Back in March, I spent ten days in South Korea, visiting with friends and relatives, and traveling around on my own. South Korea isn’t exactly in the Southeast Asian neighborhood (since I’m currently based in rural Thailand), so getting there was a bit of a trek. However, I asked myself, “When else am I going to be on this side of the planet again? Might as well go where I want while I can!” I merely purchased airfare and planned accommodations for my trip, and left the rest to chance. Naïve? Yes. But I’ve learned to be open to possibilities, so I was more than ready to explore.
There were four major things that stood out to me about my time in Korea:
1. Friends and Family
I arrived in Seoul early in the morning during the end of winter, rented a local phone and thus began my ten-day trip in Korea. I planned to meet up with my good friends from college, as well as my cousin, who I hadn’t seen in over a decade. Honestly, traveling to places where you know people makes the experience less stressful. Having a home base and some good company makes it even more worthwhile! It was so great to meet up with them, and see where they study and work! Just like Thailand has been my home over the past year, Korea is their home. I didn’t feel completely like a lost tourist, because they knew more about the culture and were able to share their insight with me (before and during my trip). They also welcomed me into their apartments so I didn’t have to worry about paying for hotels or guest houses. Always a plus!
When people think of Korean food, they think of Korean BBQ, kimchi and other spicy delicacies. However, after living in Thailand for year, I’d have to say that Korean food is not that spicy. One of the great things about food in Korea is that it’s not expensive, especially if you know where to go! The kimbap (similar to sushi) near Korea University was about $1 a roll. If you steer clear of touristy areas, you can find a bite to eat for only a few dollars. However, I’d have to say that the food in Busan was best, simply because of the abundance of fresh seafood.
One of the cool things about Seoul is that if you love shopping, you can literally check out each of the subway stops and find a shopping mall or market. You know that really catchy “Gangnam Style” song? Gangnam is actually a neighborhood in Seoul! It’s the equivalent to Beverly Hills in the US - that means it's filled with high-end housing and shopping. I checked out Gangnam for a bit, but was overwhelmed by the prices and the plastic surgery advertisements in the subway. So, I moved onto other areas, like Dongdaemun, Myeongdong and Itaewon.
4. Sights Korea is full of vibrant culture and history. There are several museums, palaces, some even being UNESCO World Heritage sites! Aside from Seoul, I was able to travel to Busan, the port city in the south of the country.