The last time I travelled to Korea was in 2016. That was my first and only visit, and it feels like a lifetime ago.
To be honest, all overseas trips feel like a lifetime ago.
For those who have been following K-pop or K-dramas, a holiday in Korea might have been on your 2020 checklist.
While you have had to shelf this travel plan for now, it’s more important than ever to make that eventual trip worthwhile. A “daebak” (epic) one.
So why not spend some time perfecting your itinerary?
Venture beyond Seoul
I spent close to two weeks in Seoul and Busan.
Although Seoul is more tourist-friendly, Busan offers a different but equally authentic Korean experience, where the pace of life is much slower.
As a first-timer in Korea who could barely say more than just “Annyeonghaseyo” (hello), “Kamsahamnida” (thank you) and “Chogiyo” (excuse me), we spent the first few days in Seoul, where the language barrier was not too much of a problem, before venturing to Busan.
Getting out of Seoul definitely makes a trip to Korea more interesting.
Other than Busan, Jeju Island is also ideal for people looking for a different getaway.
Generally, there are local places of interest, food and cultural activities in every province. Many K-drama spots and gorgeous sites are outside Seoul.
For the less adventurous, you can simply join a tour. That said, you should definitely consider travelling out of Seoul.
10/10 more fun.
If you really want authentic food, go to the local markets
Even though there are many Korean restaurants in Singapore, you will probably be curious about what the “real deal” tastes like in the country of origin.
Bingsu, Jjajangmyeon, Ginseng chicken soup, army stew etc… Trust me, I could eat them all again right now.
However, I must say that the most memorable and delicious dishes are ones that we decided to eat on the fly. (Okay, we did double check their Google reviews before trying their food.)
One place I will highly recommend and return to is Busan’s Jagalchi market.
Jagalchi market is the largest seafood market in the city, and it features various seafood eateries.
The fresh and delicious seafood stew and porridge I had at Jagalchi market definitely left an impression on me.
Yums, still thinking about it after four years.
Local markets certainly have their unique charms and reveal a rather endearing side of large metropolises like Seoul and Busan.
In Seoul, you can visit the Gwangjang market, which is one of the oldest traditional markets in South Korea (it’s been operating since 1905).
I was impressed by the rows of food laid out at the centre of the market, consisting of stacks of gimbaps, huge blood sausages, japchae and more. Besides food items, there were also other hand-made items.
Definitely an eye-opener and must-go when you’re there.
Forgive my potato photos taken four years ago which definitely do not do these yummy dishes justice.
Speaking of food, please don’t leave Korea without trying some grilled meat.
You’ve probably seen scenes of office workers having soju or beer over grilled pork belly in K-dramas.
I felt that my trip was only completed after checking this off the list.
Because when in Korea, do as the Koreans do.
Time travelling to Joseon dynasty
Even in a cosmopolitan city like Seoul, you will find five grand palaces.
Changdeokgung Palace is my absolute favourite and it’s described as the most beautiful one among the five by Lonely Planet.
Changdeokgung Palace is a royal villa with a tranquil secret garden. The beautiful architecture is adorned with lush greenery.
That said, another palace you can consider is Gyeongbokgung Palace which “is arguably the most beautiful” one, according to KTO.
Near or within these palaces, you can easily find hanbok rental service if you wish to transport yourself to the Joseon era.
No one is going to judge you because they will all be doing it.
Trying the hanbok really adds to the fun so chalk that down as another thing to do in Korea.
Breathtaking scenery that you must not miss
There’s really no lack of nature sites in South Korea — rocky cliffs, beaches, mountains, rivers and forests.
If you find this sight somewhat familiar, yes it is one of the filming spots in popular Korean drama Globin.
What’s even more interesting is that these natural landscapes change with the seasons.
Most Singaporeans would have marked South Korea as one of the places to visit during the period of March to April for its cherry blossoms.
During my trip last June, a place I really enjoyed visiting is the Taejongdae Resort Park in Busan.
It is a cliffed coast formed by many layers of rock forced together beneath a lake during the Cretaceous period, and then worn down over time by the sea.
You can find breathtaking sea views as well as interestingly shaped stones.
And of course, more tummy space for food after a good hike at Taejongdae.
Shop till you drop
Seoul is definitely a shopping haven that I dearly miss (but my wallet doesn’t).
I won’t say the items in Korea are really cheap but the shopping experience is as shiok as they come.
You will simply be spoilt for choice, ranging from cosmetic and facial products to clothes and food.
I’ll definitely miss the streets of Hongdae and Myeongdong and small boutiques you can find in Seoul which sell apparel and accessories at similar (or slightly cheaper) prices as that in Singapore.
My hat, tote bag and dress were all bought in Korea on the first two days of my trip.
Oh, and did I mention? I spent all the money on the last day at Lotte mart on all the snacks too.
What I miss the most? Being a tourist.
Amid the Covid-19 situation, what I miss the most is to be a carefree tourist again. *SIGH*
Being a tourist in Korea can be particularly exhilarating as it feels as though you are being transported into the world of K-drama which can be surreal.
After a year of being in Singapore, what one accumulates is not just annual leave days but also more bucks to spend on the next travel trip to give ourselves a good pampered break (I hope).
Create your Korea itinerary and win prizes
That said, if you want to make the most out of your hard earned money, you can start looking out for discount deals and promotional packages.
The Korea Tourism Organisation Singapore is partnering with a few Korean airlines and Lotte Hotels & Resorts to offer exclusive flight and hotel discount deals which you can find out more about here.
You can also participate in their “My Korean Itinerary” contest and stand a chance to win prizes like a LG TV, Samsung Galaxy Note 20, Samsung Galaxy Tab S7.
All you need to do is to send a 6D5N itinerary including destinations and activities to do at least Seoul or Busan.
Find out more about the contest details here.
The writer of this sponsored article by Korea Tourism Organisation is set to go to Korea when she can. Top image via Unsplash and by Zheng Zhangxin.