Traveling on your own or with your family is an experience. The number of Instagram posts you make does not equate to the fun you had on your trips. After using Maps, disconnect your phone. Meeting new people, getting lost and discovering new things will not happen if you’re wired the whole time. Traveling is a real-life experience. Not a virtual one.
This article is for the ones who would like to try traveling on their own. Just a sneak peek into the brain of a 28-year old wayfarer. To kick off my series, I will share my travel stories about Korea.
THIS IS NOT A GUIDE– it is just my own experience, do with it what you will.
Korea was not the first country on my list, but since I live in Japan and Korea is just 2 hours away, I thought it would be an easy going trip.
Things to consider when planning a trip:
Preparing for the trip, I had to consider the weather, places I wanted to visit, the food I wanted to eat, transportation, lodging and my running budget. From Tokyo, ticket fares to Korea were very cheap and it wasn’t even a promo so it was easy to book. Once I booked the ticket, I knew it was soon. I booked with KOREAN AIR, a round-trip ticket to Seoul 25,200 Yen. I spent 5 days there.
Korea is a very cold during the winter time. I have to be honest, before booking the dates, I had not checked the weather.
I thought that the weather would be similar to Japan and boy was I wrong. It was at least 8-10 degrees lower than Japan’s average temperature in December. Everyday I was there, even when it was sunny, it was in negative temperatures. Be sure you bring comfortable warm clothes in December.
Layering is key!
I love looking for new hostels to try. Yes, Hostels. They’re cheaper, usually clean enough, and is a great place to meet like-minded people. I typed “Best hostels in Korea” and searched. There is no perfect formula for picking the right hostel or place, but I read some reviews, look at the hostel’s ratings and pictures then research it’s location. I chose TRICK ART GUESTHOUSE (click the link to check out the best price and availability) in Hong Dae. Affordable price and good location.
Other options also from best reviews and price deals are the following;
Korea has good public transportation. You can ride the train from the airport and take you wherever you need to go. It was easy to plan my trip because of this. I didn’t need to book any transfers or anything. Make sure to know where you’re hostel is located so you can search how to get there. The internet is such a powerful tool- so use it! Google Maps will be your best friend. If you do not know how to navigate using the app, you have to learn how if you’re traveling alone. LEARN HOW TO USE GOOGLE MAPS.
Navigating around a new city is so fun, if all else fails, don’t hesitate to ask for directions. Based on my experience, people are usually friendly and will help you especially if you look lost. I got a train pass and just loaded it with money so I can just swipe it as I move. I bought mine from a vending machine in Incheon International Airport. Quick and easy! Its called T-Money and it’s for tourists.
For Wi-Fi, I booked one online. I had to make sure I had internet access for emergencies and navigation. A friend of mine suggested to get one online so I can just pick it up at Incheon Airport. I went to the KT Mobile website and easily got one. You may use your credit card to pay. When I arrived at the airport, it was easy to pick it up and use it right away.
I wanted to eat Kimchi- and lots of it. But I didn’t really mind trying other Korean dishes. I usually make sure to eat certain dishes, but I do not plan to eat at specific restaurants. I think its great if you want to but I eat where it’s convenient and where I end up.
I’m happy to be surprised with the food- good or bad. Eating at random places in mysterious streets and not reading a review about it is refreshingly exciting and fun. But again, it’s your call. For the sights I wanted to see, again, I searched online and I narrowed down which ones I need to plan for.
I wanted to go around Seoul and also pass by Busan and Nami Island. I like going to museums, art galleries- especially outdoor galleries or installations and landscapes. With limited time, I had to plan well. I suggest you list the places then look at it geographical location and try to plot it in your itinerary so you can spend your time efficiently. Its easier to go to places near each other for a day than bouncing around the whole city- unless that’s what you’re into.
Live within your means. Travelling doesn’t need to be expensive. For me, I bought 50,000 yen and my credit card and atm just in case. Calculate how much cash you really need and for emergencies, bring a credit card. Making a plan doesn’t mean you’re going to follow it to the letter. It just means you kind of have an idea of how you want to spend your days. So don’t take it too seriously, plans are not perfect and are not meant to be. Make the plan then go with the flow.
Dong Dae Mun Plaza
I was really excited to visit this place because I love looking at beautiful things. I suggest you go there when its daytime but about to turn dark. So just before the sunset to after sunset to see how the building changes. It was fantastic! From the station, you can get a map from the Information Office. From there, you can go where you wish to. Inside, there are many cute and cool things to see and buy. Items that are awarded for their design. It was really neat! At the back of the building, you’ll see the LED flower lights. Again, you’ll only see it when its dark out.
Myeong Dong Eats
Make-up heaven. Even if you’re not into it, it will lure you to buy some things you don’t need or you won’t use. But in between the shopping, its also a food street. Many cart vendors selling winter food will entice you. It was really cold that night I went so I wanted something hot and spicy. Since I was alone, my appetite was not big enough to try all the food so I wanted to go back another night to sample others. But, the cart I was looking for wasn’t there. I suggest if you want to eat something, just eat it! It might be gone the next day.
I only eat shrimps and fish but somehow, this market got me excited. Just the visual party aspect of it made me want to go and see it. It was like a festival but a permanent one. Although I didn’t buy anything, just seeing the variety of the catch in Seoul was awesome.
This village wasn’t what I expected. I guess I expected more old style houses. Walking with so many
tourists, it was more of a hassle than a pleasure. However, the walk going there was wonderful. The
quaint shops and a very chill area perfect for daily strolls.
I initially did not want to go to this palace just because of all the pictures I’ve seen online, I feel like I’ve been there without really going there. But, since it was right beside the Bukchon Village, I decided to pass by.
I enjoyed this area. So many to see and experience. When you walk through the street, you’ll see many souvenirs and traditional items you can bring home. There are many cafes and restaurants, too.
Gamcheon Cultural Village
I went to Busan because of this village. Its an art village on a mountainside. Getting to Busan was easy. I booked KTX train tickets online and went to the station. When you arrive at the Busan station, just go to the nearest subway or train and use google maps. I opted to walk to the village- it was long and elevated so if you are not physically fit, it will be hard. When you arrive at Gamcheon, stop by the Tourist Info center to get a map. Gamcheon is beautiful. Read up about its history and bask in the art and culture.
Pictures of Nami Island does not give it justice. It is so picturesque and serene in person. Getting there was pretty easy as well. Its called Google Maps, learn it and live it. When you go during winter, be sure you are bundled up. It is very cold! Enjoy a bowl of soup while walking around the island.
When you go during winter, be sure you are bundled up. It is very cold! Enjoy a bowl of soup while walking around the island.
Hong Dae Beer Tasting
Korea was a fun trip. I did not expect to enjoy as much as I did. Transportation is good and the food is great. When traveling, ask yourself these questions:
1. What do I want to do?
2. What do I want to eat?
3. How do I get to these places?
You don’t need guides to dictate what you do and you do not need pictures to prove you had the best time. Guides are there to literally guide you- and not instruct you on what you want to do. In this age of “hype”, it always boils down to authenticity.
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Wayfarer Tales from Korea: Seoul to Busan in 5 Days
Content and Author: J.P Termulo
Photography: J.P Termulo
Post Processing and Content Management: P.M Ferrer
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