Destination: This Week In Startups Seoul / TWIST Seoul (Gangnam, Seoul)

Get your creative juices flowing – in the business way.

More than just a collection of small business folks, the TWIST Seoul event offered a chance for the world to see some of the best small businesses being formed in the country. Although 31 businesses participated, there was only room for six in the final round – and of course, only one could win. While none of them are household names – yet – it doesn’t strain the memory much to remember a day before Google, Facebook, or Twitter – all tech startups at one point in the past.

The crowd, a nice mix of businesspeople and people following the start-up scene, served as the preliminary judges of the pitches and presentations. To the pitchers, the chance to pitch to some friendly faces and a more relaxed timing mindset likely helped them relax before the real thing.

A Temple By the Sea – Haedong Yonggungsa (guest post)

CISK note: this guest post comes to you courtesy of T Paul Buzan, who has a lot more stories and pictures available at

Life in Korea is a high-octane rush of work and play, late nights and early mornings, and routine adventure. It’s exciting – and frequently exhausting. No wonder caffeine is a staple of most diets here.

But there’s only so much coffee and green tea a person can drink. At some point you have to slow down, breathe, and take a few minutes to just chill out and recharge. Where to go?

One of the most peaceful experiences you can have in Korea is visiting a Buddhist temple. Imagine: Beautiful, natural scenery; the air sweet with the smell of incense; the rhythmic chanting of monks. It’s the perfect antidote to a hectic weekend in Seoul.

Ready to plan a relaxing trip? Read on to learn about one of the more unique temples Korea has to offer.

Destination: a KTX trip – tea fields in Boseong and rail-biking in Gokseong (Jeollanam-do)

There are quite a few ‘KTX Tours’ available – typically one- or two-day trip offering to whisk you away to sights around the country using Korea’s fast train service. While the KTX train didn’t take us all the way to our first destination, the chartered bus took us the rest of the way.

Destination: Damyang Spa (Damyang-gun, Jeollanam-do)

It’s a rare place that offers an outdoor hot spa for the naked people and a pool for the swimsuited.

Beyond the Juknokwon bamboo forest, Damyang Spa (담양온천, or Dam-yang on-cheon) is one highlight of visiting the Damyang area in Jeollanam-do. The spa isn’t open 24 hours a day, however. The connected tourist hotel is a bit on the fancy side but convenient.

Pay your way in (note that the jimjilbang portion of the spa is only open on Saturdays and Sundays), then figure out whether you’d prefer to get hot and steamy (in the jimjilbang) or cool off in the outdoor pool.

Destination: Juknokwon bamboo forest (Damyang, Jeollanam-do)

The bamboo forest at Juknokwon (죽녹원) is one of the main attractions in Damyang county. Since it’s a mere half-hour from Gwangju, I thought it was time to check it out.

Quite a few smaller towns and areas have become known for one thing or another – Boryeong / Daecheon for their mud festival, Jeonju for its bibimbap, Chuncheon for its dak galbi, and so on. That association sticks around, helping to brand the area for locals and visitors alike. Damyang’s bamboo forest is but one of the county’s highlights, although this is the most visible one.

Destination: Jangheung Water Festival (2011)

Better late than never.

After getting sidetracked by some other posts and a Twitter contest. it’s time to catch up on a festival long over. Consider this a glimpse into a festival not seen by many foreigners, or a guide to what to see at next year’s festival.

The Jangheung Water Festival features mool in all its glory. Thanks to the permanent park and the still-new condition of everything, the festival events on the water make a nice addition to the park. It’s held every year in late July and early August (this year, July 29 – August 4).

Destination: Culture Station Seoul 284 (Seoul)

Don’t let the name confuse you – it’s the new old Seoul Station.

Mr. Marmot himself beat me to the punch, and his blue-hour shots of the station’s exterior come highly recommended. His excellent post doesn’t talk about what’s happening inside, however – hope you enjoy.

Destination: Hwajinpo Castle, Syngman Rhee’s summer villa, and more (Goseong-gun, Gangwon-do)

No, I didn’t visit North Korea – but I went pretty close to it recently. After our recent trip to Sokcho Beach, we headed north along the Gangwon-do coast. The rural highway bent and curved somewhat, which kept the ride bumpier than expected. Don’t eat a full meal before getting on the bus unless you like feeling queasy. Even after getting off the bus, it’s a two-kilometer walk to the first villa, and some more walking to the second. The reward, however, is a beautiful rural countryside, replete with a calm lake, an interesting beach, a modern marine museum, and quite a bit of history.

Destination: Sokcho Beach (Sokcho, Gangwon-do)

Sometimes, arriving at 2am is perfect.

After catching a late-night bus from Seoul to Sokcho, Kiwi and I arrived at what felt like a late hour – until we saw more lights and neon than some areas of Seoul. The jovial beach area – combined with some younger vacationers – meant the place was surprisingly active long after the sun went down. The standard Western carnival games were around – everything from the classic basketball toss to BB gun shooting – and were pretty popular.


Destination: Richard Gere photography exhibit (Seoul Arts Center)

While not just an expat thing, the Richard Gere photo exhibition offers a glimpse into Tibet and elsewhere in the Far East. I personally hadn’t known the man as anything other than a movie star, but apparently his photography has won him some fame as well.

Define ‘pilgrim’: A person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons, or a traveller (from the Latin peregrinus). The exhibit featured ample Korean and excellent English signs, along with a liberal picture-taking policy (er, there was no policy). The spiritual journey became clear enough in time.

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