It was hard to say goodbye. But good things do come to an end. However, we still have a few hours before our flight which leaves at 21:20. So we checked out and without prior plan, we headed to Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). This place is huge and it was very easy to get lost inside. It was really impressive.
Then we decided to go to Gwangjang Market to check out the stall featured on Netflix’ Street Food Asia. It was such an experience and the knife cut noodles was good and this market is really clean.
Some take aways from this holiday:
Good walking shoes are important. We were walking more than 10 kilometres each day.
TMoney is a must have when using public transport!
I didn’t use Naver Map, although, I have it on my phone. I guess I’m just too familiar with Google Map and it worked well.
I didn’t use the Kakao T app either, although, I also have it on my phone. We didn’t need to ride a taxi at all.
Having a Wifi router with us all the time was very good. I highly recommend it and we only paid 39 EUR for the entire 14 days.
Buy your flight tickets early as prices tend to spike up.
Book accommodation that has free cancellation because there might be changes along the way.
I love that I got to listen to music in South Korea that I’m familiar with. I love that South Korea has an efficient and affordable public transport. I especially love taking the bus as I enjoy looking out. I love that they have clean toilets everywhere. I love that South Korea is generally clean and that I don’t have to think twice whether I should eat street food or not. I love that restaurant meals include drinking water. I’m not a fan of buying bottled water. I love that there is no tipping as we are not use to that in Europe. I love the fun of navigating the language barrier and being able to use the very few Korean words that I know. I love that the people we’ve met were really kind and helpful. You get the sense that they do care. I felt safe in South Korea. There was no single moment when I felt that I was in a dangerous situation. (CCTVs are everywhere!)
I can truly say that it was an amazing holiday. I’m so glad that we did it at the right time when the Cherry Blossom was in full bloom. We also got to fly over the North Pole on our way back to Helsinki and we have Diplomas to prove it. 😀 Lastly, I’m happy that the 50th country I’ve visited is South Korea. Bye for now, Seoul. Until next time!
The rain continued the next day but that didn’t stop us from our plan of going to the N Seoul Tower for our last evening in Seoul. But before that, we visited the Seoul Museum of History and learned about how Seoul became how it is now. This city changed a lot and progressed rapidly in such a short span of time. I really love the model of the City of Seoul where we can see Seoul at a glance. It was fun to check out the places where we have been over the last days. The museum is free entrance and it was quite empty.
So now off to N Seoul Tower. The cable car is just a walking distance from our hotel and the rain stopped. The Daebak Company gave us free tickets to N Seoul Tower and two free drinks. Yes, it was not raining anymore but it was very foggy. The staff at the ticket counter told me that we can reuse the tickets within three months because it was a very foggy day. We went up anyway and enjoyed our drinks. I thought the fog was very pretty and showed me another side of Seoul.
This day was a rainy day and we went to see the Lotte World Tower. Although the main reason was to really see the Seokchon Lake surrounded by Cherry Blossom. It was really pretty. We were sat infront of the Lotte World Magic Island when the light rain started pouring. It was a good idea that when we were heading to Lotte World Mall, I decided to get us some umbrellas at the convenience store. I felt confident that way than all the time worrying if the rain comes.
When we went back to Myeongdong, the rain kept going and I can’t believe why some people still haven’t invested on an umbrella! 🙂 But we continued exploring the food street and enjoyed a bite of this and that. Street food in Myeongdong is a must!
This day was very special because were were visiting the Daebak Company in Hongdae. They were in the process of packing the Spring Boxes so the office has pretty Spring boxes in every corner. I really enjoyed seeing the process and all the hard work they put into it. I was also interviewed for their SNS and I really enjoyed talking about my Korean experience. It was also so lovely to meet new people and learn new things. They treated us to coffee and to a very fancy lunch at a traditional restaurant with our own private room, just like in K-Dramas when the conglomerates meet. 🙂 I really appreciate that they took time for us amidst their busy schedule. I love hearing their stories and getting to know them.
Then we walked around Hongdae but there were not lots to see during the daytime. So I hope to visit Hongdae again someday. But we went in for coffee at Koriko Cafe. So cute! I can’t resist buying some Studio Ghibli merch. We went back to the hotel so that we can take the tripod to prepare for the night shots of the bridges. I really wanted to see the Banpo Bridge though but we ended up by the Hanggang Bridge which was really pretty at night and we also walked over it. Well, maybe next time I’ll get to see the Banpo Bridge.
We took the KTX train back to Seoul and this time we stayed in Myeongdong. Our hotel was in middle of all the action. There were food carts everywhere. There were shops everywhere. The first thing we did after check-in was to have an evening walk along Cheonggyecheon all the way to Gwanghwamun Square. It was a Saturday and there were lots of people and yet Cheonggyecheon has a peaceful feel to it. We passed by a studio and there was a celebrity waving and greeting the people outside. I don’t know who he was.
The next day we took all the sun in while going along the K-Star Road just because I wanted to see the SHINee Gangnamdol. It was so hot! From there we took the bus to get to Seoul Forest. But before heading to Seoul Forest, I went to SM Entertainment just to see where many great K-Pop songs were produced. I also went to Kwangya Shop and enjoyed watching the MVs on the big screen. And what a moment when CHASE was played! Then we went to Seoul Forest. It was packed with people having picnic. It was warm, sunny and a Sunday so why not!
Then we did something that was not in the plan at all and that was going to COEX to see the Starfield Library. But we did some shopping there too and enjoyed a wonderful meal at an Italian restaurant. I also went to the Ktown4u to get Onew’s Circle SMini because it was not available anymore at the Kwangya shop. We also saw the Statue of Gangnam Style. 🙂 It was kind of a K-Pop day, to be honest!
We were back in Busan but this time we stayed in Suyeong-Gu. Our hotel room was facing the Gwangalli Beach with a spectacular night views of the Skyscrapers and the Gwangan Bridge. We enjoyed the peaceful walk in the neighbourhood and a wonderful dinner at a nearby barbecue place. At this point, we saw one of the baseball players from Lotte at the restaurant having a playful fight with a friend, insisting that he pays the bill. It was hilarious! The staff at this restaurant were really kind and friendly. And the chicken barbecue was delicious. I highly recommend this restaurant! One thing we learned when the customers from the next table were leaving was that the chairs can be opened to store belongings. How smart!
The two days back in Busan was spent enjoying the night views, visiting Coffee Magnate who is owned by Jimin’s dad and a visit to the Gamcheon Culture Village. I love the Coffee Magnate in terms of its offerings and the large space. We spent a few hours there just chilling, observing all the Armies, journaling, enjoying coffee and snacks and listening to BTS music. They only played BTS songs! And in the end, I left Emiko there with Jimin. 🙂
The Gamcheon Culture Village was really fun. I didn’t have a clear idea of what this place really is. But we enjoyed the walk and the climb, the coffee breaks and just being there. It’s so colourful like candies!
These two days back in Busan was not in the initial plan but I really enjoyed it. I was so happy that we went back to Busan. At this point, I also had some time to work on my travel journal. Now, it’s time to go back to Seoul to enjoy the rest of our South Korea holiday.
Today, we are heading to Gyeongju. Gyeongyu was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla from 57 BC to 935 AD. It is often referred to as The Museum Without Walls. But before going on a bus to Gyeongyu, we took the Sky Capsule from Mipo to Cheongsapo in Busan. The Sky Capsule is really cute and it was fun to have a tiny train all to ourselves on such a scenic ride!
Then from Cheongsapo, we rode the Beach Train all the way to Songjeong. We enjoyed a short walk by the beach and ate the most delicious and beautifully prepared seafood before heading back on a Beach Train.
Then it was time to leave Busan. We took a bus from the Haeundae Intercity Bus Terminal which is basically just a bus stop. There is a ticket machine there and the staff who was just about to leave, stayed to help me buy the tickets. Before she left, she even told the other staff that we were going to Gyeongju just so we are directed to the right bus. She was really kind. The bus was just an hour ride and cost 10,000 KRW per person which is around 7 EUR.
Gyeongju is very pretty and I wished we had stayed longer. It was also here where we stayed at a Hanok. It was such a memorable experience! The Hanok has an extension which accommodates a bathroom and a small kitchen. The floor was really warm and I love the feel of it! There are many cool restaurants and cute cafes near our accommodation. And lots of street food too. One thing that is a must try is the famous Gyeongju Bread. People seem to be carrying a box of it for souvenirs and they are only sold in a set of 10 pieces or more. We got a box of freshly baked ones and they were very good. Our Hanok is also a walking distance to the Daereungwon Tomb Complex and the Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond. These places were really pretty with Cherry Blossom in full bloom. The streets of Gyeongju was also lined with Cherry Blossom. I think I fell in love with Gyeongju!
We stayed 2 nights in Gyeongju. We decided against taking a 4 hours plus bus ride to Jeonju so we decide to return to Busan. The bus terminal was a 15 minutes walk from our Hanok and the bus ticket only cost 5,700 KRW per person which was around 4 EUR. And as usual, the bus was really comfortable with large seats and almost empty.
I wasn’t really keen in visiting Busan. I had this idea that it would be good to visit during the summer as it is a city by the sea. But who can resist a Train to Busan as a title! Yes, we took the KTX train to Busan which took us 2 hours and 15 minutes while the regular trains will take up to 6 hours. (The KTX trains are the Korean equivalent to the Japanese Bullet trains yet so much less expensive.) It was a smooth, uneventful train ride. Although, a question was posted on my TikTok asking if there were zombies! 🙂
Our hotel was right infront of the Haeundae Beach and across the Busan X the Sky, a 100 floors building . Our room was facing the ocean so it was so lovely! Haeundae beach is really clean and beautiful. It was fun to look at the skyscrapers coming to life at dusk. For dinner, we had huge dumplings and noodles at a nearby restaurant and was blessed by a short, light rain on the way back to the hotel. The next morning was spent exploring the Busan X the Sky before heading to Jinhae.
I heard that Jinhae has around 350,000 Cherry Blossom trees which makes it a must place to visit during the Cherry Blossom season. We took a tour with Trazy on a very comfortable bus and Jinhae didn’t fail us at all. It was indeed very pretty but there were also lots of people! I really enjoyed trying out the street food and I especially like the Strawberry Milk and Strawberry Mochis. I also enjoyed watching how Dalgonas are made – melting sugar, pouring it gently to form a circle then stamping a character on it with a hot metal. Dinner was Kimchi potato pancakes at a very homely restaurant with only three long tables. It had a very friendly atmosphere and the people from the next table showed us their food so that we can order. There was no English at all and I really liked how everyone participated so that we can get food. It was really a fun day in Jinhae. We returned to our hotel in Busan at 23:30 and I can’t believe that I was indeed under the Cherry Blossom. At this point, I felt like I was Cherried Blossomed! 😀 And of course, while we were waiting for our ride to Jinhae, we went in a selfie booth and got a selfie for the first time ever in our entire lives. We have so much fun and laughter!
The plan for this day was to visit the Bukchon Hanok Village. Our hotel in Insadong was a walking distance from it. So we headed fresh for the day and ready to explore Seoul. Sadly and with much regret, we had breakfast at Starbucks just because I really wanted to have my Starbuck’s name as per tradition. But in Seoul, they don’t allow disposable cups anymore which is great!
After breakfast, we walked to the Bukchon Hanok Village. It is a pretty place but it is important to remember that it is a residential area so people actually live there. It is very necessary to be respectful and as it says in many places, Please be quiet. We found some kind of a museum on a hill with tea on offer and a great spot to see the Seoul Skyline, although, it was not much of a view during the day. The place also has a traditional house which is fully decorated just like the ones in the historical K-Dramas.
Next stop was a Tea House called Cha Teul. We didn’t just happened on this place but I googled best tea houses in Seoul beforehand. Cha Teul made me so happy and it was not pricey at all. It was packed so we waited for a while to get a table but it was so worth it. I ordered a Quince Pear tea and it was perfect!
Then we walked to the Changgyeonggung Palace and the Secret Garden. The Cherry Blossom is already in full bloom so the palace ground was full of visitors. We didn’t find the Secret Garden anything special. Maybe during a different season, for example during summer or autumn, the garden would look beautiful. After the Secret Garden tour, we tried to visit the Changgyeonggung Palace. Unfortunately, we actually bought tickets to Chandeokgung Palace. In the end, we decided to call it a day visiting palaces so we didn’t get to use the tickets we bought.
So instead, we hopped on a bus to Myeongdong. But there was a rally. Up until now, we don’t know what was the protest all about (I can’t read Korean!) but there were lots of people and lots of police too. The bus got diverted so we took another bus and eventually walked some kilometres to Myeongdong. It was late and we were hungry. We happened on a restaurant that has a wall showing photos and autographs of famous people who ate there. The food was really good and the owner was really friendly. Also, notice the cute red apron I’m wearing. These aprons are readily available at restaurants to avoid food stains. How smart! We were also full and happy!
In the Summer of 2022, I was featured in the Daebak magazine, a Korean subscription box company. I talked about how I wish to visit South Korea in 2023 to eat authentic Korean food, to stay at a Hanok and to experience the Cherry Blossom. Fast forward in December that year, I bought tickets to Seoul and started planning the trip to South Korea with my husband. The plan was to experience the Cherry Blossom season. Although I know that it could be a hit or miss, I bought the tickets anyway and booked the accommodations. There were changes along the way as two weeks would not be enough to see it all. And although I really wanted to visit Jeonju, I didn’t like the idea of being sat on the bus for more than 4 hours from Gyeongju. That road trip will be going across the country after all! By the 20th of March, the mask mandate for public transport was lifted. Although I still carried with me a few masks just in case (from the Daebak box, of course!) we didn’t have to use them. Also, I didn’t see many people wearing masks anymore. To be honest, I don’t really like wearing masks and we haven’t been wearing masks in Helsinki since last year.
The flight from Helsinki took off at 17.55 on the 23rd of March and arrived the next day at midday in Incheon International airport. It took 11 hours and 45 minutes as the flight avoided the Ukraine and Russian airspace. But it didn’t really feel that long. I just knew that when we landed, my headphone was at 40% battery. I was listening to K-Pop all through the flight.
After the checking of the Q Code, immigration and baggage reclaim, we rented a Portable Wifi Router for our entire stay in South Korea from the SKT booth located at the arrival area. I also bought a TMoney card for my husband from the convenience store inside the airport (I already have one from the Daebak box with Jimin’s photo!) and have them refilled with money mainly for transportation. It was important to check what was the best way to travel to our accommodation. I have heard stories of people taking the subway and changing trains (dragging along heavy suitcases) when buses stop right infront of their hotels! So for us, the bus was the best option. It stopped very close to our hotel in Insadong.
We checked in and explored the Insadong area, most especially the Ikseongdong Hanok Village where we found lots of nice restaurants and cute cafes. At the Insadong Shopping Street, I also had a Dojang made, a traditional stamp with my name in Hangul. We did a quick stop at Ssamzigil Shopping Mall for some traditional snacks sold on the ground floor. They were good!
It was a long day and we headed to bed to get ready for the next day!