Before i step foot in the land of kimchi and kpop, I did a little research and asked some of my friends who have been there about the pros and cons of traveling to South Korea. Most would compare it to its neighbouring country, Japan and would say how better and cheaper Japan is. Some would say the opposite. But few people i know would even ask me “why travel to south korea?” And i could remember telling myself, “why not?” So i was on this journey to see and experience South Korea, particularly, Seoul for myself and to prove to everyone why it deserves to be on anyone’s top asian destination (aside from shopping in myeongdong and gangnam style’s popularity!)
1. Culture. I am amazed by how Korean’s love and preserve their culture and that is absolutely mirrored by its historic buildings, traditional houses called “hanoks” and Grand palaces. I also find Koreans to be extremely corteous and polite.
2. Food. Korean cuisine is very much connected with its culture and history and it’s more than barbecue and kimchi. In Korea, one can absolutely feast while on holiday, whether you eat in the restaurants or dance the night for some “ganshik” or street eats. Never leave Korea without trying the authentic bibimbap and bulgogi! Also, if circumstaces permit, learn how to make kimchi.
3. A dash of serenity and romance in Nami Island and Petite France. At some point in my life, i fell in love with k-dramas. Koreanovelas brought the korean wave worldwide and the k-drama, “winter sonata” is the very main reason why Nami island is much more popular than ever. That is also why it’s one of my bucket list!
Nami Island or also known as “Naminara republic” is a micronation and one needs a “visa” to get in. Since it’s a country, itself, it has its own passport and currency. General rate for admission/visa is 8,000 won (est. 10 AUD/400 php). To be able to explore this half-moon shaped island, one can either choose the easy way of riding a zipline or take a ferry from the wharf. Of course, we opt for the latter because it was freezing cold at that time & that was more convenient for us. Strolling in Nami island makes you feel like you’re in a romantic movie scene, that’s why it is a perfect destination for couples/honeymooners. It is awe-inspiring & peaceful!
Petite france is a little french village which has also been featured in some koreanovelas. Honestly, aside from these bright coloured houses, there’s really not much to see unless you want a breath of fresh air. Entrance fee is 8000 won (Est. 10 aud/400php).
4. Awesome Everland. Relive the kid in you at korea’s largest theme park! Try to come as early as possible to cover the entire park as it has a number of rides and sights to see. It is HUGE! It’s safe to say that it’s like disneyland with a safari park. What i enjoyed the most was the safari adventure ride where i saw wild animals like giraffes, tigers, elephants in action and got to feel a life in wildnerness!
5. DMZ tour. This is the highlight of my trip and this is what makes korea very unique & interesting. We first visited the “joint security area,” which is the closest point to North korea. Then we went to “Dora observatory” where you can view a glimpse of North korea from afar through binoculars ( i can’t remember if it was free or not). Afterwhich, we got to explore the “infiltration tunnel.” Long time ago, while N.Korea and S. korea were having peace talks, this tunnel was secretly built by North Korea to infiltrate Seoul but was never completed and was discovered by S. korea soon enough. If you are claustrophobic then you would probably think twice of entering this tunnel. Unfortunately photos are not allowed but my experience inside is still very vivid in my memory. The last stop was at “Dorasan train station.” This is the nearest train station to pyongyang. Although N. Korea fully cooperated to finish this station, it was never utilised. This was built with the hope of unification between the two Koreas in the future.
6. The iconic N Seoul Tower. Korea’s most famous skyscraper that allows you to see Seoul in a bird’s eye view. Enjoy the sights and do not ever miss to take a photo with the love locks!
South Korea is very clean and vibrant. Without a doubt, i’d give a 5 thumbs up for this country!