Welcome to Pyeongchang: A Look Inside the 2018 Olympic Host City

The 2018 Winter Games will begin in less than a year in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Here's a preview of the Olympic host city's striking landscape, culinary tradition and more.

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Expect the views to take your breath away, especially when seen from high heights. At the top of the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre's tower, NBC Washington followed the path the Olympic ski jumpers will walk before they zoom downhill. The athletes will pass through a glass set of double doors and step onto a metal grate designed not to catch on their skis. The ground is visible straight below. Mountains span all around, and then the edge comes into view. A waist-high gate is all that separates the skier from the sharp slope. <a href="http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/The-Walk-to-the-Edge-of-the-2018-Olympic-Ski-Jump-Tower_Washington-DC-416047913.html">Go here for video</a>.
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This is the view from the bottom of the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre's tower. The ski jumping, nordic combined and snowboarding events will be held here.
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Here is the Alpensia Sliding Centre, where the luge, bobsled and skeleton events will be held.
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Here's the Alpensia Cross-Country Center, where the cross-country skiing and Nordic combined events will be held.
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Construction of the Pyeongchang Olympic Village, where athletes will stay, is underway.
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Pyeongchang is serene and low-key. In the town of Hoenggye, ski resorts that are being transformed into Olympic event venues surround a downtown area made up of squat buildings dwarfed by mountains. Whereas Seoul has more than 10 million people, Pyeongchang has about 45,000.
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Several signs promoting the Olympics already were on display in Hoenggye in February.
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Expect Korea to show off its ski history. The Korea Ski History Museum, located inside the ski jump tower, has early skis and snowshoes on display, with some dating from the 1600s.
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Traditional snowshoe-maker Park Jae-dong expects to show off the snowshoes he crafts out of bent wood, wire and leather. The 75-year-old said his wooden snoeshows are more effective in deep snow than modern versions.
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"The old way is better," Park said through an interpreter.
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Food from McDonald's and drinks from Coca-Cola will be in ample supply at the Winter Games, but local restaurateurs are hoping you'll dine with them instead. <br><br>Kim Soon-Yeol owns the Hwangtae Hall restaurant, located close to the Olympic Stadium and Pyeongchang Mountain Cluster of event venues. The restaurant specializes in dishes made with dried pollack, or hwangtae.
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The hwangtae is dried outside from December to April on wooden racks that cover 2,700 square meters near the restaurant. Asked how many fish she had drying, Kim -- a former professional skiier with purple hair -- laughed. "A lot," she said as she looked out onto the rows of racks.
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At the restaurant, servers brought out a parade of dishes with the mild fish served whole, fried and in soup. Alongside the fish were dishes of kimchi, various types of fermented vegetables and the marinated beef dish bulgogi. <br><br>Hwangtae Hall already has a menu in English and hwangtae pressed into burger form to try to appeal to Western tastes.
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The Woljeongsa Temple is a short drive from the Olympic Stadium. Visitors walk through an ornate temple gate. A serene path lined with fir trees leads visitors to 60 temples and eight monastaries, some dating back nearly 1,400 years.
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Inside one of the temples is a huge gold Buddha statue, surrounded by bright paintings.
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Magenta and green paper lanterns hang from the ceiling.
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The temple offers dayslong "temple stays" that let visitors experience the life of monks and nuns, complete with sitting meditation, walking meditation, chanting and communal work. <br><br>Nun Lee Sun-Me, who has lived at the temple for seven years, recommended that visitors to the Olympics make time to visit the temple. <br><br>"The message of the Olympics is to bring everyone together. That's the message of the temple, too," she said via an interpreter. <br><br>Lee said curling, a sport often accused of being boring, was her favorite Olympic event. <br><br>"The high attention, cooperation and harmony they have to create is very similar to the teachings of Buddhism," she said.
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Street markets in Pyeongchang offer a glimpse of how residents live. More than 100 vendors sell food, clothing and household goods at the Jinbu Market in Hoenggye. The booths are set up several days per month.
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A nonstop flight from Washington to Seoul is about 15 hours. From Los Angeles to Seoul is only about 13 hours. Here's view of downtown Seoul, with the N Seoul Tower at the left.
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Here's a view from the N Seoul Tower. From Seoul, Pyeongchang is accessible as of March by car or by bus, which takes about 2 1/2 hours. But a high-speed rail line is set to be completed by June 2017. The trip to Pyeongchang will be about 1 1/2 hours from Incheon International Airport and just 45 minutes from Seoul, according to the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG).<br><br>The high-speed rail will make it possible for Olympics attendees to either stay right in Pyeongchang or to commute back to the capital, said Songjae Lim, a POCOG spokesman.
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Several hotels are set to be built in the Olympic host city before the Winter Games. The options will include Western-style hotels and traditional houses called hanok, like the building above. The cottages with tiled roofs turned up at the corners have heated wood floors and mats in lieu of beds. This is the Korea Palace Hotel, which is located about a 10-minute drive from the complex where the opening ceremony will be held. <br><br>Pyeongchang is ready to welcome people from around the world, the snowshoe-maker, Park Jae-Dong, said as he examined his handiwork. <br><br>"There is beautiful culture and tasteful food in the region, and it will be showcased," he said.
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