Sunday, September 4, 2011

What I've been up to in the past two weeks...

I actually didn’t do too much roaming around in Seoul in lieu of just meeting up with friends from school. (The amount of stuff I wrote about Seoul probably reflects that - apologies in advance!) Nonetheless, it was a good time to relax after a whirlwind week of travel in China, and I still got to check out some cool places:

Biking around the World Cup Stadium

As crazy as cafe culture gets...


Birthplace of 비빔밥Although the quality isn’t the same at all the restaurants, so choose them wisely (preferably those away from bus terminal). It’s a smaller city than Seoul/Busan though, so we only stayed for a couple days. There’s the 한옥마을, Korean traditional village, which is definitely bigger and a lot more touristy than the one near 남산 I went to in Seoul. And you can spend your time hiking around the nearby parks, which we did one afternoon at 마이산which also had a couple interesting of temples.

Jeonju is also where my friend introduced me to the art of Korean saunas, or 찜질방which are a cheap alternative to hostels (~7000 for a night). I’d already been through the whole naked thing with onsens in Japan, but 찜질방s are definitely a different experience. Most shocking thing is that AFTER you soak, you get in these hot/cold igloos, usually one or two that are extremely hot (think 50-90 degrees CELSIUS) and a cold room (the one we went to was -5 C). In the heated rooms, you get some woodblocks for pillows, lay down on the heated floor, and basically just SWEAT. (This was the shocking part for someone who hates sweating after showering, but I went along for the heck of it.) Supposedly, your body soaks in the minerals from the heat or something … but the best part is finally going into the cold room and drying all that sweat off!

View at the top of 한옥마을 


탑사 in between the "ears" of 마이산 

They say everything in Korea is in Seoul … but I was quite charmed by Busan. Along with having these awesome singsong accents (even the college kids have them!), people here are definitely more laid-back. And we pretty much went to the beach EVERYDAY – never got tired of it.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but Busan feels a bit more spread out than Seoul, separated into little “districts” on our tourist map with a lot of places only reachable by bus (so save a lot of 100-won coins 1000-won bills). There are beaches on every corner, mountains to the north, and some awesome temples.  

Amazing sunset at pebble beach in 태종대

 More beach...

Known as the “Machu Picchu” of Busan. I don’t know why this isn’t in Lonely Planet – awesome neighborhood with a path marked by colorful fish arrows

용궁사: Building a temple on a cliff overlooking the sea must have been hard, but it was also the greatest idea ever... 

It’s also mind-blowing how close everything in Korea is – the bus from Seoul to Busan is only 5 hours. (Granted, there are much smaller countries than South Korea, but I haven’t been to them yet…) I suspect the super nice rest stops are due to are highway buses that run to every major city. No wonder my mom’s friends ask her to take them to New York if they go to the U.S. for a visit – you can’t really imagine a 14-hour car ride around here. Thus, my opinion still stands that China is probably a better place for cross-country traveling, but Korea is a must-see place too. Also, Korean food reigns supreme, as seen in below pic:

Bring on the 삼겹살

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