The countdown to the 2016 Summer Olympics is in full swing. The athletes, the media, and the city of Rio de Janeiro are prepping for the first Olympic Games to be held in South America. After the 2014 World Cup, everyone is excited to return to the Marvelous City. But while most people are focused on Brazil, another country is also gearing up for its turn in the spotlight.
South Korea first hosted the Olympics in 1988. They’ll return in 2018. But the Pyeongchang Olympics will be much different from the Seoul Olympics. Pyeongchang, which will host the Winter Games, becomes the first Asian city outside of Japan to do so. Seoul was used to receiving visitors from around the world; the Gangwon Province has only recently become an internationally known destination. While the capital and largest city in South Korea has been thoroughly explored; Pyeongchang is just starting to be discovered.
Pyeongchang is 110 miles east of Seoul. It’s in the Taebaek Mountains, a ridge that runs along the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. Buddhist temples dot the mountains. Woljeongsa, founded in 643, is home to an unusual stone statue of Bodhisattva. A national park, Odaesan, is filled with maple and ginkgo trees, plus hikers during the warmer months. Hot springs have gorgeous mountain views. Yongpyong is the oldest and largest ski resort in the country. While Alpensia will host athletes from around the world for the Olympics.
Alpensia already has advanced ski slopes, a snowboarding area, and night skiing. Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, ski jumps, and luge and bobsled tracks are being built, although not as quickly as the IOC would have liked. Other events—skating, hockey, and curling—will be held in Gangneung, a nearby city on the east coast. New hotels seem to be popping up weekly. New restaurants—serving spicy soup, fried chicken, and hotteoks (pancakes)—are opening even more frequently. Plus, the snow continues to fall well into March. Looking forward to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang!