Yesterday, I wrote a blog about Seoul, and everyone seemed to really like it. Afterward, I realized I left out some interesting things in Seoul land like Seoul Tower, the river boat cruises, Bukchan Hanok Village, Hang Gang Park down by the Han River, and the largest church in the world in Youido. The only ones of those I have seen myself are Seoul Tower, Hang Gang Park, and the largest church in the world at Youido. It is great to go to Seoul Tower after dark because you can see the lights all over the city. The church building is extremely interesting. They even have an ATM for you to pay your contribution. You can rent bicycles at the park and also go swimming in swimming pools. I have always wanted to take the river boat cruise and go to the hanok village, but I haven’t done those yet. Those are inside of Seoul, but there are also many other things outside of Seoul that are worth seeing.
If you look back to the very beginning when I began blogging, I took you to the DMZ, the Demilitarized Zone up by North Korea. It is a really nice place to go. It has a huge park, a small amusement park, souvenir shops, restaurants, a place with binoculars to view north Korea on top of a building, a museum, old trains, a huge Buddhist bell you can ring, a bridge that has had a fence built half way to cut off the two countries from one another, and lots of ribbons of remorse where people have written about how upset they are by being separated. I have heard there are tunnels that the North Koreans built when they were trying to invade, and there are tours to go see the tunnels, but the ticket office was closed when we tried to go there, and we didn’t see the tunnels.
Something else we have done numerous times that is really nice is go to the beach. Korea is full of beaches! It is a peninsula and surrounded by water. Our favorite beach as a family has been Sokcho beach over on the Japan sea, or as Koreans call it, the East Sea. The East sea is much cleaner than the sea on the west side, and the water over there is so clean you can stand at the beach and see the bottom way out. It is easily one of the cleanest beaches in the world. When we go there, we usually stay in a hotel up in the mountains because the beach and the mountains are so close together, and we get the best of both worlds in one trip. There are usually picnic tables by the hotel we like to stay in, and a small stream. We like to eat at the picnic tables. While we are in town, besides the beach, there is also a Teddy Bear Museum where they make teddy bears and a pottery museum. We have been to the pottery museum several times, and it is really worth seeing.
A wonderful place in the mountains on the way to Sokcho beach is Salaksan. Many Koreans go to Salaksan in the fall. Korea is one of the most mountainous countries in the world. Salaksan is a mountain they like to climb. They go in the fall because the leaves are so beautiful. There is a lift that takes you a good part of the way up the mountain, but if you want to go all the way to the top, you have to take the foot paths to get there. Also at the base of Salaksan, before you get on the lift, there is an abandoned Buddhist temple that is fun to walk through.
There are several Buddhist temples in the mountains in Korea, and they welcome guests to come and see. The first year I was in Korea, my school sponsored a trip for the teacher
and they took us walking around a Buddhist temple. There was a huge Buddha outside with woods all around it that had walking trails, and there was music playing in the woods. At the temple itself, you could go in and see the Buddha statues. There were several of them, and they were all made from gold. I walked around through the buildings poking my head in, but I couldn’t go in all of them. There were monks praying in some of them.
Besides Sokcho beach, the other beaches on the east coast are Naksan, Gyeong, Guryeong, and Heundae. Heundae is at Busan. My Korean son in law’s family is originally from Busan even though he is from Seoul. He goes there on family reunions, and he says the Heundae Beach in Busan is extremely popular with the young people. We went to beaches on the west coast too because they are closer to us, and we don’t always have time to go to the east coast. If you look back through my blogs, I did a blog about spending an afternoon at the beach, and that was on the west coast. We usually go to Eurwangni or another beach close to it. You can also find Daecheon and Machangpo on the west coast. We went to Machangpo when we were down south of Seoul.
There is one beach most Koreans don’t know much about that is worth seeing. It is on an island off the west coast called Imjado. If you ask most Seoulites where it is, they can’t tell you. I was invited to go out there one summer to teach an English camp, and I taught that English camp at a resort on the beach. It is an extremely nice beach. You have to take a ferry to get out there, but it is a trip very worth taking. There is also a horse stables on the island.
There are also beaches down on Jeju Island. Every Korean loves Jeju Island. It is famous for its oranges. I haven’t been there yet, but I hear there are lots of seafood restaurants, walking paths through the woods, and horses to ride.
If you stay closer to Seoul, but still outside of Seoul, there are lots of things to do. If you look back through my blogs, I did a blog about the Folk village over in Suwon. It is a wonderful place to go! It is a recreation of old Korea. You can walk through hanoks the way they used to be, eat the candy they used to make before they got sugar, watch silk worms making silk. watch trick riders, watch a tight rope acts, etc. There are lots of interesting things at the folk village.
Also close to Seoul is Nami Island. You also take a ferry out there. It is a nice walk around the island. Close to there, you can go to the Garden of the Morning Calm, a beautiful garden! We went there in winter in the evening, and it was completely lit up with Christmas lights. There were nativity scenes, flowers, deer, church buildings, etc., and everything was lit with Christmas lights.
Another island I haven’t seen yet is Dok do, over in the East sea. They take tour groups out there. From what I understand, it is a place of dispute. Japan says it belongs to them, and Korea says it belongs to them.
Another very interesting place that is in driving distance of Seoul is China Town in Incheon. There are several streets where everything is Chinese. You can walk through lots of Chinese souvenir shops and eat at Chinese restaurants. You don’t have to pay to get in. You only pay if you buy something. I really enjoy the food when we go over there. My daughter looked beautiful in the Chinese dresses we bought her there. Close to there, there is a big park you can walk around in as well as some hanoks. In the park, there is a statue of an American general, and I am told if you go there on Friday evenings, there are bands that play in that park.
Also very close to Seoul is Ilsan. Ilsan is another small city, and the reason I like to go over there is because they have Lake Park, a beautiful park built around a lake. The flowers are wonderful! There are huge flower gardens, flower arbors, oriental gazebos with ponds next to them, etc. In the summer, they also have a sound and light show at a fountain there. The sound and light show is free. Just take something to sit on and enjoy it.
There are lots of nice places to stay in the mountains in Korea. If you look back through my blogs, we stayed at a hotel in the mountains with a hinoki, and I blogged about it. A hinoki is a kind of hot tub made from Japanese hinoki wood, and it smells wonderful! The rooms at the hotel where we stayed had private hinokis on an enclosed balcony off the room.
We went with part of a church group once to the mountains, and we stayed in what could almost be called a small house, and there were swimming pools for each small house. Close to there, there was a huge water park. There are so many things to do in Korea! There is also an island off the west coast we went to with the same group, and it was extremely calm. We stayed in a retreat house again, and there was a huge pool. There were rice fields all over the island and lots of woods. It was a really nice and relaxing place to go. There are retreat houses all over Korea for large groups, but be ready to sleep on the floor. I have been to several school and church retreats, and I have learned to always take my air mattress.
If you are out around Korea or Seoul and aren’t sure what to do, everywhere you go, there are nore bangs. A nore bang is a singing room, and they are some of the most fun you will ever have! You rent a small room with a group of friends. There is a karaoke machine, and everyone takes turns getting up and singing. At first, it seems intimidating, and my knees always shook when I first started, but I kept trying and got used to it after a while. I like to go with people who know a lot about singing and get advice from them on how to do better, and you really can improve your singing like this. When my daughter began, she was so scared, you couldn’t even hear her, but now, there is no problem. She sings her heart out happily, and she can find some really good songs to sing! I have learned to choose songs that fit my voice, and I didn’t realize before that my voice was so low, and I seem to do the best with songs that men sang. You learn a lot at the nore bangs and have a blast. Who hasn’t sung in front of their own mirrors when they were at home alone? In Korea, you can do it with an actual microphone.
One place I haven’t been is Lotte World. I always see advertisements for it. Lotte World is Korea’s answer to Disney World from what I understand. All the young people like to go there on Halloween, and I have thought about checking it out on Halloween, but never have. They have the Ferris wheels and all the other rides too, both scary and not scary. It is themed with cartoon characters from what I understand, but I have never been there, so I really can’t comment on it. The Koreans think it is a great place to go.
There are lots of museums in Korea. We toured through a war museum outside of Seoul that was interesting. It showed all the old outfits they used to wear as well as talked about the Mongolians who used to come down her and raid. They had it set up so people could learn to use a bow and arrow. There were many interesting things to see. From what I understand, there is a war museum inside of Seoul over close to Itaewon and the American military base.
Another interesting place is English Village up at Paju City not far from the North Korean border. There is an amusement park set up for people to enjoy speaking English. When you buy a ticket, it is your passport, and you have to go through like you are going through the lines to get on a plane and get your passport stamped. There are English books shops, museums, and shows in English. At the shops, restaurants, museums, etc., everyone must speak English. Kids get to go there for special courses and competitions in English. I have visited there many times. The used to televise something coming from there called “The English Circus,” one of their shows. At the entrance, there is a recreation of Stone Henge from England, and the houses are made to look English.
Across from English Village, there is also an art museum. Also in Paju City, they have a place called Province worth seeing. It is a restaurant and lots of interesting little shops. People from Seoul drive up there to see it. One of their famous singers owns it and she shows up and sings at the restaurant.
There is a lot to see in Korea, and Korea isn’t that big, so it is possible to see it. There is a lot of fun to be had in Korea, and we have had a lot of that fun. There are still things we have left to do, but we aren’t finished here yet. If you are thinking about visiting Korea, there is lots to see and do. I hope you have the chance to wear a hanbok and maybe even beat on some drums.