SOUTH KOREA – Standing at the edge of the fortress wall, I have a splendid view of an ancient folk village illuminated at golden hour.
I traveled back in time to Naganeupseong Folk Village, reputed to be the best-preserved fortress town in South Korea. Its 200 inhabitants live in houses with thatched roofs and still maintain the customs of yesteryear.
The city, located at the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula in the Jeollanam-do region, is still a secret to most travelers.
Tourism has only recently arrived in Jeollanam-do, the greenest and least developed province in the country.
Covered in towering hills and mountains and bordered by 6,100 km of coastline with thousands of islands, the region is famous for its vistas, seafood and festivals.
People here are extremely proud of their food. Compared to the Korean barbecue that many Singaporeans are familiar with, the cuisine of Jeollanam-do – rich in gifts from the sea – is more delicate, complex and fresher.
My guide, Mr. Dennis Kim, explains that Jeollanam-do’s unique food culture can be linked to the diet of political exiles with expensive tastes sent here in the 16th century.
Even in modest restaurants, I am amazed at the number of exceptionally tasty banchan (side dishes) that are brought to my table. The simplest dishes are prepared with special care.