South Korea in 12 days

Taking advantage of the Easter break this year, we managed to put in a quick trip to South Korea (a nice 12 day holiday). It has always been one of the destinations I’ve wanted to visit, as their unique culture interested me, as much as their kimchi and Korean BBQ.

It didn’t disappoint. I found Korea to be a cross between say Taiwan and Japan. Some streets looked old and you sometimes wondered if it was really Korea. Other streets looked modern and everything you would see in Japan.

For food, make sure you squeeze in some fried chicken and beer. It’s their thing.

I hit the following locations as part of my itinerary, and please read below for details of the strips and my comments.

Seoul – the capital of South Korea. Plenty of hotspots to hit including the below:

Insandong – creative/arty strip with the art mall. There is a busy strip with lots of shops on insadong-gil. Drop into Ssamziegil to view the collections on display in this hip little complex. Good place to buy yourself a souvenir.

 

Myeondong – Shopping, restaurants, and just busy! Good for people watching. Find myeongdong-gil.

 

Yongsan – electronics shopping and Starcraft competitions, but nothing as extravagant as Akiharbra in Japan. If you get to Yongsan station, you’re pretty much there. You can give this place a miss if running short on time.

 

Dongdaemon – Less touristy around here. Very arty and cultural, with lots of shops and stalls. Widely spread out, so it might take a day exploring the area. It’s where all the locals tend to hang out more. Hunt down Gwangjang Market.

 

Itaewon – somewhat the least authentic area that I found in Seoul. Lots of expats and western style restaurants (lots of pubs etc). Have a look, but if short on time, give it a miss.

 

Gangham – uptown Korea, where the rich and business people. Visit the underground shopping strip at the Gangham subway station. The main strip is at Gangham-daero.

 

Garosugil – upper end shopping with nice shops and restaurants down side alleys. Find Dosan-daero 13 gil. Sorry, forgot to take any photos in this area.

Samcheongdong – cool old meets new style streets. Find Samcheongdonggil road, then locate the tourist centre and grab a walking trail map. Highly recommend you walk the first half of the path at least.

 

Busan – Located down south about 2.5-3hrs by high speed KTX train. Second largest city, different vibe and less busy compared to Seoul. Some recommended spots below.

Busan Chinatown (Jung-gu) – Labelled as Chinatown, but not very Chinatown. Used to be a redlight district, and now overrun by Russian bars. Give it a miss if short on time, otherwise drop in a have a look.

 

Gwangbokro – Lots of little shops tucked in alleys. Find the roads Daecheongno and Gwangbok-ro. Explore that area.

 

Sasang – Stumbled across this area on my way to Jinhae (it’s where the bus terminal is). Has some nice alley ways and shops just across from the bus terminal.

 

Jinhae – The highlight of my trip. Cherry Blossom festival. See my separate blog here.

 

 

Credit goes to my wife Roxane, and my sister-in-law Fiona for helping me recite the hotspots.

Seoul to Busan to Jinhae (Cherry Blossom Festival)

I had some airfares that happened to go on sale, and also had the privilege of taking some leave off in April this year. This coincided nicely with being able to visit South Korea during Cherry Blossom season.

The famous Cherry Blossom festival is held in Jinhae, towards the South of South Korea. It is a bit of a trek to make from Seoul, so it is recommended you visit Busan (the 2nd biggest city after Seoul). You can take the high-speed train (KTX) from Seoul to Busan. It takes around 2.5hours.

KTX from Seoul to Busan (and return)

KTX from Seoul to Busan (and return)

You can stay at the accommodation of your choice in Busan. As long as you can get to a metro line, its fairly easy to get to Jinhae. You need to make your way to Sasang metro station. You can get here via various lines and tranfers from any other metro line.

Some quick notes:

  • Please note Jinhae is pronounced Jin-air, else locals will not understand where you are referring too
  • Jinhae is not the same as Jinae (on the light-rail train)

Once you have arrived at Sasang station, find exit 5 and once up the stairs turn left and walk past the McDonalds/Apple Outlet. You will find the bus terminal here. Buy a ticket for Jinhae, and wait for the bus. It should be Bus stop 17 outside the terminal, with a nice long line of people. The bus itself doesn’t have a number, and runs every 20mins between 6am and 10pm.

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Jinhae on the ticket is probably written in Korean, so take note of below (Jinhae is written in Korean next to the arrow Busan ->). It’s probably where everyone is heading anyway.

Jinhae to Busan

Jinhae to Busan

Busan to Jinhae

Busan to Jinhae

The bus ride can be any where from 1hr to 2hrs depending on traffic. Just sit back and relax.

When you arrive in Jinhae, you may notice people getting off at various stops. Some stops are closer to the actual festival. My advice is to wait until the last stop, which will take you to the Jinhae bus terminal. That way, you can get a bearing of where this is compared to everything else. You will need to come back to this bus terminal to buy your return ticket.

Enjoy!

PS. The bus will drop you off at Jinhae bus terminal which is near the people selling food in tents as part of the festival. To get to the famous Yeojwacheon Stream (pictures below), just show the pics to an info desk at the big roundabout and they’ll give you a map with walking directions – otherwise try and google and see if you can make your own way there!

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