2017 Korea Trip

In November 2017 Anna and I spent nearly 3 weeks in South Korea, we figured that knowing how to say "Hello", "Goodbye", and "Thanks" should be plenty of Korean. (It was!) This is a kind of picture diary of that trip.

Arrival and Day 1

We opted for a straight-shot 15 hour flight direct from Dallas to Seoul, and it was horrible. I highly recommend breaking a flight like this up into pieces, even with the risk of missing a connection the time to stretch and decompress is so worth it.

For the first few days we stayed at an AirBnB in Hongdae, an area in Seoul known for college students, indie music, and urban art.
While we never met our host in person, he sent us neat detailed directions that pointed out the way quite literally.

pointing down street t-money card

Another bit of advice if you're travelling to Korea, get yourself a T-Money card!
They're available at every little convenience store and down in the subway stations too. Load it up with 5-10k won and it'll get you around on every bus and train we ever found for several days! You just swipe it as you get on or off buses and at the turnstiles in the stations and you can reload it easily at kiosks basically everywhere.

The morning after we arrived we explored around Hongdae a bit, then hopped on a train to Itaewon, the expat district.

itaewon cityscape stairway in itaewon

We had some delicious treats at a fancy bakery, and explored a bit of the nightlife.

bakery goods itaewon street at night bar called mistakeroom storefronts in hongdae at night

Day 2

On our second day in Korea we went to a little meerkat cafe in Hongdae, hongdae in the morning meerkat climbing up my face then took a train over to Gangnam district and checked out the Starfield COEX mall, a huge underground complex with stores, convention centers, restaurants and basically everything you could want! very clean subway station library at starfield coex mall It even has a library and, best of all, Bigboy Chili Spaghetti for only 15 bucks! sign for bigboy chili sphaghetti

After the mall we went another stop over to a part of Gangnam known for it's clubs, bars, and nightlife where we met up with some cute colorful boys. But they were a bit serious. gangnam station exit little juices with serious faces on them

Day 3

On the third morning we hopped on a train over to Gyeongbokgung Palace. One of the most ancient and expansive palaces in the Korean peninsula.

art deco subway station palace courtyard small aisle between palace buildings artificial palace pond/moat palace temple palace exit

It was breathtaking to see the preserved intricate hand painting on the woodwork, the ancient stones, and the amazing blend of nature, ancient cultural heritage, and hyper-modern city that seems to be everywhere in Korea.

Then in the afternoon we headed down a few stops to see the "famed" Insadong shopping district. Which was mostly a tourist haven with junk shops along the main road, but we did find a neat "Love Corner" area.

instagram frame by love tokens insadong cityscape in evening

With the sun setting we headed back to our AirBnB to rest up for the next day!

Day 4

On day four we wanted to get away from the city to clear our heads a bit, luckily a mountain hike with temples was only 45 minutes away. 30 by train, then the last 15 by bus.
Bukhansan National Park is just on the outskirts of Seoul.

village at park entrance

Just like Pokemon taught us, there was a small village right at the mountain's entrance that sold mountaineering gear!

anna looking back on bridge dogs outside temple

We hiked for a few hours before coming across some dogs at a temple.
All the temples had intricately hand painted exteriors and everything was so peacful and quiet it could soothe even the most fragile nerves.

temple carved from massive rocks intricately painted temple entrance temple with mountain looking at seoul from a guard tower

On our way back down the mountain we climbed up a guard tower to take this picture, that's Seoul right in the middle.

Day 5

On the fifth day we packed up our things and took a trip on the high speed rail down to the opposite end of South Korea, Busan. A friend was staying at a hostel there and we met up with her for the middle of our trip.

inside a korail train apeach riding a unicorn grumpy apeach at a table

After the train ride and getting checked into a hotel we went out to a Kakao Friends cafe that was entirely Apeach themed!

Day 6

The sixth we spent most of the time exploring our friends hostel and seeing the sites nearby.

buddha on the way to busan tower

Right near our hotel was Busan Tower, it was closed when we were there so we couldn't go up to the top but we did watch a little concert where a violinist and cellist played pop songs for us.

busan tower musicians playing despacito busan cityscape and bay

If you prefer a less crowded space with a bit more nature and easy access to the sea I would recommend Busan over Seoul, cheaper too!

Day 7

For the seventh day we went on a full day hike up into the mountains, I was looking to see a specific temple. Unforunately what was supposed to be a 3 hour hike in Geumgang Park turned into nearly a full day of being lost on trails and meeting kind old Korean ladies who shared their lunch with us.

Finally after a grueling walk up a nearly vertical trail we found the temple!

Seokbulsa Temple is known for it's remote location and ancient wall carvings. We gave thanks for the amazing views and began our trek back down the mountain.

We were thoroughly exhausted once we got back to civilization so it was convenient gimbap for dinner and an early bedtime.

Day 8

The next day Anna and I took a train-bus-hike to Haedong Yonggung Temple, a beautiful site right on the sea. Very well travelled by tourists and locals.

Even the most beautiful monuments usually had some kind of sign and donation box describing what praying/donating at them should help with. This beautiful pagoda for instance is designed to help with traffic safety!

We also learned that at this temple it was a tradition to buy and hide one of these little bald monk figures around the grounds and so long as it stayed undisturbed you would have good luck!

Here I am next to an absolutely massive golden Buddha, one of a set and I think the idea is that you make a pilgrimage to all of them.

I'm not sure why those Buddhas (monks?) are wearing backwards baseball caps, but hey, I'm just a tourist, so here's a final look at the sea before we headed back into the center of Busan!

After a short rest from our temple journey we went out with a few friends to a noraebang (karaoke) and I impressed the locals with a true southern rendition of "Okie From Muskogee".

It was the next day by the time we got back to our hotel, so we slept extra late on day nine!

Day 9

Gwangali Beach Fireworks

WIP: picking out good pictures!

Day 10

Spa Day

WIP: picking out good pictures!

Day 11

Train from Busan to Seoul.

WIP: picking out good pictures!

Day 12

Myeongdong shopping/fashion district and Yongsan electronics district.

WIP: picking out good pictures!