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  • Writer's pictureKristin

South Korea: Itinerary

Our journey through South Korea started off on Jeju Island, also known as the “Korean Hawaii”, then to Busan, followed by Gyeong-ju (a historical town) and then to Seoul.


Here are the highlights from each of these destinations:


Jeju Island

Our time in Jeju was mostly focused on the outdoors. We hiked up to the top of the volcanic island, Seongsan Ilchulbong, swam at the hotel pool, checked out a few of the waterfalls and rented bicycles to ride along the coastline.


Our favorite part of Jeju Island was Seongsan Ilchulbong and bike riding along the coastline.



As Jeju is a main tourist destination, there are many ‘hokey’ tourist destinations, especially unique museums. At the resort area where our hotel was at (and at other places around the island), there seemed to be every type of museum possible. Some examples were the Teddy Bear Museum, the Sex Museum, and the one we went to – the Chocolate Museum. To be honest, the ‘museum’ was basically a collection of different chocolate items made over the years with a souvenir shop of chocolates from around the world you could buy; there wasn’t any history or other information provided with the displays. (Honestly, at the Chocolate Museum I was hoping for lots of samples, but there was only 2 really small ones.)




Busan

With the hotel vouchers that Alex had earned earlier in the year, we ritzed it up and stayed at the Park Hyatt in Busan. To be completely honest, I felt a little out of my element with how fancy and prestigious they treat you, but I have to say it was an amazing hotel. Because Alex had a Diamond membership, we got free breakfast the two mornings that we were there and it basically consisted of everything imaginable for food, as well as servers who unfolded your napkin for you and took away any silverware that you weren’t using – plus my tea was never empty. One of my favorite parts about our stay there was the view from our room! We had a wonderful view of the Gwangan Bridge that was like something off of a postcard. Plus every night they would come in and do a turn-down service.


Although it was tempting to just bask in the elegance in the hotel, we did make it out to explore Busan. One of our favorite parts of Busan was the Jagalchi Fish Market. There was about every type of fish or sea creature you could think of! Like a typical Asian market there were tons of small vendors that were selling a variety of fish. We even witnessed a small octopus trying to escape from the kiddie pool that he was being kept in.



We also visited Shinsegae Department Store, the largest Department Store in Korea. Other than a huge food court and tons of stores, they also had an ice skating rink and mini amusement park on a couple of their floors.


We also explored and ate dinner in the Gukje Market – a main area with all kinds of restaurants and food vendors, as well as bars.


One day we also headed out to the edge of the city and visited Beomeosa Temple, a Buddhist temple at the edge of the mountain.



Gyeong-ju

Gyeong-ju is the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, so there are a lot of historical sites there. We checked out the Anagpi Pond, which was a large pond surrounded by different temples and trees for the Silla royalty. You can go either during the daytime or at night, we went at night and it was really beautiful! They used various lights to light up the structures and it reflected so wonderfully on the pond.


We also checked out the large grass covered tombs that make Gyeong-ju famous. At Tumuli Park, what look like random hills on flat land, are actually tombs for the various royalty of the Silla dynasty. They would bury these people and their possessions in these large tombs and then build a hill on top of them.


We also went to Bulguksa Temple, which is a temple on Mt. Tohamsan. Getting to this temple required taking a bus to the top, as it was a winding and steep climb, but being at the top in this serene place was pretty amazing.

We took the high-speed train (KTX) from Gyeong-ju to Seoul, which got us there within a couple of hours. We even enjoyed the Gyeong-ju Specialty Bread on the way. The trains resemble the Shinkansen trains and can travel at maximum speeds of 305 km per hour or 190 mph. The train trip was one of the major highlights for Alex and it allowed us to see the countryside of South Korea.


Seoul

To complete our high-end stays in Korea, we stayed at the Park Hyatt Seoul (located within the Gang nam district….so we were ‘Gang nam style’ while we were in S. Korea...ha ha!). We didn’t get breakfast here, but they still provided the turndown service and other amenities. However, because we were so ‘posh’ they wouldn’t allow us to exert ourselves too much. On the final day when we had to get to the bus terminal to take us to the airport, they provided a vehicle to take us there, which was actually only a 5 minute walk from the hotel. However, the bus terminal was really efficient for flights. We checked in for our flight, checked our bags and went through immigration all at the bus station; so when we got to the airport, it was only about 5-10 minutes to get through security.


In Seoul, we visited both the Namdaemun Market and the Itaewon Market (known for higher end knock-offs and sports related items like hockey jerseys). At the Namdaemun Market we had our first Korean barbeque of the trip from one of the hundreds of street vendors; and we enjoyed it while sitting on the plastic kiddie chairs. :-) Both of these markets are popular for selling knock-off merchandise; however, we actually ended up not buying hardly anything at all! A rarity for us!


We also took the cable car to the top of Namsan Peak, a small mountain in the city and then hiked back to the bottom.


For the cultural component we visited the Korean Folk Village where we saw demonstrations of sword fighting, dancing and music. There were also a variety of traditional Korean houses that were on display that you could see what these houses looked like during their distinct eras.


After a busy day of walking, we ended up at Cheonggyecheon, a park that they developed right in the heart of the city. The park is actually a level below the street and has a small stream with greenery running through it. We stopped to soak our feet in the water, and it was very peaceful considering that there were two major roadways above.

Don't forget to check out some of our other insights about South Korea in our related blog post.



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