South Korea is my favourite country out of all the places I have been travelling so far. Korean culture is so different to anything I had experienced and give me such unique experiences. This is the country that made me fall in love with travelling and ready to branch out to try new locations. Here are my reasons why, in no particular order...
1. The Culture
Korean culture is fascinating. While visitng the country, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the culture. This could be trying on traditional clothes, tasting food, watching performances, or participating in tea ceremonies. I was lucky to get to watch several performances while on a tour of the historical county of Buyeo. The street performance included ladies doing a folk dance, followed by a modern street dance group, and finally a taekwando performance where a bunch of boys started yelling and breaking blocks all over the place.
2. Street Food
As a vegetarian, I spent the early part of trip to Korea struggling to find foods that I was sure didn't contain any meat. I gained confidence in approaching street food vendors and asking about the food they were serving, which also tested my Korean skill! I tried ya-chae-ho-tteok (야채호떡) which is a veggie filled dough, gye-ran-bbang or eggy bread (계란빵), and lots of ddeok-bokk-i (떡볶이) which is rice cakes in a spicy sauce. Visiting various markets around Seoul and Busan to get my street food fix was one of the highlights of my trip.
Disclaimer: I had never done a hike before until I went to South Korea. I only agreed to do this because my friend signed me up for it and she told me there was an included meal and Korean alcohol tasting. This particular hike followed the ancient fortress wall surrounding the city and the peak of Mount Inwangsan has one of the best views of Seoul, even if it was very dark by the time we reached it. It wasn't an easy hike. As an asthmatic, I literally felt like I was dying the entire time. But the satisfaction when I reached that peak was incredible (almost as good as the satisfaction from the drinks in the bar afterwards).
Many people who visit South Korea are K-pop fans and many who aren't K-pop fans are baffled by the Korean media. I love K-pop. I have been to four concerts in Korea and it's such a different experience to concerts over here in the UK. The one pictured was the debut showcase for Wanna One, which was actually held in the Gocheok Sky Dome and it was incredible.
The palaces and museums make good days out in Seoul if you have the time. Changdeokgung's secret garden is a beautiful place to visit, although you need to check the English speaking tour times beforehand to avoid a long wait. Another thing worth watching is the changing of the guards ceremony at Gyeongbokgung! After watching that and walking around the palace, I had some lovely citrus tea from the cafe at the palace! Also I would 100% recommend purchasing the combined palace ticket where you can visit all of them for a cheaper price.
6. Skincare, Beauty, Makeup, Haircare and All That Stuff
I had such a good time shopping in Korea. I spent a lot of money. Shopping streets and malls in Myeongdong, Sinchon, Gangnam, and Hongdae are excellent places to visit to get your beauty fix. All of the big brands can be found easily: Innissfree, Nature Republic, Banilla Co., The Face Shop, etc. You can even find beauty products from overseas like Lush, but unless you are prepared to pay more for the imported products... just get them at home.
Yes I have already talked about food. But bingsu deserves its own category. It's extremely hot in Korea and this dessert really makes you feel refreshed on a hot day. It is shaved ice and can come with a variety of toppings, such as fruit, chocolate, green tea, or more traditional red bean paste or injeolmi (rice cakes). It's huge and very filling, so I suggest taking plenty of friends or going when you are very hungry.
8. K-Drama Locations
If you are a fan of Korean dramas, you have to go find a couple of locations. Some of them are easier to find than others. There was one place I travelled for hours on a bus to visit because I spontaneously decided to go to a beach and found this one. A filming location for the drama, Goblin (도깨비). Unfortunately it turned out to be raining really heavily all day which sort of ruined my beach day plans, but also was oddly fitting to the theme of Goblin (you'll get that if you've watched it).
9. Food, Food, Food
Again? Yes. I really need to reiterate that the food here is good. Rather than street food or bingsu, the actual restaurants are great as well. I admit I didn't eat out that much and I probably ate too much takeaway pizza this holiday.... but I could do that at home so it didn't make the list (Korean pizza is great though!). Eating in Korean restaurants is amazing because of THE SIDE DISHES. I love all those fermented bits. I love it. They only make it like that in Korea.
I know you do this on any holiday, but the day trips I went on in Korea were the highlights of my trip and I'm going to have to do separate posts detailing how beautiful these places were. My favourite was a trip to Nami Island which is accessible by ferry or by a zipline, so obviously I did the zipline. Such a beautiful place. I took a selfie with an ostrich; it was a great day. Please anticipate that post.