At NamSan Tower with an insane amount of “locks”. (Yes, I have Instagram!)
Before I tell you about all my grand adventures in the Land of KimChi, let me introduce myself. My name is Anna. A few things that help describe me are Communications student, Chinese, pop culture enthusiast, Marvel geek and bookworm.
I chose South Korea because I have been immersed in Korean culture for several years now. UTS Global Exchange gave me a chance to experience the culture first-hand. And yes, I am literally having the time of my life. I can’t say I can document everything in real-time, but I can tell you about it little by little. From traditional palaces to K-Pop music shows, and let’s not forget the odd places (Cat Cafe!).
My friend (who is also on exchange from UNSW) and I planned to start our adventures early, three weeks before our exchange was to officially begin.
During this time, we stayed at a guesthouse in HongDae (an area popular amongst young foreigners) called ‘BoA Guesthouse‘ (no affiliation with the solo K-Pop singer, for those who are wondering). The guesthouse is incredibly cheap and convenient (2-minute walk to the subway), and I definitely give it the thumbs up. With the three weeks we had, we aimed to do all-things-touristy before we settled in as “students”.
Before doing anything in Seoul, there are a few things you must have with you or know about when you first arrive:
- Transportation Card
You can purchase a T-money card from any convenience store. It costs 3,000won (about 3AUD) to purchase the card and you can recharge however much into it. I suggest to charge about 30,000won, each trip (one-way) is about 1000won. You do the math.
- Subway Map
If you’re a tourist, you will LIVE on the subway (not literally) and occasionally the bus (I prefer the subway much, much more). ‘Subway Korea’ is a fantastic app (Android/iOS) to help you get around on the subway. It is available in Korean, English and several other languages. Do check it out because the Korean subway lines are much, much more complex and efficient than
CrappyCityRail. If you don’t have a SmartPhone, I question your life choices.
You may have heard that wi-fi is all abundant. It is and it isn’t. Most places have free wifi, and other places have paid wifi (in which you will need to purchase a card or an egg from a phone store). If you walk into a coffee shop, you will 99% receive wi-fi. I thought I’d mention this as we live in the generation of social media, and if you’re lost…the internet might be helpful.
- Cash On-Hand
It’s very important to have some cash on-hand when you arrive in Korea. There are currency exchange places all around the airport. You can also withdraw from your Australian bank account from international ATMs, however they charge a fee.
My friend and I already had some basic knowledge of the Korean language before travelling. Virtually no one speaks English, so I recommend you learn how to read Hangul (the Korean Alphabet) before anything. If they do speak English, it’s quite terrible. If you know Mandarin or Japanese, most touristy places know how to speak basic/conversational Japanese and Mandarin. But if you intend to travel without a tour guide to places (like me), it is highly recommend you learn Korean to be able to read signs and etc. It is very easy to learn online (http://www.talktomeinkorean.com) or at the Korean Cultural Office in Sydney (provides FREE Korean classes of various levels every week, check site for more info).
Changdeok Palace: Secret Garden
The Secret Garden of Changdeok Palace was one of the very first places I visited. Changdeok Palace is one of the ‘Five Grand Palaces’ from the Joseon Dynasty. It was a chilling -16 degrees on the day. To get there, you take the subway from Anguk Station (Exit 3) and it’s a five minute walk from the station.
As Seoul experienced heavy snow the days before my arrival, everything was covered in a very pretty white and frozen.
We paid 5,000won (about 5AUD) for an English tour guide, who told us the history and introduced us to the sights of the Secret Garden.
If you’re ever in Seoul, I highly recommend that you visit at a palace. Especially if you love traditional oriental architecture and all that jazz. If not the Secret Garden, visit the largest palace (which I have yet to do) called ‘Gyeongbok Palace’!
More touristy things to come.
I sincerely hope you’re at least a little entertained…