To be honest, the main reason we decided to come to South Korea in the first place was that when we made our itinerary for Japan, we were entering during their Golden Week holiday, and we wanted to avoid it. We didn’t know what to think of Korea. Looking back on it now, I’m really glad we came. In a way, it feels like the Midwest of Asia. It has cold winters and hot summers, the people are extremely nice, it’s clean and modern, yet somewhat conservative and modest, and it often gets overlooked by tourists for China and Japan. Here’s what we thought about Korea…
Top three experiences?
- Meeting such warm, friendly people everywhere we went.
- Going to the crazy baseball game in Seoul was so fun. Really, just being in a country where people wear baseball caps and watch games on TV every night was great.
- Touring the DMZ. I know it’s more of a tourist attraction than an actual military spot these days, but it was still very cool and weird to be standing in North Korean territory.
- The DMZ/JSA tour. It was very informative of the history and current situation. Even though we didn’t see many North Koreans, it still felt intense at the border.
- Our baseball game in Seoul. It was completely different from baseball in America, and so fun! Winning $50 made the game that much more fun.
- The people. We were constantly bombarded with hospitality, offers for help, and food on our hikes. Even the taxi drivers are helpful! The people in Korea are the most friendly we’ve met on this trip, even surpassing New Zealanders and Thais.
Bottom three experiences?
- Some of the very strange foods we tried.
- The historic sites in general. Some of them were nice to see, but the majority were pretty underwhelming.
- Struggling to find cheap food. This is probably easier if you speak Korean and really enjoy their food. We don’t do either, so Korea ended up being much more expensive than China.
- It’s an expensive country, roughly on par with New Zealand without a rental car.
- The food we ate after the DMZ/JSA tour. Not very good at all.
- The Gyeongbokgung Palace changing of the gate guards was really cheesy, but still pretty entertaining. The gate guards had ridiculous fake beards pasted on their face, and their shifts last just one hour so they can fit in more changing ceremonies for tourists.
Our all-you-can-eat seafood and meat Korean BBQ in Sokcho. (Closely followed by our Korean Fried Chicken nights!)
Nikki: I can’t think of just one meal in particular. Nearly all of the common side dishes were too weird for me to enjoy.
Brad: We ate at a cafeteria after our DMZ tour, and I partially blame that meal on why I’m not a fan of actual Korean food much. It was pretty bad.
Favorite person we met?
Young from Seoulwise spoke great English, gave us so many helpful tips of things to do, and arranged the baseball tickets for us.
Brad: We didn’t have any distasters, just some close calls. In Gangneung we wanted to see Tongil Park because it had a US destroyer and North Korean submarine on display, but the taxi driver informed us (with the help of the tourist information center) that if we went out there so late in the day we might not have a way to get home.
Our other near disaster was in Busan when we hiked to the South Gate of Geumjeongsanseong Fortress, but didn’t have a way of getting down, kept getting lost, and barely made it to the cable car in time to get down.
Favorite place we stayed?
Nikki: Our homestay in Gangneung.
Brad: Seoulwise in Seoul was great, and the owner was so helpful. It had a good atmosphere, was in a fun neighborhood, and was clean.
Worst place we stayed?
Some random motel in Sokcho. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as the other places.
Best thing we didn’t blog about?
Nikki: Visiting the Changdeokung Palace and Secret Garden in Seoul. We really only had time to see the Secret Garden, but I enjoyed it.
Brad: Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul. It was a very neat set of buildings holding the wood tablets of all the kings of Korea, from even before the Japanese invaded and destroyed just about everything in the country. The garden area around the buildings was very beautiful in the spring as well.
Nikki: Eating with metal chopsticks. For whatever reason, Koreans prefer them over wooden ones. I thought I was getting pretty good with chopsticks in Vietnam and China, but the metal ones are much more difficult to master. Another weird thing: motels provide almost all toiletries for you, such as toothpaste, hair brushes, hair gel, condoms, and aftershave. And I can’t forget to mention how weird the penis park was!
Brad: The fluorescent, brightly colored hiking clothing that’s in style. It’s not uncommon to see people walking in the subway with technical jackets, big backpacks, hiking poles, and huge sun visors. The outdoors stores are probably the brightest things I’ve seen on the trip so far.
Statistics for South Korea
Statistics for the Trip