S Korea (T)WHS by Rent-a-Car
We have just returned from a successful 10 day (plus flight days) tour of S Korea's (T)WHS which included 6 days with rent-a-car, taking in 10 WHS and 12 TWHS. Korean (T)WHS have been well reviewed on this site and I won't be describing our individual visits unless I feel I have something specific to add but, hopefully, this overview of our entire trip will provide some useful information for anyone thinking of trying a similar self drive visit.
Our general conclusions are that
a. It is perfectly doable even for someone with absolutely NO knowledge of Hangul script and indeed provided an interesting "experience".
b. Despite the excellent Korean Bus/train systems, a car avoids the logistical hassles and restrictions of public transport and gives that extra degree of "freedom"! It is of course more expensive but, split 2 ways, those extra costs are easily recouped in reduced overall travel/trip time and, in terms of our personal travel preferences, were well worth it.
In 1998 we had visited the South Korean mainland for just 7 days (Jeju has since been visited separately) and, this time our WHS-related travel objectives were to visit
a. at least 1 location for each of our 5 missing sites (Joseon, Namhansanseong, Baekje, Dolmen, Haeinsa,)
b. aspects or locations of some of the previously visited WHS which we felt we had "missed out" on (Huwon, Hahoe, Seokguram)
c. at least 1 location of as many of the "active" TWHS sites as we could. (Seoul Wall, Mountain Temples, Gaya Tumuli, Confucian Academies, Tidal Flats)
d. other unvisited T List sites as were "reasonably convenient"
e. 2 previously visited "Highlight" WHS (Jongmyo and Gyeongju)
We visited those inside the Seoul conurbation by public transport, but this still left 6 WHS and 11 TWHS to be visited using the car on a reasonably direct "natural" circuit covering 1615kms. (The large number of Korea's (T)WHS with multiple locations meant that it was relatively easy to find a location for each of them somewhere close to our general route!). See our route/(T)WHS/kms p d here - http://www.worldheritagesite.org/profiles/Koreaactrte1.xls
. The only mainland WHS which we left out was Suwon – we had seen enough "Fortress Walls" and couldn't be bothered with a revisit even though there was time available in the schedule! The average rate of 3 (T)WHS pd proved reasonably easy to achieve. Our standard average day was around 9 am to 7pm (Korean Hotels only start breakfast at 8 am and it is our most "important" meal so we try not to miss it – even if some Korean hotels provided pretty minimal fare!) The average daily distance of around 250 kms took approx 4 hrs driving on a mixture of motorway and normal roads, leaving approx 6 hours pd for sightseeing = 3 sites per day at an average of 2 hours each. Some of course took longer and some took less but we rarely felt pressured and were always able to take in the excellent museums as well as the sites themselves.
Continued in next post