; Daniel Bernard; Harry Cunningham | Korea Tourism Organization
Jeju Jeju is South Korea’s largest island and home to Mount Halla, the country’s tallest peak. There is so much to do and see on Jeju. The island is home to at least 100 museums, from the lighthearted to the educational and culturally significant. Visit Seongeup Folk Village. Locals still inhabit the village and continue a number of heritage activities like the production of traditional alcoholic spirits omegisul and gosorisul. Explore the island coastline. From Jusangjeolli Cliff you can see the Jisatgae Rocks, hexagonal stone pillars formed during an ancient volcanic eruption, similar to Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Take a walk around Sangumburi Crater. The large diversity of flora growing in and around the crater makes it a beautiful sight year-round, but it is especially magical in autumn when the silvergrass is in full bloom, with waves of gold and silver leaves undulating in the wind.
A HIGHLIGHT Visit the Haenyeo Museum to learn about the incredible tradition of women who free dive for seafood and mollusks, sometimes up to 30 feet deep, without oxygen support.
We’re just scratching the surface of all there is to see and do in South Korea. Let Ker & Downey’s team of destination specialists craft the perfect trip for you.
F A M I LY J O U R N E Y
SOUTH KOREA LUXURY TOUR: TEMPLES AND TRADITIONS 1 2 D AY S / 1 1 N I G H T S Immerse your family in Korean history and culture with this 11-night exploration of South Korea. This itinerary incorporates plenty of outdoor activities with fascinating historical sites, including a day spent learning Buddhist martial arts techniques and an overnight stay in a traditional Korean hanok.
Photos courtesy of Copyright Photographer Lee Geum-SeonKorea Tourism Organization | iStock
S U G G E S T E D J O U R N E Y AT A G L A N C E : DAY 1-4: SEOUL | FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SEOUL DAY 5: ANDONG | RAKKOJAE ANDONG HAHOE HANOK HOTEL DAY 6-7: GYEONGJU | HILTON GYEONGJU DAY 8-10: BUSAN | PARK HYATT BUSAN DAY 11: SEOUL | FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SEOUL DAY 12: DEPARTURE
Photo courtesy of Unsplash: Valery Rabchenyuk
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I N PA R T N E R S H I P W I T H
Ker & Downey is pleased to present here a small sample of what South Korea has to offer the high-end luxury traveler, and hope that you will...
Published on Jul 13, 2021
Ker & Downey is pleased to present here a small sample of what South Korea has to offer the high-end luxury traveler, and hope that you will...