Korea is special to me. That’s why I spent 30 minutes thinking of how to start this blog.. I wanted it to be perfect. That perfect beginning, those perfect words that draw your attention immediately. Almost book-like. But I couldn’t think of those words, no matter how long I pondered. That’s when I realized, there are no words to describe how wonderful Korea is. It’s my home. I was born and raised here until I turned 18 years old. It is the place that has molded me into the person I am today.
Let’s go over few basic facts about South Korea: Seoul is the capital and it is a concrete jungle. You know what that means.. busy city=obvious pollution, horrendous traffic, and overcrowded with over 10 million people (that’s just Seoul). To put that into perspective, New York City has 8.4 million people. On the flip side, Korea’s technology is advanced, public transportation is efficient and superior (to the point where you really don’t need a car), there are million things to do, and outside of the hustle and bustle of the city life, Korea is surrounded by natural beauty with mountains and astonishing landscapes, and most importantly, the food… oh the food is out of this world.
With that said, first things first: FOOD.
If you’ve ever been to a Korean restaurant, you know that your meals come with tons of delicious unlimited side dishes (and free of charge!). Most of them are either vegan or vegetarian, made with fresh ingredients. Korea is really big on purchasing local produce.
With distinct four seasons in a year, Korea has a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that grow during a particular season. For example, the persimmons (photo above) are abundant during the winter time! Which btw- if you’ve never had persimmon fruit, you MUST. It is probably the best fruit ever. YEP.
Korean farmers grow different fruits and vegetables in their farm(s) according to seasons. For example, my auntie owns a farm about 2 hours away from Seoul’s city center and she grows zucchini during the summer and lettuce during the fall/winter.
If you thought you can only have Korean food and McDonalds in Korea, you’re wrong. The food scene is SO diverse. Of course you can have variety of Korean food including well-known kalbi, bulgogi, pork belly Korean BBQ, soups like kimchi soup, bean paste soup, kalbi jjim, tofu soup, etc., snacks such as rice cake, tempura, gimbop.. But besides Korean food, you can find fine Italian dining, succulent Chinese food, fresh sushi/Japanese restaurants, familiar American food, PHO (yes, pho, as in beloved Vietnamese noodle soup), tacos & burritos, … you get the gist. You can find ANYTHING.
So I mentioned how there are a million things to do in Korea. To name a few real quick: there’s unlimited shopping (Korean fashion=the best, and you can bargain your way through anything), countless sightseeing places, tons of beautiful mountains to hike, serene Han river that flows through Seoul, beaches & water parks (Korea is a peninsula & Korean summers are perfect for water activities).
Namsan Tower (pictured above) is one of the most popular sightseeing spot. You can hike up to the top (well paved/stairs) or you can take the cable car and you’ll see the entire view of Seoul. Check it out during the night time for spectacular city lights!
If you’re curious of Korean history, there are tons of places to learn by submerging yourself into history itself. To name a few: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Bukchon, Hanok Village, and several museums.
I’m still taken away by the beautiful architecture and the deep-rooted history embedded into the walls of old Korean homes.
If you think you’re a hiking master— think again. Well, unless you’ve hiked Mount Kilimanjaro or Everest.. in that case, skip this paragraph.
For the rest of you! Hiking in Korea can be REALLY difficult! Korea is very mountainous so you have hundreds of hiking options. And from those options, Korean mountains tends to be very rocky with dense forestations. Here’s the good news: from those hundreds of hiking options, you can find wide variety of mountains catered to your hiking abilities. So take your pick: easy, intermediate, difficult, crazy difficult.
What I love about hiking in Korea are the beautiful parks at the bottom (start) of the mountains. And also, you can buy soju/beer/rice wine at the convenience stores at these parks (or at the summit on some mountains). YES, at the summit. HAHA. How else would you celebrate your climb to the top of the mountain?! Shots shots shot shot shot
No, we Korean people are no alcoholics. Whatchu talkin’ about Willis?
One of my favorite things to do in Korea is just walk around the city and discover endless amounts of cute shops, buy adorable knick knacks for cheap price, and people watch. Korean people are SO creative with store decorations with top-notch service.
You’ll often see couples walking around with couple-tees (same shirts) or same shoes or just same entire outfit. Call it weird, call it lame, call it whatever you want, but I think it’s the cutest thing ever. I love how people aren’t afraid to express their love for their girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband. For example, at Namsan Tower, couples write their love onto a lock and lock it on the fence. The moment you and your loved one place the lock, the love will last forever. Sweet huh? Love is beautiful!
Country side of Korea is beautiful too. Since Korea is a peninsula, you’re never too far from the ocean— take a drive out and away from the city life to immerse yourself into nature.
So here’s a fun fact: Korean people love spam. And guess what? Spam is expensive in Korea.
Above photo is a gift set. 4 toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, body wash/hand cream, soap, and four cans of SPAM. Hahahahaha
In all honesty, I would LOVE to get this as a gift. I would use and eat every single thing in this gift set. That’s how you know I’m Korean.
Korea is dear and special to me. It is my forever home. Although I was born and raised in Korea, there are so many places I have yet to explore. I will continue to visit my hometown yearly and discover new destinations– I can’t wait to share them with you.