Carl got me hooked on South Korea’s famous variety show, Running Man, 2 years ago. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with the Korean culture. The food, the sites, the people. So when we saw the Toronto > Hong Kong > Taiwan > Korea adventure, we hopped on it right away.
I made an extensive itinerary that we followed but I wanted to update you on the changes we made or would’ve made had we known.
This was our original plan, but a plan was all it was. We didn’t restrict ourselves to it but having it gave us a good idea of what we wanted to accomplish that day and mapping it out made us aware of travel times.
As I told many of our friends since we’ve been back, I must admit, I wasn’t completely sold on our Korea experience in the first few days.
Mistake 1: The first area we visited was Myeongdong and in many blogs and vlogs that I watched, everyone raved about the area so I scheduled a half day dedicated to it. That was a mistake. We knew that Myeongdong was a pure shopping district but there were so many skincare shops that were just duplicated at every corner. And many of the brands in the Lotte department store were all American.
Success 1: From the Myeongdong area, we walked to the N Seoul Tower cable cars to go up. We found the base of the tower with the love locks and the view was much more enticing than the view on the actual towers. In the N Seoul Tower, it was very crowded and the glass was a bit dirty resulting in a foggy glare when taking pictures. Though they did offer a beautiful view in the washrooms 😛
Mistake & Success 2: Namdaemun Market actually closes at 11pm and not open at 11pm. But Myeongdong is in the area if you are craving the street food. It wasn’t particularly as cheap as Taiwan, but still quite affordable. We had $35 worth of food and was enough to fill us up for the night.
Mistake 1: Korea house – if you do not book the events or look at the schedule in advanced, the Korea house will only offer the food experiences. Most events take place on the weekends.
Mistake 2: After getting off Gangnam Station, we really should’ve taken a cab or a bus towards the street with all the soy sauce marinated crab restaurants. I was exhausted by the time we got there. ALSO!! Mistake 2.5 was that we ordered $100 worth of food, only to be reminded that I’m still allergic to raw shellfish…I really should’ve known better…allergies don’t just disappear after 5 years.
Mistake 3: Assuming the distance from the Crab street to the Banpo bridge was walking distance. We missed the first few minutes of the show, but really, it was just water spraying out from a bridge so we didn’t miss much.
Success 2: The Banpo bridge area was beautiful and definitely worth a visit. While the original attraction was to see the Banpo bridge show (which we raced to catch), I found the real attraction was the structures next the the bridge. What a beautiful area to walk around with the cool buildings, colourful lighting and great scenery.
Success 1: This day went exactly as planned.
Success 2: Ewha Women’s University and the Hongdae area was worth a visit (it was originally not in the first iteration of the itinerary). It was a lively atmosphere and offered a venue for artisans to display their work. [On a side note, people say clothing is cheaper here, but I found that Gangnam station offered the best deals.]
Mistake 1: Cherry blossoms did not bloom in Yeouido Park as expected though there were some fake cherry blossom trees for our own comedic relief.
Mistake 2: The distance from Yeouido Park and Noryangjin Fish Market seems minor but it’s impossible to cross due to the highway. You can either take a cab or a bus (which can be packed) to Noryangjin Fish Market.
Mistake 3: We definitely did not enjoy our experience at the Noryangjin Fish Market as much as we thought we would. Having to bargain and negotiate for the fish prices was just such a hassle. And then when we got to the restaurants upstairs where they cook the fish, it was like they’ve never met English speakers before. The main restaurants were full and the one that had a spot ignored us for the first 15 minutes while we sat their awkwardly. They then cooked the food without asking how we’d like it made….