Travel Diary: 8 days in South Korea
I’m that someone who is soft-hearted and has a very sympathetic kind nature. When my doctor told me that i need to stop watching korean drama so i can have my heart rest i was devastated. His advise? Visit the country instead, so I did. Kidding aside we’ve been thinking this trip for a while and i think it’s either time or money that prevents us from doing so, okay probably money, nevertheless we went so!?. I’m not sure about you but when planning a vacation what’s the most important thing that you consider the most? For us, it’s the When? and just like every other tourist that was there when we visit Korea they thought the same thing… Let’s go Autumn.
I have set my expectation seeing trees and mountains, probably rivers, and yeah flawless/sparkling skin too. That doesn’t excite me, definitely not the girls (cough), Yes! you got it, its the Food!
We booked an eight day tour to South Korea, Our itinerary? Seoul > Busan > Seoul. For a change we didn’t go with Singapore Airlines and thought to try Korea’s flag carrier the Korean Air. Feedback? It’s pretty much the same service as Singapore, you have the LCD screen, earphones, pillow, blanket and food at least in the economy seat, i mean where else? 🙂 If i have to chose though i’ll go with Singapore Airlines, i think SQ have a slight advantage in terms of food and entertainment, there’s more to chose from.
Our Day to Day Complete Itinerary Guide
First Day! – Intro to South Korea. Seoul’s First Impression
“The thing i like the most about South Korea? It’s their people, Everyone we met is jolly and helpful”
My watch adjusted one hour in advance against my local time, The pilot greeted us Welcome to South Korea and my wife just woke up as usual.
Incheon International Airport it says, the people, the place, the food and the writings on the wall tell us we are indeed in South Korea. We redeem our WIFI and went straight to basement level to alight airport express train. There’s a machine where you scan the QR code of your ticket to get airport express train card, you’ll have to pay 500 korean won (refundable) for the card. We booked almost all of our tickets and attraction from Klook as we find them more convenient than any other platform.
Airport express took about one hour to reach Seoul it has a few stops and overall it was very convenient ride as the train is spacious and steadfast. Looking at the train map of South Korea you can’t help but be impress with their infrastructure. Subways serves as a convenient means of transportation in south korea and after a few transfers we’ve reach our hotel.
Hotel Mido Myeongdong is where we stay. I’d say you get what you paid for on this hotel. The room is small and the breakfast is average. Beside it’s very cheap price, location is the main reason why we choose this. So if you’re like us who’s not looking for pool, gym or great breakfast and just a room to rest and sleep? Then i highly recommend this hotel for its location.
How’s the weather there? It’s a common question if you’re someone coming from a tropical country like us. Autumn (for me) is the best time to visit South Korea. You still have the sun to give you light but lost its power due to the cold air and prevailing winds from Siberia that will keep you cool. Depends on who you ask, but for us it’s cold in South Korea during our visit, it’s about 9, 15, 8 celcius in the morning, afternoon and night.
Sungnyemun Gate, Namsan Park and N Seoul Tower
After leaving our luggage at the hotel we head straight to nowhere, yup we just want food and dont care where we are. We know that our hotel is surrounded by busy traffic and intersection but we never knew that myeongdong and namdaemun market is walkable from our hotel. So after few mins of walking we found ourselves in the middle of crowded place called namdaemun market.
A quick bite at namdaemun market and vacation officially start. Yehey!. First stop the Sungnyemun Gate, It’s few steps away from nandaemun and in the middle of intersection. One of many gates you will see in Seoul. We were lucky enough to observe changing of the guard ceremonies in their colorful costumes so I suggest visit this place noon time.
We didn’t book any tour going to Seoul Tower. We’re confident enough with our fitness and compass skills. This is the time where we enable the so called heuristic method (having our phone that is). So we started walking from namdaemun to Seoul tower and… How was it? tiring! Its not the distance but the steep mountain slope that is more challenging but then again we are fit. lol and hey it’s Namsan park.
After kew kilometers of walking we reach Seoul tower. From here you’ll get to see love locks, observatory tower, shops, art galleries and many more. Don’t get your hopes too high in getting that romantic selfie with your love one because going there during autumn is like going to the mall on black friday sale. There’s a cultural show around 3:30PM so be mindful of the time as this is a very good show to miss. Only feedback is that there’s not much food option around the area, so we decided to head back home and have a quick bite again at Namdaemun market. Yes we walk again but this time its a different route. My suggestion is you take a bus if you can take a bus or found a bus going back to city. We didn’t and it’s a mistake. 🙁
2nd Day! – Nami Island, The Best of Autumn
Some call this place “The Republic of Love” i dont know why i just thought of saying that, k-drama maybe? Anyway Nami island is probably one of the most awaited and touristy place to visit in South Korea during autumn and once you’ve been there you would understand why.
Just like Seoul tower we didn’t book a tour to Nami island, I don’t know, I just dislike group tour because we hate the idea that somebody is waiting for us. We want to move and decide for ourselves without having anyone dictates us that hey its time to go. Anyway we woke up and left very early by 7am we are already at Yongsan station, From Yongsan we took ITX train to Gapyeong station. It takes about 60-70mins from Yongsan to Gapyeong so better to take your breakfast while in transit. From Gapyeong station you can either take a bus or a cab to ferry terminal where you’ll queue for ticket (13,000 won entrance fee + ferry fare) and board to Nami island. We took a cab to Ferry since we’re too early for the bus. The ferry will take probably 15mins or less. Oh we also saw a zipline to Nami Island but we didn’t bother to check. You might want to consider that if you want additional adventure.
Winter Sonata, no! It’s not a song. That’s the k-drama that featured Nami Island’s stunning scenery landscape. Like every tourist who step foot onto Nami Island we are in awe of the colorful trees. The maple leaves and the shades of red and orange that paints the island is just exquisite. I couldn’t help but cry eureka after seeing the place. As what the name says it’s an island, a park that provide a popular escape from city life. We did stroll along some famous path line with tall metasequoias. You can rent an ebike or waterski to enjoy more of its natural surroundings. For us? just walk and we have to go somewhere less crowded to take a selfie, lol.
We reach the end of Nami and head back by walking on the other side of the island. A good timing for lunch too. Inside Nami island there’s a plenty of restaurant to choose from so no worries if you have narrow preference when it comes to food. We decided to eat at Gomok Restaurant. We had the Pine Nut Pane Cream Pasta and BBQ Ribs. Verdict? i mean its bbq ribs and pasta of course its delicious. By 12noon we head back to ferry and locate the bus stop for our next destination
Disaster at Gangchon Rail Park
We had our plan that from Nami Island we go to Gangchon Rail Park then Gardens of the Morning Calm, only when we have time we go to Petite France. From Nami we made a series of mistake and well unfortunate events, first by riding the wrong bus going to Gangchon Rail Park, Mis-timing the bus arrival going to gardens, caught on traffic for more than an hour and lastly we forgot to book Gangchon Rail Park in advance in the thought that we can just buy a ticket on premise. Lesson learn – Book Gangchon Rail Park in Advance. Overall we missed the rest due to time constraint. We went to Gardens of the Morning Calm but didn’t go inside as we don’t think it’s worth paying the entrance fee for a limited time. By 7pm we head back to train station bound to Seoul. We have schedule our ITX ticket to board 7:10pm going back to Seoul but since we missed it we have to reschedule and compromise our seat plan.
Our 2nd day is a mix emotion but overall was a great experience Nami island is worth a day but every cloud has a silver lining and since we felt a lil bit sad esp the rail park we decided to go korean barbeque that night to ease the pain. 🙂
3rd Day! Happy EVERland After
Lotte World vs Everland? Which Korea theme park should we go? Well we obviously went Everland for this but we remember having this dilemma while choosing and worst thing is we wouldn’t find out if we made the right choice or not, at least not in a few years time.
From our hotel we head straight to Hoehyeon mrt and a series of transfers we reach Gangnam station. From Gangnam station take exit 10 and locate bus 5002 bus stop. Bus 5002 will take you to Everland resort via expressway, there’s an Everland shuttle waiting on the boundary that will take you in front of Everland gate. Bus 5002 takes about 75mins and everland opens at 10am so depending on how far you are from Gangnam you can adjust your travel time accordingly. Of course only when you have to take this route. We left at Hoehyeon around 7:30am and reach everland around 9:45am.
At the entrace gate we were greeted with souveniers shops and cafes. Everland has five theme zone and each has their own signature rides. The most famous is probably the T-express roller coast of the European Adventure Zone. Contrary to my wife I hate riding “extreme” roller coaster because I’m scared. That’s It! I’m scared! Have you seen final destination movie? Like why would i ride on something i’m pretrified of. Anyway zootopia is probably my favorite zone, you know kids stuff.
We did a few rides like the Amazon Express, Skyway and many more. There’s also Kid-friendly rides and more importanty snacks are pretty much on every corner. I don’t have a negative feedback for this tour for me its worth your time and highly recommended.
We left Everland around 5:30pm boarding the same Bus 5002 to GangNam station. Since we have time we decided to visit Lotte World Tower. From Gangnam station just take mrt to Jamsil Station and five stops after you’ll reach Korea’s tallest tower. We roam inside the mall and visit the park. This is a very good place to jog if you ask me. We had another another korean bbq for dinner before going back to our hotel and calling it a night. One thing that we noticed in South Korea though is that most shops and restaurants close early. Like literally 9:00PM and we are having a hard time finding some place to eat.
4th Day! Naejangsan National Park and Jeonju Hanok Village
In Korea autumn falls in the months of September, October, and November. One of the best place to experience this crisp weather and the beautiful autumn foliage is at Naejangsan National Park. Naejangsan is a mountain located on the border of North Jeolla and South Jeolla provinces in southwestern South Korea, approximately three hours drive south of Seoul.
Going to Jeongeup will take a series of transfer, from HoehYeon mrt we alight at Seoul station and transfer to Line 1 bound to YongSan and from Yongsan we take ITX bound for Jeongeup. Once you reach Jeongeup you have to cross the road and look for bus stop of Bus 171. The bus will take probably 45mins travel time to Naejangsan park. A few mins walk you will reach the entrance where you will have to pay for ticket to the park.
Once you’re inside the park you have two option to go to the temple, either you take a bus (with fare) or walk about 1.2km and enjoy the scenery? easy choice! we walk and made tons of selfies along the way. It depends on your fitness i guess but i highly recommend walking if you can. There’s some few cafes and restaurants inside the park but for us we brought along some sandwichess and chocolate bars with us in the idea that there isn’t. It’s better to be safe than sorry esp if you have a wife thats never mind!
We reach the temple and the end of one trail (there’s more) We took rest abit and decided to take a shuttle this time going back to the exit gate. We left almost 12:00pm board the same bus 171 to Jeongeup for our next destination the Jeonju Hanok Village
Jeonju Hanok Village
We went back to Jeongeup station, book train ticket to Iksan Station and then transfer from Iksan Station to Jeonju Station. From Jeonju station we took a cab to Jeonju Hanok Village.
There’s no wonder why they call this a slow city because the moment we step onto Jeonju Hanok Village we feel like the world stops, literally. The place is very quite and people moves very softly, I dont know just feels different. I guess its the effect of the houses surrounding it? Anyway this is the place where you can see all ages wearing the korean traditional custome hanbok, They’re every where and every corner of the street. For us we had some few selfies and tons of streetfood. I feel like the food is better here than Seoul at least the street food.
Took us about 90mins to stroll the village, it’s too early for our ticket so we go back to Jeonju station and see if we can reschedule. Unfortunately we cant as its a first come first serve basis. What did we do? go out and explore Jeonju, and… not much to see 🙂 We went back to train station and board our 7:00PM ticket back to Seoul. This day feels very long thus i have a good sleep in the train in preparation for tomorrows city exploration. Seoul!
5th Day! Exploring Seoul – The City Tour
Yesterday would be hard to top, Maybe i’m biased because it was nature, nonetheless we are excited to see majestic palaces and eat korean snacks for this day.
We left 8:00 am bound for Gwanghwamun Square, we take Exit 7 at Gwanghamun Station for scenic view with the first attraction the Statue of the famous naval commander, Admiral Yi Sun-Sin who was instrumental in the propagation of the Hangul alphabet. From our location we can see the entrance of Gyeongbokgung Palace which is meters away. This palace served as the residence of the Joseon dynasty rulers. Here you’ll find the National Folk Museum, National Palace Museum, and a number of traditional Korean gardens. Palace is huge so i advise to go early if you want to see every corner and take more pictures. For us the highlight would be the changing of the royal guard ceremony at 10:00am. We probably stayed here for 90min.
Hanok Village, Insadong, Cheonggyecheon Stream and Myeongdong Shopping
11:30am we started walking from Gyeongbokgung to Hanok village. Took us about 20mins, well depends on how fast you walk as well. Spoiler alert we did not take any transportation in any of this attraction (again). Hanok village is as expected touristy but quiet as technically it’s a neighbourhood with people living in the area. We had a very surprising lunch at Byuck-O-Dong restaurant, we had japchae and bulgogi, This place is not easy to find but I highly recommend this place for lunch.
We continue our journey by walking south and about 500meters you’ll see a crowded shopping district, this place is called Insadong. We tried the famous korean honey candy dessert and bought a few sourvenirs there. At the end of Insadong you’ll see Tapgol Park we didn’t bother to even enter since from the outside its not interesting, We turn right instead and maybe another 500meters there’s a stream, Yup! That’s the famous Cheonggyecheon Stream. It’s impressive how South Korea transform this to a popular tourist spot, i mean this is supposed to be a canal right? Anyway here you’ll also finds some shops and korean food but highly recommended to visit this place at night (we did on our last day 🙂 )
We got tired so we took a rest at Angel us coffee we tried there new mint coffee which is not really nice. I could’ve just order a regular coffee. sigh! Our last stop would be at Myeongdong shopping district where we plan to have some snacks. This area is big but manageable, crowded but have space to move. Popular among young, local and travellers. Myeongdong offers local and international brands from clothing to make up and many more. So if you have plan to go shopping for yourself or for souvenirs this is the place.
We bought some food souvenirs and we feel street food wont cut it so we had a formal dinner at GoGung restaurant. We visit Myeongdong Cathedral for our last stop before walking back to our hotel. This day is very productive as we are at our hotel about 5pm. We have rest, woke up at 7pm and yes! went back to Myeongdong to have food again. 🙂 – I never thought that this day would be such a highlight but surprisingly it is. I guess i under estimated korea’s modern urban district.
6th Day! Train to Busan
We have our personal gears ready, guns and crossbow’s loaded, we fear no Zombie! Yes we are brave enough to go Busan! This is us joking before going to bed to prepare for our busan trip. For everyones benefit this is in reference to the korean hit movie Train to Busan.
We say goodbye to Hotel Mido and thanks everyone for their hospitality it was really a very good experience staying at this hotel. From Hoehyeon mrt we go Seoul station and transfer to KTX line bound to Busan. The train will take about 3hrs travel time and as usual we take out and have our breakfast inside the train.
After three hours we arrived at Busan station from here we transfer to line 1 bound to Jagalchi staion. My first impression is that busan look old, like anciet town i must say and no not in a bad way nor derogatory. It’s hard to explain but imagine you’re in rural area with trains. Anyway a few min walk from the train station and we found our, Welcome to Aventree Hotel Busan. Aventree is a 3.5 star hotel so our expectation is a bit higher than that of Mido and we weren’t disappointed. The room is big and a good view of busan streets too. We have a buffet breakfast with a combination of chinese, korean and western cuisine.
After taking lunch we start our Busan trip by going to Gamcheon Culture Village. We took bus 2 which took about 15min travel time from Jagalchi.
As expected Gamcheon is paradise for instagrammers, We took few photos and visit some picturesque attraction but didn’t stay here long or join the group of young kids roaming the area, instead we head to our next stop… Samgwangsa Temple,
Samgwangsa Temple is surprisingly the best place i’ve been to Busan and it’s personal! this place calms my mind and my soul, maybe it’s the song. This place is very quite and sacred, you’ll seee people praying and offering. If only we have time i’ll stay here longer. We stay here for about 45mins and go back to Jagalchi for our market tour.
Gukje and Jagalchi Market
We went back to our hotel and have a short rest, We just came from Seoul remember? Few hrs and we visit Market. Yes! Foodtrip time. Gukje and Jagalchi market are very close to each other so this will depend on where you stay
I cant remember how many streetfood we tried but i think it’s good enough that we didn’t take any formal dinner that night.
7th Day! Busan’s Natural Beauty
Good Morning Busan! technically our first morning in Busan and a very good one indeed after seeing Aventree’s hotel buffet breakfast prepared for us. We had a heavy breakfast this time knowing that our next destination might take a while. Maybe an hour travel time for each of the attraction. We started late about 10:00am and we have tons of transfers for this trip. We have Taejongdae, Oryukdo Skywalk, Haeundae Beach and Haedong Yonggung Temple in our Itinerary today.
From Jagalchi we take bus 30 which goes straight to Taejongdae, Taejongdae is a mountain park and a cliff. There’s no entrace fee you can either walk or take a tram (2,000 won) – We took tram this time as its about 2km walk with gravity against you so easy decision. The tram will pass Observatory →Yeongdo Lighthouse → Gumyeongsa Temple → Taewon Jagal Madang and go back to where you came from. Its up to you if you want to alight the tram and enjoy the scenery which obviously you should from station to station.
We stayed here for about an hour excluding travel time, We grab some finger food and off we go to Oryukdo Skywalk.
Our next stop is Oryukdo Skywalk, from Taejongdae we go back Bus 30, then bus 1006 then bus 27, did i mention we had alot of transfers on this trip? surely we did. Oryukdo Skywalk is a very relaxing place with great views, It’s almost same as Taejongdae but with better view. We stayed here about one hour as well. Few selfies and we go next to Haedong Yonggung Temple
We choose Haedong Yonggung Temple first instead of Haeundae Beach as we felt we dont have much time to see both thus we have to choose and we thought the temple is a better choice.
The finger food didn’t do much so we decided to look for a food and as usual the struggle in finding korean restaurant is really serious drawback in this entire trip. We settled for food at the mrt station still delicious but not what we envision. That decision to eat cost us too much hence the butterfly effect – We missed the next bus going to the temple and little do we know the bus has a 30min interval, no choice but to wait!
Since we wasted almost two hrs and we knew we couldn’t make it to the Haeundae Beach we hurry up to at least catch a glimpse of Haedong Yonggung Temple. From Oryukdo we take bus bus 27 to Kyungsung University then take MRT to Jangsan then take bus 9 to Haedong Yonggung Temple i know right so many transfer, We’re used to it. We arrived around 5:30PM at the temple and just so you know it’s already dark/night in korea at that time. We still manage to roam around the temple and wasn’t disappointed. I guess i have an internal satisfaction when it comes to sacred places. Anyway past 6:30pm we head back to Jagalchi just reversing our route. We head straight to Busan Lotte Mall to look for a small luggage. We go back to the market for dinner and another night of food trip. This will be our last night in Busan and a very good one indeed.
8th (Last) Day! Shopping at Myeongdong, Kamsahamnida South Korea!
We woke up tired, sad and happy. I guess i don’t need to explain those emotion as on top of this we kinda missed home as well so we’re excited to go back.
From Jagalchi we head back to Busan station and take KTX bound to Seoul. We schedule this day as our shopping day so we store our luggage first in one of many lockers available in the seoul station. We paid about 4,000 won for 8hrs. We missed going to Seoul Plaza and Deoksugung on our first day so we decided to have a look and probably one of best decision we made the entire trip as Deoksugung is a gem, it’s a luxurious ancient palace within a metropolis. You’ll get to see beautiful maple trees as well. From here we walk and roam Seoul plaza, not much and we were not able to enter the library as we cannot find the entrance, or maybe its close since it’s a weekend? We didn’t bother to push it since it’s our last day and we kinda want to go shopping already.
From here on we went to Myeongdong and buy as much souvenirs as we can, from t-shirts to waffle biscuits, to facial mask and many more. I did mention we went back to Cheonggyecheon Stream at night? We did for this particular and as expected the stream is very lively, lovely and crowded at night 🙂 it’s really beautiful at night.
We went back to Seoul station and get our luggage around 8:00PM, redeem airport express ticket and board Korean Air bound to Singapore.
In a modern socieity South Korea is very rich in Entertainment industry, Electronics and Fashion and Makeup something i’m not a fan of but at the same time they’re also known for its hilly countryside, colourful maples trees and centuries-old temples something i enjoyed the most. Weather in South Korea is really great, Transportation is one of the best i’ve been, The people is amazing and the metropolis is just terrific. Food is okay for me and before you raise your eyebrows i’ve been to many places in asia so i can’t help but compare each others cuisine, so There.
Overall it was a great experience, would i come back? Absolutely! this one’s for the books and i’m happy to tell this stories from Generations to come. Once again Kamsahamnida South Korea!