Since the Korean War, South Korea has remarkably built itself up to
become a leading world-class country.
It is a large exporter of cars and electronics, produces talented filmmakers
and athletes, and serves as a major hub for travelers coming and going through
Asia via Incheon International Airport, an airport that has topped the lists of
best airports in the world numerous times. But there’s a lot more to Korea than
bustling cities, neon lights, and K-Pop music. Here’s a list of ways to get off
the beaten path in South Korea.
Get Active and Go Hiking
One of Korea’s favourite past times is to go hiking. During the
popular months in the spring and fall, Koreans hit the hiking trails on a
weekly basis. Since the country is so mountainous your options are endless.
There are over a dozen trails to choose from in Seoul alone! But to get the
most out of your hiking experience, and to avoid a busy trail during the peak
seasons, opt for a route outside of the city.
You don’t have to be a professional hiker to tackle these mountains.
There are routes for all levels from beginners to advanced hikers. Just about
all the routes can be completed in a day, some even within a few hours, so
there’s no need to worry about a tent and cooking equipment. Wear some
breathable clothing, strap on a pair of good, supportive shoes and don’t forget
a bottle of water! And when you reach the summit and take in the surrounding
scenery, you might even get lucky and be invited to join a nearby picnic with
Party With the Locals
Itaewon and Hongdae are popular hot spots for tourists looking to experience
nightlife in Seoul. But if you’re wanting to see where many of the Seoulites
get their drinks and dance on, head over to Gangnam or the more upscale
Apgujeong. Gangnam is chock full of restaurants, bars, noraebangs (karaoke
rooms), cafes, and a large underground “boutique-esq” shopping centre.
Makeshift street vendors set up shop at night along the main street selling
everything from shoes to jewellery, DVDs to handbags.
If you want something a little more mellow and upscale, head to
Apgujeong. Wine and sake bars, kitchy cafes, and western-inspired restaurants
line the side streets. If nothing more, this area is great for people and
Eat More Than Just Korean
BBQ and Kimchi
Korea’s most popular food is undoubtedly its BBQ. However, there’s
more to Korean cuisine than grilled meat and kimchi. Korea boasts a wide
variety of dishes drawing from their mountainous regions, rice fields, and
If you like spicy food be sure to try some of the following; gamjatang, a potato and pork spine soup
with noodles, dalk galbi, a chicken,
cabbage, and rice cake dish cooked in a large iron skillet, suntubu-jjigae, a tofu and vegetable
stew served in a stone bowl topped with a raw egg, or for the bravest of all, galbijim, short ribs slow-cooked in a
spicy broth that will have you feeling like you could breath fire!
But if spicy food doesn’t sit well with you, there are still plenty
of other options to whet your appetite. If you’re down by the southern coast
you can’t go wrong with any of the seafood dishes, but a must on your culinary
list should be jajangmyeon, a noodle
dish topped with a black bean sauce served with vegetables and either meat or
seafood. This dish is actually adopted from Korea’s Chinese neighbours. During
the rainy season, Koreans pack into restaurants serving pajeon, a thick pancake-like dish loaded with green onions, and
seafood or meat if you desire. Be sure to opt for makgeolli or dong-dongju
(a rice wine alcohol) to wash it all down. And to help cool you down in the
summer months, have a bowl of mul-naengmyeon,
a cold, buckwheat noodle soup with a tangy broth, and vinegar or mustard added
to your liking. It’s guaranteed to make the hot-humid temperatures more
Taekwondo is a form of martial arts that focuses on punching and
kicking combat techniques. It’s Korea’s national sport and somewhat of a right
of passage for Korean kids. If you’re going to be in Korea for a period of time
you should pop in to a local taekwondo school and take some classes. Most
schools will be very open and welcoming to visitors, allowing them a chance to
share a part of their Korean culture with you. Some of them may not even charge
you for a class but instead ask you to purchase your own uniform (a do-bok)
which will run you at most $30-40. It’s an excellent form of exercise, helping
you improve flexibility, stamina, and balance. And you’ll be able to come home
with quite the souvenir and stories to share.
Buddhism was first introduced to Korea around the fourth century A.D
and slowly influenced the culture and way of life of the people. Since then numerous
temples have been built throughout the country with about 30% of the population
practicing this religion today. The most famous, and one of the oldest temples
in Korea, is Bulguksa, located in the old capital city of Gyeongju. But there
is another, less frequented but equally if not more impressive temple, that is
definitely worth a visit.
Guinsa Temple is located in the small city of Danyang in
Chungcheongbukdo province. Built within a valley surrounded by mountains, it is
an incredible collection of 34 buildings, including a 5-story Dharma Law Hall,
the largest in scale in Korea. The temple can accommodate up to 10,000 people
and even offers temple stays for visitors who want to experience life in a
temple. It’s a bit of a hike working your way up through the various buildings,
past the fermenting clay pots, and up to the Great Teacher Hall at the top of
the valley. But with each turn and set of stairs completed, you’ll be left in
awe of the beauty and serenity of the grounds.
Boryeong Mud Festival - South Korea
South Korea - Tips for Teaching English
About the Author
Arienne loves to travel and has been doing so since she was 11. She enjoys visiting new countries and learning about different cultures first hand. She has been living and working in South Korea for the past 2 years but will soon be embarking on a 6+ month long backpacking trip that will see her travel from China all the way down to Australia. You can follow her adventures at www.seeyousoon.ca or on twitter @seeusoontravel.
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