If you want to see the Hallyu land in a different way but still cherish the security of group travelling, why not join a car convoy on your next trip to South Korea?
Self-driving is one of the best ways to catch an authentic glimpse of the peninsula.
More travellers there are opting for an Autoventure tour - essentially a driving vacation - with the Automobile Association of Singapore (AAS) to inject more adventure and fun into their holiday.
An autoventure tour can take you to places that you won’t see on a tour bus or on your own. In just 10 days, it is possible to visit just as many destinations within the span of South Korea.
Coastal views and historic sites
Drive along some of the most awe-inspiring bridges in South Korea; these engineering feats also give far-reaching coastal views.The 8.2km-long Geoga Bridge links the port city of Busan to Geoje Island and you can drive across it in just 50 minutes.
The bridge itself is made up of a sea-level cable-stayed bridge, an undersea tunnel and a ground tunnel. Driving on the open bridge, you can appreciate the seaside sceneries and towns, and sparkly waters.
Another technological inspiration, the Incheon Bridge - the longest and largest in Korea - links Yeongjongdo island, where Incheon International Airport is, to Songdo International City.
For more on enchanting Korea, go to www.visitkorea.or.kr
You cannot help but marvel at the tall towers and cables holding up the seemingly infinitely long bridge and the surrounding stretches of mud flats with its bird life.
Whizz by the Saemangeum reclamation project off Korea’s west coast.
At 33.9km long, it was certified by the Guinness World Records in 2010 as the longest manmade seawall in the world, and is at least 1.7 times the size of Singapore. A world-class complex is slated for development on this newly reclaimed land, integrating industries, tourism and the environment.
Andong - home to Confucianism in Korea - also makes for a worthy pit stop.
It was a hotbed for Confucian scholars during the Joseon Dynasty, and is now home to many private schools that hail back to that dynasty. As this city was also home to nobles during that period, many of their houses still stand today.
The autoventure tour also goes to the DMZ second tunnel, letting you tread between the two divided Koreas.
Keep in contact
Being part of a convoy tour is safer than driving around on your own, and AAS is one of the pioneers in starting such road trips in South Korea.
Typically, there is a lead car at the front of the line of participating convoy cars and a recovery car at the back to ensure no one is left behind.
Drivers use walkie-talkies to communicate and to keep everyone abreast of road conditions, driving directions and any other news. Most importantly, the group should look out for one another during the trip.
Retiree Tan Pof-Eng, 76, went on a convoy trip to South Korea last year.
He says: “Visiting South Korea had been part of my wife’s and my travelling plans for a long time.”
However, it did not materialise until they saw the trip to South Korea featured in the AAS magazine, he adds.
AAS had conducted a briefing for the participants, and the group also met up with the local guide and lead driver when they landed at the airport.
“The real excitement began when we took over the car allotted to us. The lead car driver and guide gave clear information and instructions, which made it very easy for me to follow and drive on the unfamiliar Korean highways.”
Mr Tan’s convoy members also took care of him as he had difficulty walking due to his age.
“We were very lucky. Every member of our group was kind and loving, and showed care and concern for everyone, making this trip round South Korea a memorable one,” he says.
Go behind the wheel
If you are looking to drive more independently, Jeju island, one of the new seven wonders of nature, is a good choice. Autoventure options are also available for this picturesque island.
The island boasts many scenic and easy-to-manoeuvre roads. Traffic is almost always light, making it comfortable for drivers new to the island.
Cars can be rented at the Jeju Airport, as long as you have an international driving licence.
Jeju island is criss-crossed by roads which can lead you along volcanic beaches and past white windmills, as well as those which bring you inland through ancient volcanic structures, blooming fields and Mount Hallasan.
Mr Tan, who has driven on the island, says: “Jeju island is a good place for self-drive as the traffic is not heavy and there are many places of interest.
“For people who love open spaces and beaches, Jeju island is the place to go.
“Seafood is plentiful and affordable. It’s a great place to take children as the people are friendly and helpful.”
TIPS FOR DRIVERS
- Rent a GPS that gives directions in English.
- The cars in Korea are left-hand drives. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the car before heading out to the main roads. Remember to check the left view first, then right.
- The speed limit for most roads is 70kmh. It may go down to 50kmh in the roads around the villages.
- Do some research on the places that you would like to visit and familiarise yourself with the map. It is good to note down the telephone numbers and addresses of the places of interest. It will be quite easy to navigate with the GPS when you have such information on hand.
- Pay more attention while driving in mountainous areas.
For more information on autoventure packages to South Korea, call Automobile Association of Singapore on 6333-8811 (ext 140).