Buddhism in Korea has produced outstanding architectural wonders. Renowned temple complexes in tranquil mountain settings poke grandly out of forests of giant pines. Several offer lodging and an introduction to the religion, tea ceremonies and rising for prayers at 4 a.m. One of the best examples is Wol-jeongsa near Mount Man-wol, a half hour drive from Alpensia. (www.woljeongsa.org)
The Gangwon Province government has made a thorough effort to afford curious visitors a deep look into its past. Two of Korea’s foremost historical figures, Yulgok Yi Yi and his mother, Shin Saimdang, were born in the 16th century in the coastal town of Gangneug, easily reached by road in 45 minutes from Alpensia. Their home, known as Ojukheon, is a superbly reconstructed example of an aristocratic dwelling of the time
The Korean government has placed on its highest denomination 50,000 won bill a portrait of Shin, who is considered the model of Korean womanhood. According to local lore, Yulgok, who rose over his lifetime to the highest ranks of Korea’s imperial court, passed difficult civil service examinations as boy of 12. He is portrayed on the Korean 5,000 won bill. www.ojukheon.or.kr
Another restored home for a Korean aristocratic family is the Sunkyojang, an extensive complex of buildings in the traditional hanok style, which is often used as a film set. (www.knsgi.net)
Five minutes away is a not-to-be-missed homage to the American inventor Thomas Edison. Astounding for the extent of its collection, the Chamsori Gramaphone Museum is an idiosyncratic private institution founded by Son Sung-mok. As a youngster Mr. Son became what can only described as obsessed with Edison. He set out to collect an example of every Edison invention, including turn of the 20th century electric cars (the car batteries took 10 hours to charge, but then could only run for two hours), beautifully crafted phonographs, a vast array of rare incandescent bulbs, toasters, talking dolls and much more.
Mr. Son hasn’t stop there, also gathering a vast assortment of antique cinematic film cameras. (www.edison.kr)
A 10-kilomater jaunt along the coast road south of Gangneug is a detour more than worth any traveler’s time. Around a bend suddenly looms an enormous World War II erawarship, the destroyer U.S.S. Everett F. Larson, which has been hoisted out of the sea so tourists may more easily visit. Nearby is a truly remarkable relic – a North Korean submarine that ran on the rocks of the coast during an aborted attack by a surveillance team in 1996.
A little further along the road is Haslla, the capstone for any visit to Gangneug. Looming over the road this vast Technicolor steel and glass cube houses the work of two local artists, Park Shin-jung and her husband Prof. Choi Ok-young. The museum includes a restaurant and 24 custom hotel rooms, which are artworks themselves. Behind the building is a sculpture park featuring the work of the couple along with many works by international artists who have been invited to Haslla as part of its a residency program. For children, Prof. Ok has several galleries featuring marionettes based loosely on Pinocchio. www.haslla.com