Most people look at a family holiday and think sun, sand, beach, surf. Our idea of a family holiday generally tends to be sun, snow, mountains and skiing (although I would love to convince the other half of a tropical holiday one of these days). Chinese New Year finally gave us the opportunity to escape the craziness of Hong Kong for a while. We’ve been needing a good FAMILY holiday for far too long. A great deal came up for a ski resort in South Korea called ‘High One’, or ‘High1’ – I still haven’t figured out which is the correct name. The area is a relatively new resort – the condo we stayed in had only been open 4 months and 2 other condo complexes are currently under construction. The condo is so new it isn’t even listed on their website at the time I write this.
The flight was a short 3 hour hop which went in no time, especially when we are used to doing 8 hour plus flights. There was snow on the tarmac when we landed in Incheon, the main international airport in Seoul adding to all our excitement. We had never flown into an airport with snow before. Titus decided to splurge a little and hired a private taxi service to drive us to the ski resort – a three hour drive to the east of Seoul. It was tough going for the driver. Snow and ice covered the landscape. There were cars everywhere, and the worst peak hour traffic jams I have seen anywhere. Four hours later, the sun had set but finally we were there. Our apartment looked out onto one of the ski runs, which despite the darkness had people skiing down it. The resort allows night skiing until midnight most nights.
Our apartment… it was obviously new, modern and clean. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one a full sized ensuite), kitchenette and lounge/dining with balcony overlooking the mountain. The only thing missing was… the beds. The bedrooms had no beds. I was a little taken aback until Titus asked me to check the very large wardrobes, in which i found the korean sleeping mattresses, quilts and traditional wheat-filled pillows that would constitute the sleeping arrangements for the duration of our stay. Fortunately all the floors were heated, which helped tremendously, however I can say whilst I appreciated trying it the Korean way, I don’t think I could sleep like that all the time. The kids were fine but Titus and I ended up with a few stiff cricks.
Despite being cold, there wasn’t an awful lot of snow, however the snow machines worked through the night to ensure all the runs at High 1 had enough snow on them to last the day. Each morning we would wake to find the run out our window magically groomed to perfection, white and inviting. Bethany could not wait to get out on the snow the first morning.
It wasn’t long before Titus was salivating to get out onto the snow too, and luckily for us the condo had a ski hire and lift pass office, giving us truly ski-out, ski-in access the the mountain.
Mitchell and I stayed behind while Bethany and Titus carved up the mountain. We really wanted to ski, but the kids ski school only conducted classes in Korean making it an unviable option. Mitchell is a complete novice skier. That combined with the long ski runs made it impossible for him to go out on the slopes skiing with his big sister this time around as Titus wouldn’t have had the strength to hold him and navigate the whole way down.
On a side note here, Koreans (understandably) know very little, if any, english. We were somewhat prepared for this, but it does become quite a challenge trying to flick through phrase books and gesture wildly with hands in order to try and communicate. Additionally, there is very little written english, so we had to look very carefully at the Korean characters and try to slowly decipher what they meant when we wanted to do things like order food or take a shuttle bus. All the people we met were understanding and despite no common language always smiled and tried to help us as best they could.
There were several enclosed gondolas on the mountain, so on the second day we decided to take the kids on a ride to the top of the mountain where a revolving restaurant is located. Mitchell loved the ride in the gondolas. He had no fear of the height and jabbered contently about everything he could see.
At the top of the mountain we weren’t disappointed by the panoramic views, however we WERE disappointed by the restaurant. It serves western cuisine, which is fine… but it was BAD western cuisine. Cooked by chefs, in a restaurant with an amazing revolving view, we were served food which quite frankly bordered on ‘food court’ level taste. Overcooked prawn, soggy fried rice, well done steaks… such a shame. Thank goodness we had the beautiful view!
After some snow play and fun on the top of the mountain we headed back down towards the condo. On the way we discovered a place selling small Mitchell-sized plastic skis. Since we couldn’t accommodate him with skiing on the slopes, and the skis were so cheap, we brought him a pair and let him slide around on the icy snow at the front of the condo for a while. He loved and hated it as he slid around out of control.
We explored the condo complex some more and discovered a child minding facility. It was a heated indoor playground with slide, climbing frame, ballpit, tv, swing, etc. Bethany wanted to stay and play, as did Mitchell so I leapt at the chance. We booked them in for a 4 hour supervised play (of which there was only one other child in the area the whole time). Titus and I rushed straight over to ski hire and after the drama of ski boots (ALWAYS a drama no matter where I go) I was off onto the slopes. We were in heaven. There are few things as fun as skiing down a beautiful white mountain with your husband. I’m only an almost intermediate skier, yet the runs were so much fun. Wide and long, there was plenty of room to cruise down the mountain. I didn’t try the harder runs, but Titus said they were fun too.
On our last day, we ventured down to the local town below the resort to see if we could find some real Korean cuisine. Not many places were open, and we were determined NOT to have chinese food on a Korean holiday. We eventually found a small local place with no english, but a few pictures. A traditional establishment, we had to remove shoes and sit on the floor at low tables. Again we had to point and find words in the phrase book, but we knew how to say the most important Korean word – Sindabu – That’s a spicy tofu hotpot souplike dish, normally served with a small amount of seafood mixed in. The local food was deeeeelicious!
You can see the Sindabu in the black bowl in front of me in the picture. It is normally served with a bowl of rice, and a selection of kimchi and korean side dishes… also all very YUMMY!
Even though this was a small town, the food was delicious, and confirmed for me how bad the Korean food in Hong Kong is. You’ll be pleased to know though that the Korean food in Eastwood, Sydney is pretty close to the mark.
We had so much fun in South Korea. It was a relaxing, fun holiday for all of us. The kids were asking on the plane back to Hong Kong when we could go back! Hopefully it won’t be our last trip.