Spring in Korea
Updated: Feb 11, 2019
Pretty Cherry Blossoms
Korea is a country that never fails to intrigue me. With the development of new media, the Korean wave has spread around the world. People all over the world, including Singapore are starting to embrace Korean culture. Youths are starting to adopt Korean fashion, emulating their favourite Korean pop idols. From clothes to cosmetics, Korean products are gaining popularity in Singapore. The numerous cosmetic shops sprouting up in Singapore are a testament to the popularity of Korean products. Teenagers are obsessed with Korean pop idols and bands such as 2NE1, Big Bang and Psy. Although I am not really a Kpop fan, it has made me a little curious about the country. I have been thinking of making a trip to Korea for the past two years, however, I have been procrastinating as I was busy with work.
I was happy to finally find the opportunity to travel to Korea with my husband during Spring season a few weeks ago. South Korea is a captivating place with natural beauty. It’s attraction lies in its enigmatic nature. Exotic food and nature parks create an unforgettable and off the beaten track experience. Jeju is a scenic island famed for its lovely beaches, oranges and horses. The island has also recently been nominated as the new 7 Wonders of Nature. The ancient city of Gyeongju is home to fascinating pagodas, temples and royal tombs. Busan is well-known for its parks and beaches while Seoul is a bustling city with numerous shopping malls and technological attractions.
Here are some of the highlights of our trip.
Outside Paju Premium outlets
Our tour started with a visit to the Paja Premium outlets. There were many brands ranging from Coach, Mark Jacobs, Addidas, Nine West, Nike and more. However, I did not find anything worth buying.
We spotted a stall selling hoddeok, a sweet pancake filled with sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Hoddeok is a popular street snack that originated from Busan. After shopping for over an hour, we made our way to Gimpo Airport to catch a flight to Jeju Island, commonly known as ‘Honeymoon Island’. It was a short flight, we landed about an hour later. The first place we visited was the Yongduam Rock, also known as Dragon Head Rock. It is located on the stunning coast approximately ten minutes from the island.
According to a legend, a dragon stole an elixir of immortality form the God of Mount Hallasan and was struck down by the God’s arrow. It crashed into the sea and turned into stone with only its head peaking out of the water. The Yongduam Rock is a beautiful sight and tourists from all over the world are often seen snapping pictures of the rock. If you are fortunate, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of the women divers catching seafood for the day. After a simple Korean dinner, we spent the night at Jeju Grand Hotel.
Seongsan Iluchulbong (Sunrise Peak)
This is probably the busiest and most exciting day of the trip. We spent 40 minutes climbing steps to reach the Seongsan Iluchulbong (Sunrise Peak). It is an archetypal tuff cone formed by hydrovolcanic eruptions about five thousand years ago. It is said to resemble a huge, ancient castle. The tuff cone is 182 meters high and has a bowl-like crater. The view at the top of the Sunrise Peak is simply breathtaking.
Happy to be at Gimnyeong Maze Park
Our next destination was the Gimnyeong Maze Park. It is located between Manjanggul Cave and Gimnyeongsagul Cave. It was designed by world renowned company Adrian Fisher Minotaur Maze Designs and funded by American Professor at Cheju National University, Frederic H. Dustin. This unique maze park contains lush foliages from different parts in Asia and has been personally maintained by Dr Dunstan since 1987.
We popped by at the Orange Farm and took some nice shots.The next place we visited was the Glass Castle – a glass themed park featuring an exhibition hall, garden and models made of glass.
At Glass Castle
The exquisite exhibits such as the all-glass labyrinth, the world’s largest glass ball and biggest glass diamond and a glass bridge will definitely enamour you. There are also several glass art masterpieces designed by well-known artists from Italy, Japan, Czech Republic and more.
Hubby and me at Joanne Bear Museum
The Joanne Teddy Bear Museum is another attraction not to be missed. It traces the origins and evolution of teddy bears through the centuries. There are live sized bears clad in chef’s uniforms and wedding outfits. The bears are also created using eco-friendly materials.
Jet Boating in Jeju!
We then embarked on an exhilarating jet boat ride off the gorgeous coasts of Jeju. It was fun and allowed us to immerse in the serene surroundings.
Trick Art Museum
Another noteworthy place that we visited was the Trick Art Museum – the first museum in Korea to showcase optical illusion art. The museum is located in Seogwipo City near the Seongeup Folk village. We were captivated by the 3-dimensional paintings and exhibits.
Learning how to make an ice goblet
The last place we visited for the day was the Ice Gallery – an indoor ice sculpture art gallery with exquisite ice sculptures on display. To keep the ice sculptures from melting the temperature inside the gallery is below five degrees Celsius. We even learnt how to make an ice goblet.
My first time trying Live Octopus. Scary!
After an eventful day, we headed to a nearby live seafood restaurant for live octopus, abalone and sashimi for dinner.
Jalgachi Fish Market
I woke with excitement and anticipation as we were going to Busan, Korea’s second largest city. It was a short and relaxing flight, only about an hour. Upon arrival, we went to the famed Jalgachi Fish market where we saw an extensive array of unique seafood such as sea squirts, giant octopus, puffer fish, sole and more. After that, we explored Nampo-dong Market which specialises in clothes, shoes and accessories. Nothing caught my eye though.
In the afternoon, we crossed the Gwanganlli bridge to the picturesque Taejong-dae Park, a famous monument in Busan. The lighthouse is an iconic spot for picture opportunities.
The lobby of Daemyung Resort Gyeongju
We spent the night at the lovely Daemyung Resort Gyeongju.
I was excited as I was planning to spend the morning at the therapeutic Hot Spring. However, after breakfast, my stomach started to feel queasy. Therefore, I decided to rest in the hotel room instead.
In the afternoon, we visited the scenic Bomun lake which abounds with cherry blossoms. It was a surreal experience and I felt as though I had stepped into a Korean drama.
After that, we proceeded to the quaint Bulguksa Temple.
Learning how to make rice cakes
In the evening, the tour guide brought us to the Gooam Farm where we learnt how to make Korean rice-cake. It was fun and educational.
Ride along the abandoned railway at Mungyeong Rail Bike Station
Our day commenced with a leisurely ride along an abandoned railway at the Mungyeong Rail Bike Station. As we rode along the tracks, we were enthralled by the pretty cherry blossoms and natural scenery.
Beautiful flowers at Everland
The main highlight of the day was the trip to Samsung’s Everland – the world’s fourth most popular theme park, ranked World’s Number 7 by Forbes.com.
Having fun at Everland!
Located in Yongin, Gyeonggi, Everland is a haven for people with a sense of adventure. Some of the thrilling rides include Double Rock Spin, Rolling X Train and Hurricane. I did not try any of these rides as I have a phobia of heights. For a taste of wildlife, visit Safari World, Lost Valley, Tiger House, Polar Bear House and Bird Paradise. If you are not game for rides or wildlife, you can take a stroll around and admire the spring blooms.
Hubby jumping for joy!
Tantalising Spaghetti Frutti Di Mare at Cucuina Mario
Thomas and me had dinner at Cucina Mario, a casual Italian restaurant located in the European Adventure Zone within the Theme Park. The Quattro Formaggi ( four cheese pizza) and spaghetti fruitti di mare were surprisingly good. It was a refreshing break from Korean food.
Character Floor at Lotte World Hotel
We checked in at Lotte World Hotel after dinner. The hotel was impressive and the hotel staff were amicable and spoke fairly good English. Our rooms were located on the Character floor and the rooms were filled with cartoon characters from the Lotte World Theme Park.
Gyeongbokgungalso known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace is a royal palace located in northern Seoul, South Korea. First constructed in 1395, it was later burned and abandoned for almost three centuries, and then reconstructed in 1867, Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty.
Changing of Guards Ceremony
We witnessed the Changing of Guards Ceremony at the palace.We then proceeded to a Ginseng showroom. Korean Ginseng has remarkable benefits, therefore, we decided to purchase a few boxes.
After that, we headed to Art Korea Duty Free shop to shop for cosmetics and skincare products. I bought some snail masks which are supposed to have anti-ageing properties.
The Drawing Show
In the evening, we attended the brilliant Drawing Show which is the winner of “Best Non-verbal Performance” at the 2012 Korea in Motion Awards. The The Drawing Show is an original art performance created by art director Jin-yu Kim in 2007.
The cast of the Drawing Show
Utilising special talents and techniques, the audience can witness the dexterous transformation of artwork being drawn and completed at high speeds. The actors' humorous acts and dance moves make the show even more entertaining.
Having Korean Ginseng Soup with new friends
We had nourishing Korean Ginseng Soup in downtown Seoul after the show. After that, we made our way to Dongdaemun, one of the largest and most colourful shopping belts in Seoul and shopped till we dropped.
Ready to shop at Dongdaemun!
At Sinchon Ladies' Street - Shopping haven for ladies
Final day of our trip. After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we proceeded to Sinchon Ladies’ Street (also known as ‘Street of Fashion’) for more shopping. I was on the search for Innisfree shop as I was tasked to help my boss buy an eyeliner from the shop. After searching high and low for about half an hour, we managed to locate the shop. Innisfree is located near Ewha Women's University in Sinchon and specialises in skincare and makeup using eco friendly ingredients. This is definitely paradise for the beauty junkie. There are numerous shops along the entire street specialising in Korean cosmetics and skincare products.
Last meal in Seoul
After shopping, we had lunch at a small eatery. We made a final stop at a local provision shop to purchase souvenirs and snacks for friends, colleagues and relatives before proceeding to the airport.
Overall, our trip to Korea was a very enriching and educational one. We learned more about the history and culture of Korea as well as the lifestyle of the Koreans. The country is clean, organised and modern and the climate is simply wonderful.
Final shot with our tour group
Goodbye Korea – Land of Kimchi! See you again soon!