by Burt Galang
Visiting Seoul twice for the past two years may be redundant for some. But for me, it is not the location, but who you are with. It is not the destination, but getting there that spells the difference. Seoul may be one of the cities you can keep coming back as it manifests diversity with its culture, technology and society.
Beyond the Filipino obsession on Kdrama, Kpop, Kfashion and Korean beauty products, Korea boasts a wide array of miscellany which may satisfy any discriminating taste.
Namsan Seoul Tower
Standing tall at 480 meters above sea level, what used to be a TV and radio broadcasting tower, now is considered as one of the icons in Seoul to represent its multi-cultural image. Atop provides you a spectacular sight of the city skyline. I personally have witnessed the view during daytime and night time. Getting there admittedly took me in awe. Apart from the fast elevator ride, riding the cable car gives you a slight shot of adrenaline.
TIP: from the wooden steps, the octagon park, the love lock walk and area to the led tunnel, one will not have enough time to explore the Namsan itself in just a few hours. Spare a whole day for this destination.
IWHA Mural Village
Located in the hillside of Mt. Naksan, you have to be foot prepared in exploring. What used to be considered for demolition more than a decade ago, is now a village comprised with invaluable murals and immeasurable works of art. This artistic tourism landmark proves to be a home for metal sculptures and colorful staircases.
Warning: Walking through the vast art works may trigger the inner artist in you.
Considered as one of the best places to visit in Seoul, this is the easiest and fastest way to take you back in time. By renting a hanbok, you can instantly time travel, while enjoying a picturesque backdrop of Korean architecture. This palace is considered as the largest in Seoul. It will definitely greet you with a jaw dropping infrastructure. You must be lucky if you will witness the changing of the guards ceremony. It is a traditional, yet amazing displace of coordination, timing and cultural experience all in one. Definitely a must see.
Surrounded by modern buildings, you can easily feel how modern architecture blends in with the traditional ones.
Tip: You may book a free student tour guide. The English speaking guide will accompany you in your trip.
Bukchon Hanok Village and Insadong
Stretching one’s Korean traditional experience will lead you to this 600-year old village of alleys, steps and roads. What was once the home for government officials and nobility now openly welcomes around 10,000 tourists daily. This now creates a problem of overtourism in this area.
Albeit the influx of tourists, both Bukchon Village and Insadong were able to preserve the old-fashioned vibe of the community.
Warning: If you want to enjoy the quaint and pleasing atmosphere of the village, keep your volume at a minimum. Residents who live there want a peace and quiet environment.
Known for its natural environment, this part of South Korea will definitely eat up at least a day in your travel. If you are the type of traveler who wants to put a check mark on quite a number on your bucket list, you can take on a 4-stop adventure to 1) Naminara Republic; 2) Petite France; 3) Garden of the Morning Calm; 4) Gangchon Rail Bike. But if you are the type of traveler who will savor what the place can offer, suggest you pick 2 or 3.
This French theme park in South Korea was inspired by the Little Prince, which will transport you to old French village, while ensuring that you will get an Instagram worthy shot. Built out of the owner’s love of France and fascination of French architecture, you can freely roam around at at your own pace. Surely, the kid in you will come out. It is colorful, striking and pleasing to the visual sense. To cap the French experience, puppet shows and demonstration are made available for you.
Naminara Republic (Nami Island)
A quick 10-minute (or less) boat ride will take you to one of the famous as one of the locations of Kdrama Winter Sonata. This moon-shaped island is also where the grave of General Nami is located. With approximately 4 kilometers in diameter, it serves as a perfect venue to ride a bike, or take a “walk in the park” with several tree lined paths and corners which will make your stay demand for more than half your day. Nami Island pays homage to different countries showing gratitude and how you say it in the local language. Located 63 kilometers away from Seoul, you must really put in some time for you to enjoy each different corners of the island.
Myeongdong was once famous as a protest and demonstration area in the 80’s and 90’s. Through time, this area is still being filled with people, but now for shopping purposes. Although considered one of the most expensive shopping districts in the world, tourists still flock the area for affordable cosmetics and souvenir spending. Free samples are a common thing here. So if you are crazy over freebies, then this place is right for you.
Home for indie art culture, Hongdae offers wide array of street art, from magic, dancing, to singing; basically street performance, on top of independent clothing line display. It is packed with creativity where one can experience the vibrancy of Seoul lifestyle. If you are up for a quick last minute shopping or a night of street performances, Hongdae is a place to check out.
Warning: Do not bring your credit card while shopping in these areas. You might overspend.
Your trip to Seoul will not be complete without a gastronomic satisfaction. The list is endless on what you can try over and over. My personal favorite is the blood sausage. It is a mix of steamed blood and glass noodles. It will be up to you if you want to make it extra salty. Good thing is, you can ask for a soup to go with it.
Being lost in a foreign country has become my hobby. Be it in Hongkong, Singapore, Japan and Thailand. However, exploring the vicinity will lead you to places that travel blogs often miss out on. They’re like hidden treasures in the hustle and bustle of city life. A gentle reminder: traveling is all about having fun. Enjoying every moment, whether planned or not. It is what will make your experience unique and enjoyable.