Spring is here, and that means cherry blossom season is finally amongst us. Korea really gets into the spring feeling by releasing amazing amounts of cherry blossom themed products (drinks, ramen – I’m sitting right next to an umbrella and a box of tissues… I’m a sucker for it)
Yesterday we set out to Seoul (despite rain warnings) to check out the Yeouido Cherry Blossom festival, and find some Weeping Cherry trees at the palace gardens.
We took the subway in to Yeouinaru station (여의나루역) and left at exit 2. This way we hit all of the street food carts to fill up before we took the long walk along Yunjung-ro Road! It was already overcast, but the blossoms were out in full bloom.
There were a few varieties of cherry blossom trees here, and no shortage of photo opportunaties for that perfect instagram-worthy shot!
At the other end of the cherry blossom lined road lies National Assembly Station (국회의사당역). We hopped back on the subway towards Gwanghwamun to check out what the palace has to offer. It was then that the rain hit.
The palace is beautiful at any time of the year (I visit frequently, follow my Instagram to keep up!) however the grounds are particularly stunning during the warmer months, where you can see the nature really flourish!
The blossoms at the gate weren’t yet fully ready, but there were some beautiful weeping cherry trees further into the area!
Drop a comment if you’ve been to see the cherry blossoms bloom already this year. If you’re in Seoul, get yourself over to these places ASAP before they disappear!
Down a cute back alley in the Insadong district of Seoul lies a couple of vegan restaurants that offer a variety of korean dishes made in a way that is suitable for vegetarians, vegans and those who just want to try something new.
One of my dear friends here is vegetarian, so we decided to try out the restaurant knowing she would have a lot more to choose from than regular restaurants (It is difficult to find things here that are not meat or fish based, even those dishes that do not have apparent meat in them)
The restaurant was very cool inside, offering a very natural themed decor. Please be aware that this restaurant only has floor seating, so wear your good socks and comfortable pants!
The menu had a very good variety of foods on it, from dumplings and soups to Korean style Chinese and Japanese food. We settled on Bibimbap (a rice dish) Sundubu Jjigae (Soft tofu stew) and Jjampong (a spicy Chinese style soup usually made with seafood) The table was provided with a bunch of side dishes too (for free as always!)
The service was a little slow compared to other korean restaurants, however the restaurant was full to the brim with customers. The price was average for the area we were eating in, each dish costing W9,000 – W10,000 on average. For 3 of us it cost around W37,000 including a side dish of dumplings! More than enough to fill us up!
Back when me and J visited Busan in December, one of the last places on our TO DO list was Busan Tower. The tower can be accessed easily by subway – only a few minutes walk from Nampo station (make sure you leave exit 7!)
We took the scenic route through the park (because honestly we went the wrong way and this was our only option so)
At the top of the hill lies the tower and a few restaurants/cafes. In my opinion, the tower looks best when it gets dark, so aim to go in the evening! It is open until 11pm!
The tickets for the observatory are W8,000 for adults and W6,000 for children, however if you’re a little hungry you can also grab food with your ticket: popcorn + tickets for 2 costs W19,500, or grab a burger with your ticket for W14,900!
You can grab a souvenir photo whilst you’re waiting in line for the elevator to take you up to the observitory. We opted out to save time.
Once in the elevator, it will take you less than a minute to climb the 120 m to the top, there you can see great views of Busan!
Every so often, the tower has a show to enjoy. Watch as fireworks and lanterns are projected onto the windows of the observitory, making the visit even more awesome!
Overall i recommend it if you’re in the area, its definitely cool to see an areal view of Busan!
During the warmer months of the year, Korea has no shortage of fun things to do outdoors, but if you want to get out of the heat for a day I would recommend Gwangmyeong Cave!
What used to be a previous gold mine (literally. The cave held gold, silver, bronze, zinc and other ores which were mined from 1912 until 1972 when the mine was shut down. Rumor is there’s still a ton of gold down there yet to be discovered!) is now the largest themed cave attraction (in korea? Don’t quote me on this the internet told me.)
The cave is easily accessible from Incheon, Seoul, and it’s surrounding Gyeonggi area by bus and subway! We took the bus from Incheon to Gwangmyeong Station and then took a local bus straight to the cave.
I know I probably say this in every single post but bring your walking shoes. The cave is at the top of a small hill, and there are a lot of stairs inside the cave itself. There is also a hiking trail outside if you feel up to it!
Admission to the cave costs W6,000 for adults, and W2,000 – 3,500 for youth, and there are a few places outside the cave to grab something to eat before you enter.
The cave has a ton of attractions to see, but don’t worry about missing any because there is only one way to go a lot of the time. Following this system means that there aren’t a lot of crowds to battle!
Not far into the cave, you’re going to hit this GIANT auditorium built into one of the passageways – make sure you stick around to watch the art light show what is projected onto the cave walls! I couldn’t find any information on how often they change the content of the show, but both times we have been we have seen a different one!
One of the most fascinating features of the cave is the Golden Road, a path adorned with what feels like a million golden plaques with visitors wishes written onto them. The plaques can be bought for W5,000 inside the area, and are hung up on the walls to help your wish come true!
I’m unsure if it’s a recent addition, (we certainly didn’t see it the first time we went) but we stumbled across this time capsule area of the cave. A lot of the cases were empty but a few of them had egg-shaped capsules already inside! Tell me if you’ve visited and you know more about it!
Talking about hoarding gold in the cave, the Hobbit/LOTR exhibit was an unexpected but welcome addition to my day. The cave sports an 800KG model of Smaug, with Gollum accompanying him on the ground below. The exhibit also carries a replica of Gandalf’s staff, as well as a whole ton of concept art and illustrations by local artists (if you know me, you’ll know why I got excited)
Heading back up towards the exit of the cave will bring you to the Wine cave, where you can sample and buy a selection of locally produced wines! I grabbed a sweet fruity one to enjoy with our dinner.
After heading out of the cave, we made sure to head up the stairs to check out the view from the top! (This took me a long time. Trust. Why does korea have so many stairs? D:)
Let me know if you’ve been and what you thought of it in the comments! I’d definitely reccomend it at least once if youre in the area!
Back in December we decided to take a trip to Nami Island in Gapyeong. The island shot to the “top 10 things to do in Korea” lists thanks to the drama ‘Winter Sonata’ that was shot there in 2003. Before that, the island served as an area of historical influence being the final resting place of General Nami who became a general at the young age of 17. He then, with his army, triumphed over the rebels under King Sejo (1455-1468) He died as a result of being falsely accused of high treason during the reign of King Yejong at the age of 28.*
The island is easily accessible by subway, bus and car from Seoul, and don’t worry if you skipped breakfast! The surrounding area is full of restaurants – mainly dak-galbi (닭갈비), a spicy, stir-fried chicken dish that is GREAT on cold winter days! (Make sure you stick around after the main dish, the waiters will bring rice to mix with the sauce… TA-DA! spicy fried rice desert!)
You can choose one of two ways to get to the island. You can take the ferry, or you can zip line in if you have a strong heart. I don’t – so I opted for the first option. Stand in line, get your ‘Naminara visa’ and ‘passport’ and hop onto the ferry!
The whole island can be explored in a few hours, but definitely take your time and enjoy nature. The islands electricity supply was actually built underground so the aesthetic of the island would not be spoiled!
The island and all of its water features were frozen when we got there, but it just added to the beauty of the area. There were a fair few tourists, but we managed to run ahead and beat the tour groups to grab some picutres.
We didn’t really pay attention to any maps (which we probably should have) we took a left at the entrance and just explored where our feet took us!
I should also say that it was nearing 3pm when we actually arrived at the island, so most of the tourists had already left.
The island is home to a group (pride? flock? heard?) of ostriches, whom J got too close to and almost lost an eye. They have a VERY large pen to run around but honestly could have done with an inside enclosure and their water seem to have run out. However I don’t know what their feeding schedule is, nor do I know the needs of ostriches so dont come for me.
There are restaurants on the island, and there are residences you can book if you wish to stay the night! There are also a lot of activities to do (which may be more fun in warmer weather) such as renting a bike, water sports, pottery, glassblowing and several exhibition/concert halls
While we were there, there was a giant snow hill built in the middle of the park. It was fun to see children having fun sliding down the hill – especially since we didn’t really get any snow this year. The snow was actually built on top of a plastic tarpaulin, which made the exposed area EXTREMELY slippy. Guess who walked around the rest of the park with wet pants…. we did!
Nami island has a lot of sculptures and art pieces scattered around. Some weird, all wonderful. You might even get a glipse of some furry friends whilst walking around!
If you happened to have seen the drama ‘Winter Sonata’ you can find a monument to it on one of the tree-lined roads.
A tribute to Minn Byeong-Do, the man who formed Nami Island as it now stands today. The former Bank of Korea governor bought a once desolate Nami island in the 60s and turned it into the beautiful island we can see today.
After spending a few hours walking around it started to get dark, so we took a slow stroll back to the ferry and took in some last breaths of nature.
I was not looking forward to the 3 hour journey back to incheon by subway, but I was happy I checked Nami Island off my bucket list. I’m sure to return in the spring or summer to see how the trees look in full leafy jackets!
The last place on our Busan itinerary was Gamcheon Culture Village, a residential area that has grown to be known for its colourful houses and winding pathways. What was once a dull shantytown occupied by refugees of the Korean war, the village was transformed into the quaint tourist attraction that we know today in 2009 in an effort to brighten up the area. It is now often referred to as the ‘Machu Picchu of Busan’.
We actually first headed up to the village after we finished at Taejongdae to get a glimpse of the place without the inevitable wave of tourists that would take over during the day. By the time we reached the village, it was already dark.
It was reasonably late so we decided just to go back to the hotel so we could wake up early to spend our entire last day here before we had to get our bus back to Incheon.
We knew instantly the moment we arrived the next day that exploring the village at night time was a good idea (Please be respectful if you do visit at any time, especially after dark. People DO live here.) There were groups of tourists flowing out of every store and restaurant in the area, despite it being in the minus degrees. The view however, was worth it.
The street food stalls here are BOMB, so I’d advise skipping breakfast and filling up on food when you get here!
One of my favourite sweet treats in Korea is Hotteok, a sweet, syrup filled pancake that will burn off the first 7 layers of skin in your mouth. Busan has a special variation, ‘Ssiat Hotteok’ (씨앗호떡 – 씨앗 meaning ‘seed’) is exactly what it sounds like. They take the hotteok, and fill it with…seeds. Good for some, I wasn’t too excited about it.
The walls and stores of the village are adorned with artwork and sculptures, providing a perfect backdrop for your selfie if you’re so inclined.
After finishing up at the village, we headed straight to the bus terminal to catch our ride back home. Bye Busan, it’s been a blast. See you again soon!
Ok so I have to admit after a whole day of activities the day before, I wasn’t too excited when J told me he had planned a trip to a park where we were gonna do a lot more walking, but I’m glad I got my butt out of bed for this.
We took the subway from our hotel to a main area to grab some food, and then we took the bus straight to the park. The bus took about 30 minutes from where we were, and the park was the very last stop.
the park entrance leads you up a decently steep hill – if you’re not afraid of exercise like I am, the walk around the park to visit all the attractions is absolutely stunning on a nice, clear day. However I was way too tired to take a 2 hour hike, so we opted to ride the ‘Danubi Train’. For about W3,000 you can hop on and off the train as many times as you want to reach the different attractions in the park: Danubi station, Taejongsa Temple, Observatory, Yeongdo Lighthouse, Gumyeongsa Temple, Taewon Jagal Madang and back to the station at the entrance of the park.
Taejongdae is situated right on the coastline, and is famous for it’s beauty and rocky beach here in korea. Every drop off point provides stunning views of the surrounding turqoise ocean. We got off first at the observatory to check out the view!
One of my favorite places was the lighthouse. It was a great place to rest and watch the boats sail by. Theres also a cafe under the lighthouse if you need a drink!
Walking through to the other side of the lighthouse brings you to a bunch of steps leading down to the ocean. If you like (raw) seafood, make sure to head down. A few grandmothers have set up base there selling the produce that they caught – can’t get any fresher than that!
I wish I’d had time to take more pictures, but we were on a schedule and I was too invested in seeing it with my own eyes .___.
Taejongdae is certainly somewhere you should visit if you’re travelling to busan!
Check out J’s video for some stunning drone shots!
One of my favorite things to do wherever I travel to is visit an aquarium, so it was one of the first things on my ‘Busan to do’ list. It’s just so calming so be surrounded by tonnes of water and fish for me!
After heding back to Haeundae Beach from Dongbaekseom Island, we hit up the aquarium before heading for something to eat and back to the hotel.
The Sea Life trust runs a number of research, rescue, breeding and protection programs from their aquariums. When we visited, the aquarium was rehabilitating 2 injured turtles and getting them ready to release them back into the wild!
The aquarium had a good selection of species to see, although I would have liked to see bigger aquariums for some of the fish.
Some of the rooms were themed, like this room specially for tiny spotted puffer fish!
Like most aquariums, this one had a ‘main’ aquarium where all of the big rays and sharks lived, which you could see in small parts as you walked through the hallways. This hallway had a glass floor through which you could see the larger fish swimming around below you! (not that I could catch any. Lemme tell you I’m not an aquarium photographer.)
The aquarium also offers a ride in a glass bottom boat over the top of the aquarium if you so desire!
The main aquarium was not disappointing. Holding 3,000 tons of seawater, the tank is beautifully decorated, and home to several species of fish and ray – including grey nurse sharks (which you can also scuba dive with inside the aquarium if you so wish!)
After leaving the aquarium, we headed back to the hotel to get enough rest ready for our trip to Taejongdae (Check next weeks post!)
Because we arrived at Haeundae late afternoon, it didn’t take long after we arrived for the sun to start to set. We headed towards the Westin Chosun hotel to start on the path towards the observatory, where we wanted to watch the sunset.
The path winds it’s way on the seafront, past a beautifully carved mermaid statue, which is based on the legend of Princess Hwagok
At the end of the path lies the lighthouse and Nurimaru APEC House, a beautiful international conference and memorial hall where you can view the ocean from a warm spot if its too cold outside!
We arrived with ample time to watch the sunset from the island. There were not many people around, probably beacsue it was so cold!
After sundown, we headed back to Haeundae beach to check out the aqaurium – Look out for next weeks post!
After finishing up at the temple, we headed towards Haeundae beach, one of the most popular beaches across the peninsula.
During the summer, people flock to Haeundae to enjoy its turquoise water and clean sand, however, it is much quieter during the winter. Despite being only 6 degrees C, there were still many people about taking pictures and having fun on the sand.
The beach itself was incredibly clean, and the water was clear (I obviously didn’t want to dive in though)
The area is surrounded by modern hotels, and there are a lot of places to grab something to eat, both sit down restaurants or quick street food.
Busan Sea Life Aquarium is also situated right on the beach front if you should get bored of being on the beach itself!
Dongbaekseom Island is situated to the far right of Haeundae beach, and is definitely worth the walk! Look out for next week’s post!