So for all of you planning to go Korea for your exchange programme, I can safely assume that you (just like me) would definitely want to try exploring out of Seoul. So in this post, I would tell you more about how you can start planning for your little getaway and my reviews on the places I have been to.
First and foremost, if you are planning to cover a few places outside of Seoul, it is most economical to purchase a Korail pass. With a Korail pass, you can take unlimited number of both high-speed (KTX) and conventional trains. You can choose to buy a 1-day, 3-day, 5-day, or 7-day pass. For me, I bought the 7-day pass at KRW141,400. TIP #1: Please input your credit card details when you’re booking your pass. This is so that you can receive and print out your e-ticket before you reach Seoul Station. Korail will not deduct any money from your card before you reach the counter, so don’t you worry. I didn’t punch in my credit card details to lock in my reservation so I ended up going up and down of Seoul Station just to re-book my pass again and to get my e-ticket printed out. (Korail webpage: https://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfKrPassAbout.do)
Secondly, even though you’re not leaving out of South Korea, YOU NEED YOUR PASSPORT. This is just for the Korail pass though, because if I’m not wrong, the locals cannot purchase it. My roommate and I forgot ours (I know right!? Of all things!!), and we had to make a detour. SO YES, once you have your passport, your e-ticket, and your bag packed for an adventure, make your way down to Seoul Station (Subway Line 1, 4, Gyeongui Line & Airport Railroad). Once you’re there, you will see people queuing up to get tickets for the trains. But before you be all Singaporean and join the queue, please find this BLUE ROOF station to get your Korail pass. Once you get your ticket, you can proceed to queue for your tickets at where everybody else is queuing at!
So in case you’re confused, this is where you should get your Korail pass from first:
And this is where you should proceed to go after getting your Korail pass:Photo from http://that-randomgirl.blogspot.kr/2014/09/guide-to-korails-o-train-v-train.html
Just to let you understand how Korail pass works; once you get your pass, you have to book every single train station from Point A to Point B. It does not work like MRT concession, where you can just freely tap in and out of any gantry. So if you’re planning to go on a 3-day trip to Daegu, Busan, and Gyeongju respectively, you have to book 4 tickets as follows:
- Seoul > Dongdaegu
- Dongdaegu > Busan
- Busan > Singyeongju
- Singyeongju > Seoul
I hope I’ve covered enough for you to get by… But anyway, let me start talking about the places I’ve been to 🙂
Suwon:They say if you can’t get to the Great Wall of China, come to the Wall of Korea. The Hwaseong Fortress is a nice place to go if you like to see the fortress itself and fancy walking the entire “wall”. Okay, I know for sure my photo is not doing the fortress justice… But it was really awesome for me!!! (Not for my friend who already visited the Great Wall of China though) Plus, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site so please don’t let my photo stop you from visiting the fortress. Sadly when I was there, I planned to go to 2 more places after Suwon and thus, had no time to cover the entire “wall”. If I have the chance, I’ll definitely return to cover the entire fortress 🙂
+Directions to Hwaseong Fortress:
KTX Seoul > KTX Suwon
Take Bus 5, 60, 66, 310 or 900 from 수원.AK프라자 (Suwon.AK Plaza) to 장안공원 (Jangan Gongwon)
* It’ll take you about 21 minutes and the bus fare should cost 1,250won
After Suwon, my roommate and I tried traveling to Gwangmyeong. “Tried” is the keyword because for some reason, we couldn’t get to the station via KTX nor subway… My roommate tried conversing with the guy at the train station but we couldn’t make out what he was trying to say. So a really nice random guy came and tried to help us. In the end, he offered us a ride to Gwangmyeong from where we were and even toured the Gwangmyeong cave with us!Photo from http://lightkorea.blogspot.kr/2014/11/a-beautiful-rebirth-of-abandoned-mine.html
The cave, is an ABSOLUTE beauty. The weather was scorching hot but once I stepped into the cave, it was extremely cooling. And nope, there weren’t air conditioners installed. It was purely the nature of the cave. They have a few interesting exhibitions in the cave itself and there was this free tasting wine station that I loved (but not the nice guy; he said it was too sweet). I would definitely recommend ANYONE to this cave but travelling to the cave is a huge problem. We only made it there because the nice guy drove us up the mountain. I’m not too sure if there’s public transport to the cave or if the cab drivers can bring you to the right place. Anyhow, if you can converse well in Korean, you ought to make your way to the Gwangmyeong cave! 🙂
The only reason why I planned Daejeon in the itinerary was because of the Jjimjilbang (찜질방) resort I found online. But once I reached Daejeon station, I can’t help but to see a long queue outside this bakery called Sung Sim Dang (성심당). So my Singaporean self HAD to check it out. The bakery was really efficient because even though I joined the long queue, it reached my turn in less than 10 minutes. And oh boy am I glad to have found that piece of treasure. It was probably the BEST pastry I’ve eaten in Korea. The crisp of the croquette and the ratio of the bread and the filling was seriously just perfect. I heard many locals stop by Daejeon station just to buy the croquettes before they travel back to their next destination. If you’ve purchased the KTX pass, think no more and stop by Daejeon just to have a taste of Sung Sim Dang’s famous pastry. Trust me you won’t regret it 😛
Okay so back to the Jjimjilbang (찜질방), my roommate and I stayed over at Dong Bang Sak Leports (동방삭레포츠) for just 10,000won. Our objective was just to find a cheap accommodation and enjoy some boiled eggs as well as sikhye 식혜 (sweet rice punch). But if you want to enjoy the full and best range of hot springs and sauna, I would highly recommend the Dragon Hill Spa (드래곤힐스파) at Yongsan (용산). Nevertheless, Dong Bang Sak Leports was a nice place for us to spend the night at albeit its limited facilities. But for a mere 10,000won, it’s all good! 🙂
+Directions to Dong Bang Sak Leports:
KTX Seoul > KTX Daejeon (Exit 1)
Take bus 514, 606 or 705 from 대전역 (Daejeon station) to 서구보건소 (Seo-gu Bokonso). After the bus ride, try to map your way there. It should take you about 5 minutes to reach the resort.
* The bus ride should take you about 45 minutes and cost 1,250won
+Directions to Dragon Hill Spa:
Take the Subway Line 1 towards Incheon to reach Yongsan station.
Leave the station via Exit 1 and take the escalator down. You should be able to see the resort across the road on your right.
There are so many things to see at Gyeongju! I’ve spent 3 days in total in Gyeongju and I think that’s more than enough to cover everything I want to see. On my first day after settling down, I went to the Cheomseongdae Observatory (경주 첨성대) and was honestly a little underwhelmed by the observatory. BUT fortunately, I waited patiently for the sunset and was greatly rewarded :>^ Cheomseongdae Observatory: Highly recommended to go a sunset!!!
After the sunset, my roommate and I walked a little further to see the highly raved Anapji pond (안압지). You’ve to pay 2,000won admission fee to see the beautiful pond and I personally think it’s best to see it at night. It’ll be super crowded so please brace yourself for it. I like this place but some of my friends thought it was underwhelming. 🙁 Nonetheless, see it for yourself!^ Anapji Pond
On day 2, my roommate and I travelled to Namsan Mountain to hike in the morning. You’re meant to reward yourself with many interesting sights along the way, but for some reason, we took the wrong route and failed to catch any of them L It was a good 3-hour hike up and down the mountain, and the view at the top of mountain was breathtaking. If you feel like being adventurous, go ahead and conquer the Namsan Mountain 😉
My last day in Gyeongju, unfortunately, was the most underwhelming one. I had to travel really far to reach the Bulguksa temple and see the Seokguram Grotto. Due to time constraints, I did not enter the temple and went to take the bus to see the Grotto. You have to pay 5,000won for admission and another 15 minutes walk to the Grotto. Since the Grotto is highly protected, you cannot take photos of it nor walk around it to see its structure. There will be a glass between you and the Grotto, and other than paying my respects to it, there’s nothing much you can do. Since I didn’t enter the temple, I can’t say much about it except that it’s admission is 8,000won. So my word is, unless you are very interested in history, you can give the temple and grotto a miss.
—(Photo from http://han30513051.tistory.com/315)
I spent a really short time at Ulsan once again due to time constraints. 🙁 Nonetheless, I would recommend you to visit the Daewangam Park (대왕암공원)! It reminds me of Urk somehow hahaha (hello fellow DOTS fans)~ After which, please visit Namaskar Indian restaurant! It has really good Indian food!!! Totally fulfilled my Indian cuisine cravings after 4 months in Korea…
Apart from these, Daegu (Seomun Market) + Busan (Seomyeon Street) were just filled with more and more food adventures. This is the thing about me. After hiking Namsan Mountain, my body feels that it should reward itself with LOTS of food. And once I start, I can’t stop. Oh well. What’s new. As long as we’re happy right? 😉
Of course, there are MANY more places to go so please be sure to explore everywhere to the fullest and don’t be like me T.T And I have no idea I’ve written this much. If you have any questions, feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂