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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sangju: "City of The Three Whites"

Conde’ Nast Traveler, the highly regarded voice on international travel, when discussing the short term opportunity for tourism is Korea, recently referred to South Korea’s accomplishments on the world stage as “remarkable” and to the country itself, as the “miracle of South Korea.” Seoul, it noted, is Asia’s next hot tourist destination. By extension, all of Korea may very well see a significant up-tick in tourism in the coming months.
View of countryside near city of Sangju
This might bring long overlooked Korean cities like Sangju, out from under the tourism radar screen. Sangju, tucked in the rural northern extremity of Gyeungsan-buk-do province, is a quiet, beautiful and unique destination for travelers. The small city is nicknamed Sam Baek, or "Three Whites," referring to its three prominent agricultural products rice, silkworm cocoons, and dried persimmons from the area. It is also the self-proclaimed bicycle capital of South Korea with the country’s oldest active biking program.

In its downtown core, some of the streets around the market are blocked off to motor vehicles and on the main street there are bike racks every 100 meters -- which are heavily used.  City officials estimate that there are about 85,000 bikes in the city--an average of two bicycles per household.

The number of students using bicycles is given as approximately 14,000.  When the school day ends they flood the streets heading in all directions. Impressively, outside the downtown area, there is a 63km-long bike path, which is paved with asphalt made from recycled rubber and lit at night with solar powered lights.

Fittingly, Sangju is also home to the Bicycle Museum.  It is built on the site of a former school, about 5 km west of the center of town.  You can get there on the riverside trail.
Festivities before the start of the Sangju 10K, half and full marathon in November
Sangju is also the site of the Sangju Persimmon 10K, Half and Full Marathon which takes place each November. As a race participant one can personally get a sense of the beauty of this small gem of a city. After cooling down from the race, head to the city park just north of the city that overlooks the Nakdong River. There, numerous hilltop perches offer brilliant, idyllic vistas of the Korean countryside.
Near Sangju in North Gyungbuk Province

Getting There
Sangju is about 1½ hours by car from Daegu. It is also accessible by train or bus. And don’t forget, Sangju is a great place to explore by bike.

For more info on Sangju:

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