Peace in the woods: Immerse yourself in nature at Jangheung's Vivi Ecotopia
Jul 7, 2017
A visitor takes a rest in a hammock at Vivi Ecotopia in the Jangheung Woodland. / Korea Times photo by Jung Min-ho

JANGHEUNG, South Jeolla Province ― Travel doesn't always have to be about exploring new cities or riding waves ― sometimes it needs to be about discovering our inner worlds.

Vivi Ecotopia, which is situated inside the Jangheung Woodland, is one of the best places for what is known as “forest bathing” in Korea.

The term was coined in the early 1980s in Japan when the country included forest bathing in its national health program. Simply put, it is immersion in the forest to clear your mind and open your senses to nature.

A man and a woman walk on a sawdust trail in the Woodland.

In the forest of hundreds of 40-year-old cypress trees, you can lie on one of the hammocks, benches or inside the huts ― and relax.

Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, trying to feel the wind on your cheek, hear the sound of the water and look deep into yourself. And before doing this, don't forget to put your phone away.

Those who want to feel a deeper connection with nature can wear disposable gowns, which they can get at the entrance, and take off their shoes.

“Thanks to phytoncides, a chemical substance cypress trees gives off to protect themselves from insects and animals, there are few bugs that can disturb you here,” a guide said.

While it may sound obvious that a rest in the woods is good for your health, there are many studies showing its health benefits, including lowering cortisol and blood pressure levels and boosting the immune system.

One might ask how forest bathing is different from hiking. According to the guide, a hike is a journey from a point to another point, whereas forest bathing is more about relaxation and meditation without having to go anywhere. Of course, you can enjoy a stroll there if you want. A trail at Vivi Ecotopia leads you to the peak of Mount Eokbul.

Jangheung Woodland was founded by Son Seok-yeon, who planted about 470,000 trees on the mountain between 1959 and 1964. The county later purchased the area to make it a picnic place for everyone.

Inside the Ecotopia hut

There are many traditional Korean houses and lodges for those who want to wake up to the sounds of nature and fresh forest air after spending a night there. Unlike many other places popular for camping in Korea, accommodation in the area is not congregated in a certain spot; it helps you maintain a feeling of disconnection from an overly busy world and noises. Also, the lights across the area give you a feeling of safety for a walk at night.

There is also a jjimjilbang, where you can enjoy a hot soak, traditional Korean kiln saunas and a massage.

People enjoy the Jeongnamjin Jangheung Water Festival last year. / Jangheung County Office

Cool off summer with water festival

For many people, it may be hard to imagine that Jangheung, a small county of a little more than 40,000 residents, offers one of the coolest water festivals in the country.

From July 28 to Aug. 3, the county will hold the 10th Jeongnamjin Jangheung Water Festival at the Tamjin River and the Woodland.

Participants will use not only their bare hands and water guns. Serious equipment, including fire trucks and helicopters, will be there to make the party more dynamic and fun.

“Catching fish with bare hands,” has been one of the most popular programs at the festival last year. A tug of war in the water is another. The two events will also be held this year.

At night (July 28-30), famous DJs will join them to turn the festival into a fantastic pool party.

kingkingma
Source:The Korea Times




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