Yeosu is not a place that most Koreans get to, it is right on the southern edge of the peninsula which makes worth a visit all that much more.
The city itself is nothing special to look at but the natural surroundings offer some spectacular sights along the jagged coastline. A hike up one of the (small) mountains in the city will offer views to remember. Yeosu is definitely a hidden gem when it comes to scenery.
Yeosu may not be hidden for that much longer as local leaders are hoping that the EXPO to be held in 2012 will put the South Jeolla on the map both at home and overseas. If the expected eight million visitors from over 100 countries arrive, that should be no problem.
To earn the right to hold the world fair, Yeosu beat off challenges from Tangier in Morocco and the Polish city of Wroclaw.
It has been a busy few years in terms of bidding, winning and hosting world events for the country.
As well as the 2002 World Cup, Korea hosted the G20 in 2010 and the World Athletics championships in Daegu. Incheon will stage the 2014 Asian Games and Pyeongchang has the 2018 Olympic Games to look forward to.
The Expo has not yet really wormed its way into the national consciousness but that will change as May approaches.
Following Shanghai in 2010 which put on a spectacular show is going to be difficult but Yeosu has a very different focus.
The theme, as you perhaps could have predicted given the city's location, is about all things marine with the official title is: "The Living Ocean and Coast" with subthemes of "Preservation and Sustainable Development of the Ocean and Coast," "New Resources Technology," and "Creative Marine Activities."
Food in Yeosu
For an Expo all about the sea and how to sustain them, visitors will have a great chance to sample some of the ocean's ware - sometimes cooked but usually not - in the city's scores of seafood restaurants.
Korean raw fish (hway 회 ) is a less refined gastronomic experience than in Japan. As well as wasabi and soy sauce, the food is often dipped in spicy red pepper sauce and washed down with soju. It is usually a fun experience and there are also places (chogaegui 조개구이 ) where you can grill shellfish on your table and then wash it down with, you guessed it, soju.
Places to stay in Yeosu
Yeosu abounds with motels, around 150 with many around the harbour, and apart from the busiest times, visitors should be able to turn up and get a reasonably priced room there and then. There are a number of 'tourist hotels' such as the Narsha Tourist Hotel that offer various levels of comfort.
City Park Resort, Drive-In Palace Hotel, Hotel EJ, The Ocean Resort, Hotel Tiffany and Hotel Chambord are all reputed to be decent.
Temples in Yeosu
Perhaps the most famous is Heungguksa Temple, which came into existence in 1195. As well as being a calm and spiritual retreat from the expected crowds, there is history here. From 1592-1598, the temple was a training camp for the naval forces led by the monks to repel the Japanese invasion.
In 1600 two Buddhist priests built Seokcheonsa Temple to pay homage to Admiral Yi after serving on his warship.
Another one that played a part in dealing with the Japanese invaders is Hansansa Temple. The templerewards visitors who make the walk up the hill with beautiful views over the city below and the ocean.
There are 317 islands that help to make up the city of Yeosu . 49 are inhabited.
One of the most popular to visit in Odong island which is close to the centre of the city and connected by a breakwater.
If you cross the 450 metre-long Dolsan Bridge, not so difficult to find, to the Dolsan island side, there is a jetty from where boats set sail for tours of some of the other islands. Dolsan is also a great place to watch the sunrise.
Day Trips from Yeosu
You can make the short trip to Boseong, the green tea centre of the country. The fields are quite a sight and the drink itself is good quality.
An hour north is Jirisan, one of Korea's most spectacular national parks. Jirisan is great for hiking and temples abound.
Getting to Yeosu
-The quickest way is to fly from Gimpo Airport on the western side of Seoul to Yeosu airport, just north of the city. The flight takes around 30 minutes and there are 12 a day.
-There are regular train services from Seoul's Yongsan Station (not Seoul Station). The quickest of these is the KTX that takes around three and a half hours. There are other types of trains that will take longer.
-By bus, head to the giant Express Bus Terminal in southern Seoul and hop on the bus - bus travel in Korea is popular, cheap and usually very comfortable. It should take around five hours. Yeosu is around four hours from Busan.
Article by John Duerden
Images courtesy of expo2012.kr
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