A trip to South Korea is not complete without a visit to the Alps Of Asia, writes Hanna Hussein
ITS nickname, the Alps Of Asia, envelopes me with the cold feelings of winter while images of mountains covered in snow come to mind.
Not that I fancy skiing but the thought of going to Alpensia Resort, South Korea’s famous ski resort, in spring bothers me. What is there to do without snow?
But Alpensia is more than just a ski resort. It is open all-year round, offering vast flower gardens in summer, pleasant high-altitude weather in spring and beautiful autumn colours in the fall.
Located about a two-hour drive east of Seoul, Alpensia Resort has everything, from hotels and theme parks to sports complex.
At 700m above sea level in Pyeongchang, Alpensia is at an ideal altitude, making it perfect for sports.
The resort was specially designed as a Winter Olympics venue: It has won the bid to host the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and will be the venue for outdoor events like ski jump, biathlon, cross country, luge and bobsleigh.
There are six slopes, designed for beginners, intermediate as well as advanced skiers and snowboarders.
The opening and closing ceremonies will also be held at Alpensia’s top-notch stadium which can hold up to 16,000 spectators. More seats will be added for the events.
In line with its image as a complete Olympic Village, the resort offers three international-class hotels — the Intercontinental, Holiday Inn Resort and Holiday Inn Suite.
SKI JUMP TOWER
The landmark is the 160m Ski Jump Tower with an observation deck that offers an aerial view of the beautiful Olympic Village. Looking at the view before me, I can imagine how magnificent the resort will look in winter when it is covered with snow.
In spring, the setting is serene as green grass adds a different kind of cool dash.
The tower has two international standard ski jump slopes and three slopes for practice. A monorail transports skiers to the top of the tower from the main stadium.
The view from the highest floor is romantic, so it’s not surprising to learn that it is a popular spot for lovers to exchange their “till death do us part” vows.
Couples write their pledge on padlocks, lock them on the wire cable at the observation space and throw the keys away as a symbol of eternal love.
MORE FUN TO ENJOY
Alpensia Resort offers more than just sport and, if you are up for extreme adrenaline-pumping fun, there are venues for you to let off steam.
If you feel like gliding down from the top of the hill on the air glider, the Happy 700 Gliding is the place to be but for a different thrill, the Alpine Coaster takes you on a small roller coaster that runs at a maximum speed of 40km per hour.
Then there’s Ocean 700 — a water theme park with seven pools and four slides as well as a spa and a sauna for those wanting to have a quiet, relaxing dip.
There are a number of tourist destinations in the territory of Daegwallyeoung in Pyeongchang. Among these is the Samyang Daegwallyeong Ranch, the largest ranch in Asia, which is 30 minutes drive from Alpensia Resort.
Although the road is a bit bumpy, the view is amazing. The river that flows alongside the unpaved road is clean and clear.
The view gets better as we drive up the hill. There are cows and sheep farms along the way but when we finally reach the peak, we are overwhelmed by the view of the ranch.
There is a large green field with gigantic white turbines and the nice spring weather makes it a perfect day to be outdoors.
HOW TO GET THERE
Korean Air offers first-class service even for its economy class. The flight departs from Kuala Lumpur at 11.15pm daily and arrives at Incheon, Seoul, at 6.30am.