Overdue post about my trip to Korea a few months ago.
South Korea, the land of kimchi and cheesiness (yes, cheesiness). So many great places to see, so little time.
Let’s sum up my almost two week experience in Korea: EPIK. Let’s put a K there to emphasize Korea’s awesomeness.
Before going to Korea, I bought a sim online (EG SIM CARD). With a 60-day expiry, it was very convenient for me. It was quite cheap and the I had the option to choose how much data service is loaded (I chose 1GB) and you can also have it topped up when your balance is low. And so, upon arrival, I picked it up at a bookstore in the airport (Very convenient, don’t you think?). Also, it was easy to use since it had instructions (in English, of course!).
Anyway, my friend picked me up in the airport and helped me buy a T-Money card (transportation card for their subway, buses, and even some of their convenience stores) so we could already take the subway. And after dropping off my things in my hostel in Hongdae, we went straight to Myeongdong.
A few minutes outside and I was already cold. Though I enjoyed looking around, I wasn’t prepared for such coldness even though I was already wearing a sweater! It was a good thing my friend, Aly, and I ate somewhere warm and somewhere good. We ate one of my favorites: jjajangmyeon, a black bean noodle dish.
After making ourselves full and happy, we headed back to the busy streets of Myeongdong and looked around.
SEOUL. The hustle and bustle. I can still feel it, the quick steps of people trying to catch the subway or run to the next transfer.
If you are planning to stay in Seoul (and just Seoul), there are a lot of things to do there. I stayed in Seoul for more than a week and I still have a lot to do when I go back there.
So here are a few whos, whats, and wheres when going to Seoul (or Korea for that matter)
WHAT TO BRING:
1. A phone with GPS and translator
2. Subway app (I practically used it all the time and it was useful in Busan, too) (You have to be ready and alert just in case you need to transfer or the one you rode has a certain last stop and you have to change trains. Also, know your exits!!)
3. Reading Naver’s weather forecast (When they say it’s going to be sunny, trust me, it will be warm)
4. Umbrella and/or jacket (it rained; it got too hot)
5. A selca bong or what we all know as the selfie stick
- Too bad I didn’t have one during my trip, it would have been very useful since I was too shy to ask strangers to take a picture of me. And because of that, I had selcas/selfies that were really awkward – like having a selca with a palace guard (which I would also say was awesome!)
WHO TO MEET:
If you don’t have any friends to meet in Seoul or you’re not in the mood to befriend your dorm mates, I suggest using Couchsurfing. The SNS was very useful to me. I met and talked to a lot of people there, before, during, and even after my visit to Korea. However, it must be used with caution since you can never really tell who or what kind of people you will meet. I did, however, took risks in meeting people and had a great time with them. Some of my new found friends told me about their Couchsurfing stories. To cut it short, I’m very thankful none of those happened to me.
WHAT TO DO:
It depends on what kind of traveler you are. If you are the kind who loves nature, then go hiking. South Korea has a lot of cool places for hiking, even if you are just in Seoul. If you love culture, go to the palaces. There are a lot in Seoul and they are all easily commutable. It’s nice to walk around Seoul may it be during the day or at night, especially since it was spring. But here are some of the memorable things I did that I would suggest. These might not suit everyone, but still. 🙂
- Shop at Namdaemun Market
- One place for all your needs!
- Visit N Tower
- Make sure the weather is good. It’s probably one of the most visited tourist site by tourists and couples.
- Watch Nanta the musical
- I booked it online and had a 40 percent discount since I booked a morning show. Though I was seated far, I really had a great time. It was a laugh.
- Witness the changing of guards
- I was able to witness the changing of guards in Deoksugung Palace and in Gyeongbokgung Palace. You have to check the schedule of the changing of the royal guards.
- Walk and just walk (Walk around Gwanghwamun, Insadong, Bukchon)
- For one afternoon, with nothing better to do, I walked from Seoul station to Gwanghwamun to Insadong to Jongno 3 to a cafe quite near Anguk station (more likely close to Gyeongbokgung!). That was quite some walking.
- Drop by Cheonggyecheon stream at night
- There are certain weeks that there is an event here. Unfortunately I was too late (and then too early) to witness the lanterns that were set up at the plaza. Still, it’s a good place to just walk and think.
- Walk the streets of Hongdae at night
- I enjoyed walking the streets of Hongdae at night. It was very convenient since my hostel was just 3-5 minutes away from the subway station.I had a good time walking around. There was a lot to see. There were artworks in almost every corner. It was amazing seeing kids sing their hearts out on the streets or have them offer to draw you for a few bucks. I had myself drawn by an art major. She did it for around 5 minutes! I’d say her portrait of me’s spot on. There were also a lot of clubs, bars, noraebang (karaoke) and fashion shops in Hongdae that you’d be entertained for hours!
- Have a dojang made
- Buy clothes! Koreans are fashionable and you can wear different outfits depending on the weather. I was able to buy a cargo jacket for a very very cheap price in Namdaemun!
- Buy make up and skin products
- Koreans have good skin. One factor might be the weather but I’d bet on their skin products. There are so many brands to choose from! Just go to Myeongdong and you’ll be faced with different stores, left and right.
- They give freebies when you buy a lot in one store. When I bought my CC Cream, facial cleanser, toner, etc. in a certain shop, the saleslady was generous enough to give me facial masks and other samples! Don’t be afraid to ask for service (or freebies, they say service). But don’t be a cheapskate.
- Buy those cute socks! ALL OF THEM! Hahaha. I think I spent about 50,000 won on them since I also bought for my friends back at home. They have different themes from famous cartoon characters to super heroes!
- Go to other parts of Korea like Jeonju, Jinhae, Busan
- Take the bus!
- Google maps will advise you what bus numbers to ride from where you are to your destination (It’s pretty much accurate, haven’t ridden a wrong bus the whole time I stayed in Korea)
- If you can’t speak Korean, just tell the driver at what stop you wish to go down or show him the map/korean text. They will remind you when you are near your destination.
- Find out if there are free buses going to other provinces for foreign passport holders. Usually if there is a festival in that province, they do offer. It takes days after you booked or registered to know if you got a slot, so better find out before you go to Korea. I was lucky enough to be able to win free seats going to Jeonju.
- Eat, eat, and then eat some more!
This post has gotten lengthy so you can read more on this here.