We did not really plan to go during autumn when we booked our flight, it just happened so, which was wonderful timing, as for me this is the perfect season to travel. Not just because it's cold and you wouldn't really worry about sweating all over the place (lol mental image) and the heat of the sun clashes with the cool wind so it's just perfect. The colors of fall is just fantastic, every picture you take would look amazing!
|lovely ginko leaves|
Making your trip to South Korea is a piece of cake. Why, you say? Try to visit http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/intro.html and you would know why. VisitKorea has EVERYTHING you need! The information in this site is so detailed and massive and they also offer this free hotline (1330 Korea Travel Hotline) wherein you could basically ask ANYTHING related to travel around the country and they'd be happy to help you. I really recommend this site and if you're going to Korea, I think that you should check out VisitKorea first before searching anything at Google.
Going around Korea via local transportation can get very cheap,s o for those Pinoys out there, don't worry too much about this part. Food and shopping will take most of your budget.
Sharing you a summary of our itinerary for South Korea. Lots of things were planned, however, there were times wherein you could not really predict what's gonna happen (ahem ahem very rainy autumn!), so all we could do was to adjust. Also, I considered three main factors before planning: money, availability and reviews of the places.
If you're interested, I can also share the initial itinerary I made (excluding Seoul since I did not plan for that one) and also the daily schedule that we have actually executed by going to this link.
|Preview of our South Korea Itinerary|
A got a request via email if I could upload a map of our itinerary here as well. This is so you could have a clear picture of our itinerary and something that could also help you plan yours.
|Map for our Travel to South Korea|
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS!
Chuncheon and Sokcho
It was such a cool morning when we arrived. From that day on, I was convinced that autumn has to be my favorite season. :) Anyhow, we were able to get a bus from Incheon going to Chuncheon and met up with our host. If you have been following my posts on Korea, you would know that I have Couchsurfed for 16 days and was also one of the most memorable part of the trip.
We were able to try Chuncheon's famous Dak galbi and went to explore Nami Island afterwards. The atmosphere of the place was relaxing and is no doubt, one famous spot to see Korean couples go lovey-dovey. :) It was my first time to experience autumn too so I was taking too much pictures of the tress and whatnot. We were supposed to go to Petite France and Land of the Morning Calm. While planning, we thought we would have enough time for both of these places, but apparently not. :(
|one of Chuncheon's famous dish, Dalgalbi|
|kdrama scene... or not? @Nami Island|
|The view near the entrance to Seoraksan|
Recommended Eats at Gangwondo:
Authentic seafood dish at Sokcho
|Biseondae and autumn colors. I am in love!|
|me looking |
Yongin and Suwon
We left with a heavy heart, our host was very kind and so was Gangwondo. I felt like two days were not enough to explore the whole region. It was also raining VERY hard that day from Chuncheon all the way to Yongin, which made commuting so terrible with all our heavy bags.
We met up with our host who was kind enough to fetch us at the station with umbrellas. We spent our whole morning chatting and also waiting for the rain to pass. Late afternoon, we went out to explore Yongin, do some window shopping at Shinsegae and eat around Jukjeon Cafe Street. Comparing Seoul to Yongin, the latter seemed more laidback and less crowded, I now understand why our new host and her family preferred to stay here rather than in the city of Seoul.
|lots of street food to the point that my eyebags are popping out. lol|
|serene view at Suwon Hwaseong Fortress|
|martial arts performance|
Recommended Eats at Gyeonggido:
Coffee or tea at Jukjeon Cafe Street
|traditional music performance at Korean Folk Village|
|autumn colors at its best! taken at Korean Folk Village, Yongin|
The next day was full of mishaps. We ended up missing our train and our host as well, so we didn't really do anything much that day except to eat. We were supposed to go to Andong Village that day but of course, due to the earlier event we had to cancel. We could have gone somewhere else but our bags that contained our valuables were too important to leave. The train station employees were nice though they could not really commit and be responsible for our stuff so we had no choice.
|me waiting for hours T_T|
|colorful decorations at Seokguram Grotto|
Our afternoon was spent roaming around the city and eating more food. And later that night, we went around the area of Cheomseongdae Observatory and Anapji Pond, both looked magnificent during this time of the day.
Recommended Eats at Gyeongsangbukdo:
It was raining again when we took our train going to Busan. The weather took for the worse later that day, to the point where we couldn't meet our host until the afternoon and the fireworks festival was postponed for the next day. We ended up rebooking our flight so we could still see the fireworks and adjust our schedule for sightseeing in Busan, though we have to remove one day for Jeju. :(
Good thing it was very sunny the next day so we were finally able to go out. Our host showed us around the Igidae coastline and explored Busan in the eyes of a local. It was a very special experience walking through this magnificent area in a very perfect weather. I would have wanted to spend the whole day just having a picnic and staring at the sea and the lovely view of Busan, but of course, we had other plans.
Gwangan bridge during night
We woke up very late for our last day in Busan but we didn't cancel our trip to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple even though it was quite far from the city center. The temple took me into a different level of knowing Korea. It looked amazing especially with the arrangement of rocks separating the sea and the temple. The architecture of the temple looks fantastic, and for me, it's a must-see for people visiting Busan for the first time. I think it certainly is a one of a kind structure overall from the palaces and temples we have visited, it being situated nearby the sea gives a different feel. It certainly was a good way to end our exploration of Busan. We took a plane that night going to Jeju via Jeju Air which our host helped us book.
Recommended Eats at Busan:
|breathtaking view of Haedong Yonggungsa|
We decided to commute going around Jeju for our first day, due to this, most of our time was lost just waiting for the bus to come and adjusting to the time schedule. It was still good experience getting to know the bus system in the region. We had a quick lunch of Altang after we went to see the famous Dragon Rock that was quite close from the airport. It was a pretty unique structure and could probably be a good place to visit first as it is the close to the airport.
I finally gave in to my friend's request and went to see K-drama related tourist spots such as the Teddy Bear Museum and we also did a quick stroll around the The Seaes Resort wherein some popular dramas have shot some scenes.
|awesome view of sunset|
|Princess Hours' Teddy Bear|
|Trick Art Museum|
|Songeup Folk Village|
|Black Pig Meat|
|Entrance to Mt. Halla|
Recommended Taxi Driver at Jeju:
Ko Seung Ko
Contact him: 010-4691-7401 or firstname.lastname@example.org
OR Jeju Jumbo Taxi 064-722-0030
Recommended Eats at Jeju:
Heuk dwaeji/black pig meat
|Gimyeong Maze Park|
Convenient and cheap flight fares are also available in South Korea, thanks to Jeju Air and T'way Airlines. We have arrived at Seoul safe and sound, but yet tired and wanting to have a proper sleep.
Seoul was our last stop for this trip and on our first day, we met with our host who was excited for us to meet her students. It was a memorable get-to-know session, though awkward at first, turned out to be fun. I think it was out first time on the entire trip to spend time with someone our age, me and the group immediately became friends. On the sad note though, we were only able to go to Myeongdong at almost 6PM so we were not able to proceed with our initial plan for the day. We just decided to spend our day in the Hongdae/Myeongdong area.
We woke up very late the next day to compensate for the lack of proper sleep from the previous day. We had lunch and went to Changdeokgung Palace for our first stop. I felt like the palace was pretty okay, I didn't have much of a historical knowledge of the place, but as per the overall impact of it to me, it was not positive nor negative. Maybe the visit to Secret Garden could have helped.
|Bukchon Hanok Village|
|Tall ice creams at Myeongdong|
|Shopping area at Ehwa University|
Recommended Eats at Seoul:
Korean Home cooking essentials - Bibimbap, chigae (stews)
|N Seoul Tower|
Sharing some few tricks and tips that I hope will be able to help you while traveling to Korea :)
* Before the trip: Familiarize yourself with the Korean alphabet, Hangul. If you're lazy to study it, keep yourself motivated. It will only require you 1-2 hours of memorization and I assure you it will greatly help on finding those tricky tourist spots and when looking for restaurants that serves vegetarian/meat/halal food. It would also help if you know how to pronounce correctly, sometimes you would not be understand by locals if you blurt out different sounds, one good example is a place in Jeju called "Woljeongni" but spelled as Woljeongli.
* Keep a copy of the train lines/stations and bus schedules. I find the buses more convenient (except in Seoul wherein I never rode any bus). T-money cannot only be used on trains, but also on buses, when shopping, etc. It is so convenient! I recommend that you buy a card as soon as you land and then just top up the value when needed.
* I really recommend again that you check out VisitKorea before and even during your trip. They sometimes have discount coupons and their website and hotline are very useful!
TO SUM IT UP...
My impression of Korea? Simple. I fell in love at first sight. Seriously, half a year has already passed after this trip and I still have a "hangover". Maybe it was the weather that was the greatest reason for this. The beauty of Autumn never failed to amaze me each day of our stay. It added the extra "awesomeness" to all the places that we visited, and yes, I love cold temperatures (but would probably hate it during winter)!
Another convincing factor why our trip was so epic was the Koreans themselves. Everyone was so friendly, polite and helpful. I felt like I belonged here (almost)! They always had a smile on their faces and have always been chatty and lent us a hand on our heavy luggage and inquiries on directions. I was also able to experience kindness that I would probably never receive in my own hometown.
Each of the regions that we have visited has its own charm.
Gangwondo for nature seekers - one could enjoy fishing/swimming, hiking at Seoraksan, and other activities that we didn't try such as tunnel exploring, etc
Gyeonggido for shopaholics and diving into the history of South Korea - Seoul, Yongin, and Suwon have their own share of history-relevant tourist spots. It's a place wherein you could also relax and enjoy nightlife at the same time
Gyeongju for history fanatics - Gyeongju bursts with with well-preserved sites all over the city it's a must-go-to for those interested on Korea's traditions and culture
Busan for great scenery, beaches, etc - Busan is a big city like Seoul, however they are also so different in many ways. I can say that Busan locals are loud, in a good way. They're friendly too, if you're a Manilenyo or have been to Manila, the feel of the city is the same (yes, reckless bus drivers too!), but less the trash and pollution.
Jeju for nature lovers, people who love the tropical atmosphere - Though we came on a very cold time, Jeju has its feel that it's made for honeymooners. I can't really explain why though, it's like Hawaii, though there are only few beaches. I think the half of Jeju has this luxurious ambiance to it because of the resorts and all, and the other half is a complete opposite because the life there is so laidback and simple. Both of these areas though have lots of tourists spots that you'll surely enjoy.
If you are to ask what my favorite places were, I think it would be Gyeonju, Suwon and Jeju, though I equally enjoyed all of what Korea has offered me all throughout my stay. I would want to come back to Korea again, but probably during Spring as I can say I already have too much autumn pictures.
I hoped you had fun reading this (long) entry and all posts about my 16-day trip to Korea. You may browse back to my previous posts using the links below and hope they would be able to help you on planning for your trip. If you enjoyed them, please subscribe to this blog/follow me via Google Friend Connect on the left side of the blog or follow/like me on Facebook. For any other tips you want or questions you may want to ask, feel free to comment and I'll be glad to help you out if I can. :)