Did you know Korea has four seasons? Winter is definitely the worst one, so I decided to draw up a list of things to look forward to to stop me from crumpling into an icy heap of depression.
Ondol (underfloor heating)
Leaving your heating on all day and night might ruin the environment, not to mention your bank balance, but when you can see your breath INSIDE the office and your extremities are numb from the 2.5 minute walk home from work, lying fully clothed on your bedroom floor to thaw out can sometimes be the best part of your day.
Lots of Snow
SNOW! Snow is cool. Snowboarding and skiing is even cooler. Korea, with its minus degree temperatures and high mountains, is the perfect place to get into snow sports, and is also a decent place to practice the skills you already have. Here’s a list of all of the resorts in Korea, with handy info to make planning a winter ski trip a doddle.
New Year’s Eve Parties
Either the best or the worst night of your life, but at least you’ll ring in the new year with a bottle of champagne inside your body and a fresh start ahead of you. If you survive the New Years Day hangover, that is. We’re already working on an extensive post listing the NYE events Seoul will be offering us all, but for now you can party like it’s 2013 at one of the listings in Chincha’s weekly events post.
Winter is the perfect time to hit the jimjilbang. Get naked, bathe, and just enjoy the hot water. One of the best places to do this is at Dragon Hill Spa, Yongsan Gu, which we just reviewed. You could even get a scrub down from an ajumma wearing nothing but lacy black pants, while you’re at it.
January’s Ice Fishing Festivals
The gratuitous shots of happy Koreans and foreigners on the Visit Korea website should be making you super excited for the ice fishing festivals in Gangwon-do province, which are occurring throughout January. Get dressed up in your warmest woollens and head to Hwacheon to catch some trout as soon as the new year comes around.
The Abundant Supply of Woollen Items For Sale
Speaking of woollens, the jumper selection in Korean shops is impressive, making it difficult to pass a store without getting an urge to take up knitting. Embrace your inner ajumma and layer up in style – Gangnam subway station in particular has an array of shops with cheap, trendy and colourful knitwear, if you want to stock up. Plus, underground shopping means not having to set foot outdoors. I also recommend the indoor Gwangjang Flea Market near Jongno 5 station for super cheap second-hand sweaters.
Anyone that was in Korea around July and August will have witnessed the never-ending monsoon season. The weather made me restless, moody, and most of all: soaking wet. I felt sad and soggy, like a rice cake in tteokbokki, and the cloudy grey skies made me down. Winter, in comparison, has crisp, fresh mornings and bright blue skies (sometimes). It’s just a pity that it’s really f*cking cold too.
Warm Coffee Shops
Those sneaky coffee shops that are everywhere in this country have turned up the central heating to make you never want to leave. They’re all hot and steamy, like a delicious version of hell that sells hot chocolates and yummy seasonal snacks. There are tons of themed cafes to spend winter days at, or you could hit Espresso Public in Gangnam, our new favourite place to hang out. This three floor java haven is 24hours (yes. 24hours!). There’s a charming terrace on the 2nd floor that they close off during the winter to keep you warm. And if that wasn’t awesome enough, they also serve brunch (waffles, french toast, bacon, sausage, salad, and cream pasta in a bowl made out of bread). With their massive crystal chandeliers against white washed wooden panels, I would describe the décor as cabin chic. You can find Espresso Public tucked away near exit 11. Turn right from CGV, straight-up the road, on your right.
Super Big Gigs
There are some epic gigs occurring in Korea this winter, with SuperColorSuper’s slamming 2013 line-up including Grimes, Beach House and Japandroids, plus more to be announced. Find out about all ongoing gigs at Korea Gig Guide, who currently have 110 listed on their site.
Sunny Winter Holidays
Sorry Korea, but sometimes the best part of winter here is getting out of the country. If you’re an ESL teacher then you’ll most likely be getting some time off in January, which means South East Asian beaches and ping pong parties. Wherever you end up going, I hope the weather’s GREAT for you while I sit here crying, my tears freezing into solid, painful droplets of ice on my cheeks.
During researching this article I found Violet Kim’s ‘7 Ways to Love Winter in Korea‘ from 2011, which has some seriously awesome suggestions for things to do. Ice skating, sledding and winter street food? Yes please.
What are your favourite things about winter in Korea?