Currently in Taipei for my exchange semester (last semester of school of my life! I’m really looking forward to work instead of going to school), some friends and I decided to spend a few days in South Korea. You can find some pictures taken with my phone (Galaxy S7) here:
I arrived in Busan Airport at 7 am on Friday 20th of October, after going through customs, getting some cash and buying a sim card to get 4G data, I decided to head towards Gamcheon Culture Village which is the home of brightly painted houses with a lot of decorated murals & sculptures. To get directions from the Airport to there, I opened Google Maps and saw that something was wrong: you can’t get walking or driving directions from point A to B in South Korea on Maps, due to some concerns with North Korea. You can still access some dated information about public transportation, in this case I was lucky as the information about buses was still correct. After visiting Gamcheon, I went to Jagalshi Fish Market, which is a famous fish market where locals and fisherman meets to do business. Most of the fish are still alive and placed in medium-size aquarium. Then, I headed towards a Coffee place to eat something and drink coffee, before going up Busan Tower to have a nice 360° view of the city.
Around 12 am, I went to find my friends, who arrived one day earlier, at the other end of the city, near Busan Cinema Center (we discovered that it was still Busan International Film Festival, so we booked a ticket to see a film called “The Square” at 8 pm, who won Cannes most prestigious award; it was an interesting movie about some current issues in society, it’s an “artsy” film, the music and cinematography was great). Between then and 8 pm, we went to do a great hike at Geumjeong Fortress. We took a cable car to go to the South Gate of the fortress, and after a few hours of hiking we arrived at the north gate before going down to Beomeosa Temple. After having some Korean dinner (Bulgogi, which is a form of Korean BBQ; where you take thin slices of beef or pork and grill them on a BBQ) and watching the movie, we went to the hostel to have some coffee before going out to a bar. After drinking some beers and playing a lot of foosball, it was 4 am and time to go to sleep. This day felt like 2 days.
On October 21st, we woke up early to head towards Gyeongju, which is a city north of Busan, to hike Mt Namsan. It was a great hike: during the way up you can see some temples and shrines, some call it an “open-air museum” but it’s a bit far-fetched. For dinner, we ate at a really great local restaurant called Dosol Maeul, then we stumbled upon a small music festival which was really fun, close to Cheomseongdae, which might be the oldest surviving astronomical observatory in the world (we thought it looked like a pizza oven and had no idea what it was at the time). Then we headed towards Anapji Pond, a famous Palace for past national events before going back to Busan.
On October 22nd, we headed towards Tongyeong. We weren’t able to do much that day due to a lot of transportation, and we wanted to take Mireuksan Cable Car but it was closed due to too much wind activity. We settled on doing some luge activity which was really fun, and watched a beautiful sunset on the islands nearby. We slept in the city. The next day, we woke up at 5 am to catch a bus that didn’t came (Google Maps old data), so we ended up taking a taxi to catch a ferry at 7 am to head towards Saryangdo, an Island south of Tongyeong. After arriving to Saryangdo, we took a taxi to go West of the island. Then, we started a wonderful long hike that went from West to East of the island – that took around 5 hours. Then, we headed back to Busan. Two of my friends had to come back to Taipei, I had two more days. We booked the day before a train ticket to Seoul, departing at 9:45 pm, arriving there at 3:15 am.
So, on October 24, we arrived at Seoul at 3:15 am and headed towards our hostel. Slept 6 hours, and went to do some hiking at Bukhansan National Park (it’s amazing how the city and the nature goes along in South Korea). We went to Baegundae Peak (highest peak in Bukhansan) and it was an amazing hike: autumn season was really here, the colors on the leafs were astounding, the view of the city from the top and the surroundings were all worth it. After the hike, we met with one of my friend who is doing an exchange semester in Seoul, we drank some beers and had dinner, it was nice to be able to see him there. Then we went to sleep.
On our last day, we did some sightseeing in Seoul, visiting Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung, two of the biggest Palace in South Korea. We saw the changing of the Guard which was a nice ceremony. Then at 4:15 pm we took the train back to Busan, and, after three different subway, we were back at Busan Airport to fly back to Taipei.
South Korea is a really beautiful country, I wasn’t expecting to find such beautiful hikes there, it was a great surprise. I felt that the country was cleaner than Taipei, and the people felt more outgoing. The climate is also way better for me than Singapour or Taipei. I don’t really know what’s the catch, but they have an unemployment rate of 3% and their economy seems to do good on the surface. I really felt like I was in an advanced country in the sense that the infrastructure is really good, you can find everything, you have very good internet connection and everything is clean (cleaner than Paris – even though that doesn’t say a lot).