Hermit Kingdom no longer, South Korea joins the party
Spend an afternoon on the trails in any of South Korea’s numerous national parks, and you are likely to have the humbling experience of being left in the dust by someone’s grandmother. Try not to let it destroy your self-esteem. After all, Koreans visit their stunning national parks like we visit the mall, habitually and with the whole family in tow. Join in on the tradition, and not only will you be bowled over by the sensational scenery, you’ll also face temptation from the trailside food vendors proffering rice cakes with a spicy sauce and sizzling scallion pancakes. Many paths in Korea lead to breathtaking ancient palaces or hidden monasteries, all graced with the colorful, meticulously detailed carvings that are the signature of classical Korean art. The cities have their own attractions, with bustling marketplaces, inspiring museums, and even an indoor amusement park. City nights are passed sharing soju and savory snacks while boisterously cheering on the local soccer team. Match the locals drink for drink, and you might find yourself pausing to test your mettle on street games, like karate-chopping stacks of plastic tiles, or worse--karaoke. The hermit kingdom has opened its gates wide to all who would pursue its pleasures. Those savvy enough to pass through will be richly rewarded.