Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Travel North Philippines - Best Value Group Tours

10 Day Northern Discovery (US$500/person) - Banaue/Sagada/Ilocos Norte and Sur/Pinatubo/Manila
15 Day Philippine Escape (US$900/person) - Banaue / Sagada / Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur/ Mount Pinatubo / Manila PLUS your choice of BORACAY or PALAWAN

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If you are group of 6-10 pax ready to go, you can choose your own dates! We will even knock $50 off for each person.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Welcome to Beautiful Korea

South Korea (한국, 韓國 Hanguk), formally the Republic of Korea (대한민국, 大韓民國 Daehan Minguk) is a country in East Asia. South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea to the north, China across the sea to the west and Japan a short ferry ride to the southeast.

North Chungcheong — landlocked province filled with mountains and national parks
South Chungcheong — central western part of the country. Flat area made up of rice paddies. Point where main train lines and highways converge. Notable Places: Daejeon, hot springs, Mt. Gyeryongsan.
Gangwon — natural wonderland; Seoraksan National Park, east-coast beaches and ski resorts.
Gyeonggi — surrounding Seoul and covered in its urban sprawl
North Gyeongsang — largest province and richest area for historical and cultural sites. Notable places: Andong, Gyeongju and the islands of Ulleungdo.
South Gyeongsang — known for its gorgeous seaside cities and most respected temples. Notable Places: Busan, Haeinsa Temple.
Jeju — Korea's honeymoon island, built by a volcano. Great scenery with wild flowers and horseback riding. One of the few places you may need a car.
North Jeolla — Great Korean food.
South Jeolla — Lots of beautiful small islands, good for fishing.

Seoul(서울) — the dynamic 600 year old capital of South Korea, a fusion of the ancient and modern
Busan(부산,釜山) — the second largest city and a major port city of Korea.
Daegu(대구,大邱) — a cosmopolitan city, rich with ancient traditions and sights
Daejeon(대전,大田) — a large and dynamic metropolis located in Chungnam province
Incheon(인천,仁川) — busiest port in the country, location of the country's largest international airport
Jeonju(전 주,全州) — once the spiritual capital of the Joseon Dynasty, now a leading center of the arts filled with museums, ancient buddhist temples, and historical monuments
Gwangju(광주,光州) — the administrative and economic centre of the area, the largest city in the province
Gyeongju(경주,慶州) — the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom
Chuncheon(춘천,春川) — capital city of Gangwon province, surrounded by lakes and mountains and known for local dishes, dakgalbi and makguksu

Other destinations
Ulleungdo — scenic remote island off the east coast of peninsula
Andong — historically rich in Confucious traditions and home of living folk village
Guinsa — spectacular mountain headquarters of the Buddhist Cheondae sect
Seoraksan National Park — spread out over four cities and counties, the country's most reknowned national park and mountain range
Panmunjeom — the only tourist site in the world where the Cold War is still reality
Jindo — commonly associated with the dog native to that area, the Jindo, every year people flock to the area to witness the parting of the sea and participate with the accompanying festivities
Boseong — rolling hills blanketed with green tea leaves where you can stroll along a wooded path and stop at a nearby spa to drink the home grown tea and take a seawater bath.
Somaemuldo — an hour off the coast of the South Gyeongsan province there's a hidden island surrounded by aquamarine waters and a breathtaking view that will stop you in your tracks
Yeosu — one of the country's most picturesque port cities especially at night, nominated to host the 2012 World Expo.

Korean People and Culture

South Korea is a very homogeneous country, with nearly all inhabitants identifying themselves as ethnically Korean and speaking the Korean language. However, there are a significant number of foreign workers from Mongolia, China and Southeast Asia, and about 30,000 American military personnel stationed throughout the country, especially near the DMZ. The largest resident minority are the Chinese, numbering around 20,000-30,000. Koreans tend to equate nationality with ethnicity, and the concept of a multi-racial nation such as Mauritius, Singapore or the United States would seem contradictory to most Koreans. Government, businesses, and educational institutions tend to discriminate against foreigners and against Koreans of mixed descent, and the government is still reluctant to grant citizenship to its Chinese minority despite them having lived in Korea for generations.

Although it is the 12th most densely populated country, South Korea now has the world's lowest birthrate (1.16 children per woman nationwide and even less in Seoul), and dealing with this will be one of the major problems of the 21st century. The sex ratio is skewed strongly male, with about 112 men for every 100 women. About 85% of South Koreans live in urban areas.

Though East Asian tourists have been visiting Korea in droves since the turn of the millenium due to the Korean wave or hallyu, it is still largely off the radar of most Western tourists, and Western visitors remain very much a rarity even in Seoul. As such, having locals stare or listen to your conversations is a common experience among Westerners. Children in particular will approach you or shout a "Hi!" in passing. Much of this is done out of curiousity and the eargerness to hear English spoken by native speakers. Although most Koreans have been educated in English since elementary school and most companies set a premium on possessing a certain level of fluency, in general the people will find it difficult to understand or speak it. However, most in the city will be able to read and write it. Tourists will normally find Koreans to be quite friendly and helpful when trying to find your way around.

Having been a part of China briefly, and a tributary state of China for much of its history, heavy Chinese influences are evident in traditional Korean culture. Nevertheless, some fundamental differences remain and Korea has managed to retain a distinct cultural identity from China. Koreans are fiercely proud of their heritage and their resistance to both Chinese and Japanese domination.

During the Joseon dynasty Korea's dominant philosophy was a strict form of Confucianism, perhaps even more strict than seen in China. People were separated into a rigid hierarchy, with the king at the apex, an elite of officials and warriors below him, a small middle class of merchants below them, then a vast population of peasants and a hereditary class of slaves. Men were superior to women, educated were superior to the uneducated and everybody stuck to his defined role or faced the severe consequences. Buddhism and its supposedly dangerous notions of equality and individual spiritual pursuit were suppressed.

While the Joseon Dynasty ceased to exist in 1910, its legacy lives on in Korean culture: education and hard work are valued above all else, and women still struggle for equal treatment. Koreans believe that the things that sets them the most apart from other Asian cultures is their cuisine, their language and their hangeul script. Outsiders will note their extreme modernity, tempered by a well-developed artistic and architectural joyfulness. Nothing goes undecorated if it can be helped, and they have a knack for stylish interior design. They have a vibrant film industry, and South Korea is one of only a few countries in the world in which local films have a greater market share than Hollywood films.

Korea has a significant number of Christians (26%) and Buddhists (26%). Some 46% of the country profess to follow no particular religion. Christianity is the dominant religion in Seoul and other major urban centres, while in more rural parts of the country, people generally practise a mix of Buddhism, Shamanism and other folk beliefs.