The other night, I was invited to a dinner in Northern Virginia hosted by the Korea Tourism Organization. I hadn’t worked with them before, and was excited to spend an evening learning more about travel in Korea.
Until that point, the complete sum total of my knowledge regarding Korea was based entirely on old episodes of M.A.S.H – I obviously had some catching up to do. Luckily, the guest speaker for the evening was exceptionally well qualified to teach us all about the wonders of Korea – Rudy Maxa.
Rudy Maxa, aka “The Savvy Traveler,” is one of America’s premier consumer travel experts whose writings and radio and television shows have helped save thousands of travelers time and money. A former Washington Post reporter, he is a contributing editor with National Geographic Traveler and Delta Air Lines’ Sky magazine. His nearly 100 public television episodes on the great destinations of the world have numerous awards including several Emmy Awards. His weekend radio show, “Rudy Maxa’s World,” is the country’s most widely syndicated travel talk radio show.
Oddly enough though, he began his talk by saying he had only visited Korea once, but that made him the perfect person to lead us through its strengths as a travel destination. He made that claim because he said he was like so many other travelers who may have visited Asia scores of times, but never stopped to explore the ancient country of Korea. He’s right, for whatever reason Korea hasn’t historically been on many people’s travel map, and the Korea Tourism Organization is out to change that.
In 2010, the Visit Korea Year Campaign, which oddly enough lasts until 2012, was launched as a celebration of both Korea and the visitors who come to visit. Throughout this two year stretch, dozens of events have been organized, along with special deals, to get people excited about traveling to Korea. The Formula 1 Korean Grand Priz, a World Expo and the Jeju Walking Festival were all organized with tourism in mind.
Back to Rudy. Mr. Maxa took us though his visit as he explored the massive city of Seoul with its pedestrian walkways, shopping and fantastic eating. That was one of the key points which kept emerging through his talk, that the food is unlike anything else in the region and is absolutely delicious. That reassured me actually. I’m a fairly picky eater and certain areas of the world frankly worry me as to whether or not I can really find something to eat. Not only was I reassured, but I was excited to try some of the succulent dishes so expertly described by Rudy.
Seoul I knew about, but I was fascinated to hear about places totally new to me like Busan, Gwangju and Jeju. From beach resorts to millennia old history, Rudy painted a rich picture of Korea that was both exciting and motivating. By the end of the evening, everyone in the room walked away with not just a better understanding of Korea, but a real desire to go and experience it for ourselves.
I must confess that Korea had not been on my travel horizon either, but thanks to the vibrant detail shared by Rudy Maxa, Korea is now firmly entrenched on my Must Travel list.
Have you been to Korea? What did you think?
All Photos Courtesy of Kelsey Freeman, DriftingFocus.com